Working around retorts has never been an entirely safe job, so starting back in 2016, Allpax, a product brand of ProMach, set out to see what could be done to improve working in this dangerous environment, and called its solution an automated batch retort system (ABRS). In October, 2018, the company devised an automatic loading/unloading method that could be used with its own retorts and those from other manufacturers as well.

In my October, 2018 FE Engineering R&D column, Greg Jacob, Allpax general manager, described a telescopic basket loading/shuttle system that used a push/pull chain, a specially designed chain that could push and pull heavy loads. The telescopic loader could be mounted stationary in front of a vertical lift door retort or mounted with a lift bridge for a swing open door. A shuttle allows the use of a bank of retorts where it can service them as needed with tracks that allow it to traverse from one retort to the next.

While this system worked well, Allpax engineers thought that with some fine tuning, the ABRS could be further improved. You may think that sometimes engineers have tunnel vision, but it’s this narrow focus that brings about real improvements when it might have seemed the status quo was just fine. So, what developed in this new design?

Allpax’s new automated shuttle features a patented telescoping basket loading and unloading option that is based on a rigid chain-and-reel technology. The chain is rigid when extended and rolls up while retracting so that baskets or stacks of trays can be pushed into and pulled out of the retort. This system is simpler and less costly to maintain than earlier generation “push/pull” solutions. which require more periodic adjustments and involve more wear parts.

The telescoping retort loader and unloader can handle heavier loads. Basket handling is faster with improved system efficiency. The telescoping loader/unloader eliminates the need for a powered conveyor inside a retort, which reduces retort complexity and cost plus maintenance costs—and provides for a cleaner environment within the retort.

Allpax shuttles with the telescoping loading/unloading feature can be custom designed to accommodate any diameter retort, and retorts that hold anywhere from 2 to 12 baskets or tray stacks. For double-door retorts, the telescoping loading feature pushes the baskets/tray stacks all the way into and out the other end of the vessel, thus resulting in fast and efficient automated basket handling.

In the case of raw product cookers, the new shuttle creates greater sanitary separation between unprocessed and processed sides of the cooking/cooling operation. The new system can be retrofitted to existing retorts. Allpax now offers telescoping loading/unloading or lance-arm type loading/unloading features for its shuttles, thereby giving its users a range of options for loading and unloading baskets or tray stacks from retorts without requiring an internal conveyor. 

For more information, call 888-893-9277 or visit Allpax online.