UK-based Ulma Packaging has unveiled a new operator-free system in three different modular formats, which is useful for the trayless flow wrapping of apples and other delicate fruits.

The configurations differ based on apples arriving in cardboard boxes, pallet boxes / plastic crates or straight from the grading process.

Initially, all apples arriving for flow wrapping are collected from their transit packaging using water, which removes the fruit and conveys it onto a two-lane conveyor for subsequent drying using air knives before inspection and packaging.

Ulma Packaging sales director Derek Paterson said the development of a fully-automatic water-based solution for handling apples represents an improvement in flowrap feeding methods.

"Lower processing and handling costs, less packaging and significantly reduced apple rejection should bring benefits to all concerned," Paterson added.

Fully automatic crate packing and palletising is also offered, said the company.

According to Ulma, the system is ideal for products such as delicate fruits which are at risk of being bruised or damaged when handled and packaged by conventional packaging machinery.

The system, suitable for large, medium and smaller fruit growers, offers automated product handling and packaging, and helps in reduction of labour and packaging costs.

Suited for the trayless packing of a cross-range of fresh produce, the system can also be configured to run with conventionally filled punnets from a de-nester.

The equipment has been designed to produce a horizontally sealed bag using a delicate non-damaging feed solution, and its features include vision inspection systems, use of an external interface for remote factory monitoring and fault finding, robotic crate packaging and palletising.