Metalquimia is a world leader in the technology and manufacturing of turn-key lines for the production of meat products. From the early 1980s, the company, located in Girona, Spain, has focused on innovation and high quality.
This innovative approach is evident through a number of different patents the company has achieved, such as the first automated hydraulic injector with spray effect or, more recently, the QDS (Quick-Dry-Slice) System, a technology for accelerated dry-curing of sliced meat products. All of this has undoubtedly helped Metalquimia to become a leading company in the meat industry for process innovation.
In order to automate its products, the company works with Automatismes Girona, S.L. (AUGI), an engineering company specialising in the development and implementation of comprehensive solutions in the field of industrial automation for the upgrade of many kinds of machinery and processes. Thanks to its diversification, AUGI covers a wide variety of industries such food and feed, paper, textile, machinery construction or renewable energies.
A few years ago, AUGI also achieved the Rockwell Automation Solution Partner status. Solution Partners are system integrators that make a commitment to deliver high quality technical solution and customer service, leading with Rockwell Automation technologies. They are often specialised, with application or industry experience complementary to Rockwell Automation and have the ability to deliver across a broad area.
Metalquimia’s QDS System is a production process in which, after a prior heating cycle, frozen meat slices undergo a quick tempering drying phase at controlled temperature and humidity. According to Pere Canadell, Automation Manager at Metalquimia: “It comprises an automated line starting from the frozen product in bar form, which are then sliced, passed through a drier and then placed in packets perfectly stacked and ready for sale.” This innovative process drastically reduces the total processing times, simplifies production and achieves a significant improvement in energy efficiency.
The system integrates several components, such as a slicer, transport conveyors, tray loaders, drying tunnels with climate control and packaging machines. AUGI was commissioned to develop automated and integrated control of the whole machine. “The process involved several complex considerations. On one hand we had to control the drying process very precisely, which requires optimal climate control management,” explains Canadell.
“On the other hand,” he continues, “product overlapping was also relevant in order to obtain attractive-looking trays and provide traceability, since all trays are identified by an RFID tag.” This results in a reduction of time and costs, since a large number of items can be read at once and a view line is not required between the tags and the reader.
Multiple axes were also involved via shafts, motors, drives, synchronisms, cams and servo drives for the placement of slices in mosaic patterns. And of course,” adds Xavier Mir, Process Automation Manager at AUGI, “all this had to be integrated in order to work seamlessly.”