Industrial Utility Efficiency

# Improved Modified Atmosphere Packaging Technology

Visit the website of CVP Systems, Inc., and the first image you’ll see is Vice President and General Manager Chris van Wandelen performing a fierce karate chop on a stack of concrete bricks, breaking them clear in half. As he is also a martial arts expert, what you’re seeing is the real thing—no special effects. The video reflects the company’s motto, “Breaking Down Barriers,” which van Wandelen uses to inspire a team building spirit among employees. The same can be said for the performance of the company’s MasterPACKer Eco+ automated case-ready packaging machine, which knocks down road blocks to real and measurable energy and materials savings. The introduction of this machine has further solidified CVP’s reputation as a leader in modified atmosphere packaging.

### CVP Systems, Inc.

CVP Systems, Inc. formed in 1972 when Coronet Container Corporation, based in Lombard, Ill., was required to change its technology based on industry requirements to extend shelf life for perishable products. These requirements stated that materials must be enclosed inside a vacuum-sealed package before being placed inside a corrugated box, rather than directly inside. A separate division, Coronet Vacuum Packaging, was developed and split from Coronet Containers in 1975 to become CVP Systems, Inc., based in Downers Grove, Ill., a Chicago suburb. The company employs 40 employees globally; a regional sales force covers the United States, and agents are also located in Europe and Latin America. Industries served by CVP are red meat, poultry, fish, produce and fruit, cheese, nuts, snack foods, and spices. Its modified atmosphere packaging technology also is used in industries other than food, such as for cube reduction and anti-oxidation systems, metal parts packaging, and document storage.

### Modified Atmosphere Packaging

Worldwide, Tesco, a global grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in Cheshunt, U.K., initiated the demand for modified atmosphere packaging technology in the early 70s. It became one of the first grocers to move away from employing an onsite butcher to using a central processing/distribution system. CVP Systems, in attempt to meet the demand by large poultry- and meat-packaging companies looking to extend their products’ shelf life, offered its modified atmosphere packaging solutions. This high-efficiency system for packaging of poultry and meats removes air from a package and introduces a new more beneficial atmosphere, depending on the specific product application requirements. Specific mixtures for low-ox applications can be comprised of a mixture of 69.6% nitrogen (N2), 30% carbon dioxide (CO2), and .4% carbon monoxide (CO) or 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide; it’s based on the premise that bacteria have a difficult time surviving in a low-ox environment because they need oxygen to survive and multiply,” said van Wandelen.

Some applications need only high-ox (70% oxygen, 30% carbon dioxide); however, high O2 applications do not attain quite the same shelf life extension as low O2. To improve its technology in modified atmosphere packaging, CVP engineers, through extensive research and development, created its MasterPACKer and just last year its “next generation” MasterPACKer Eco+.  The machine is designed for high-speed cycling and features a high-velocity “Quick Draw” snorkel. In the various process cycles, overwrapped trays containing product are robotically loaded onto a servo driven infeed conveyer. Two to eight trays are inserted into a mother bag as the machine indexes and transfers them to the next station, where a Quick Draw snorkel simultaneously draws a vacuum and inserts a pre-set amount of gas and then seals the bag.

### Free-Flow Gas Systems vs. MasterPACKer Eco+™

Machines using a free-flow gas system for modified atmosphere packaging cannot create a vacuum from below the package and therefore use an open tube to release a continuous flow of gas into the package to displace the oxygen. “Much of the gas in a free-flow system is released into the atmosphere, resulting in a large amount of wasted gas as well the related environmental impact,” said van Wandelen. “When you compare waste between these systems and ours, taking into account the process of creating and transporting the bags, the amount of material used in the process, and the backside of the landfill effect upon disposal of the bag, the MasterPACKer Eco Plus+ reduces each of these components by 60%, whether you’re using a low- or high-ox dose. This is greatly significant from a cost and an environmental perspective and considering the overall carbon footprint.”

To determine the percentage of savings between the MasterPACKer Eco+ and a machine using a free-flow gas system, CVP compared the two using a gas flow measuring device at a large meat processing facility for several shifts. The CVP machine used 125 cubic inches of gas per pound of meat vs. the 210 cubic inches used by the other equipment. Calculating the total annual volume for a single production line running two shifts per day, it used 2,629,441 cubic feet of gas; CVP’s equipment uses 68% less than this.

“Because we actually produce a hermetically sealed bag, we can calculate the exact amount of gas needed, which results in a 68% reduction in the amount of the 70/30 mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide required in the process, eliminating much of the waste,” said van Wandelen. “The machine’s programmable PLC signals the gas accumulation tanks, allowing us to measure the flow into and out of the bag so the valves open and shut cyclically to release the premeasured amount of gas.” Two timing belts control the bag, which is hermetically sealed at all times, through the entire machine cycle.

Processor requirements state that the purity of nitrogen used in the gas mixture for modified atmosphere packaging must be food grade (99.995% pure), as it comes directly in contact with the food product being packaged. Depending on the volume a company produces, it can purchase mixed gas in cylinders, store it in a refillable outside tank, or generate it on-site, which is the most cost-efficient system. “When using a low-ox mixture, our system results in a cost savings of $51,151 per year when gas is generated on-site; when bottles are used, this is substantially higher.” In addition, the new ECO+ design results in three areas of savings as compared to the original MasterPACKer: use of an impulse vs. a hot bar results in a savings of$1,557 per year, use of Servo technology for the infeed conveyor vs. an air cylinder (16-hour shifts) results in a savings of $3,500 per year, and use of an edge guide control electric eye vs. a compressed air control (.080” orifice @ 80 psi) results in a savings of$52,000 per year. “We also replaced the regular gearboxes and pneumatic systems with servo-driven motors, linear actuators, timing belts, and low-friction components on the main conveyor to reduce friction and power needed to achieve the same result,” said van Wandelen. “This has reduced energy consumption and has given us better control of the mechanical process.”

##### The dual gas accumulator tanks on the MasterPACKer Eco+™ are able to store on-site the application specific mixture of gas needed in the modified atmosphere packaging process.

In all, the MasterPACKer Eco+ can help to achieve a reduction in costs, materials, and the environmental impact of modified atmosphere processing. “In relation to air compressors used to generate nitrogen, I reiterate that the MasterPACKer Eco+ can save 68% overall,” said van Wandelen. “If you are purchasing another system, you are buying 2/3 ‘more’ than you need. As global citizens, we must consider how we can reduce our carbon footprint from every angle.” For those working in business, considering a \$1,821,903 annual savings in cost also is crucial to success.

For more information on CVP Systems, Inc.’s MasterPACKer Eco+ or other products, visit www.cvpsystems.com or call 800-422-4720.