The clipping machine was originally developed for the meat processing industry and the butchery trade. However, clipping machines have long been used in other food and non-food areas for the widest range of products. Packaging with the clip is efficient, secure and sustainable.
A wide variety of machines can be found in a meat processing factory, ranging from cutters or mincers and the like through curing injectors, tumblers and filling machines to clipping machines and even vacuum packaging machines for secondary packaging. A clipping machine (sausage-clipper) is generally coupled to a filling unit (filler/stuffer/pump), which supplies it with the bulk product for packaging. Many of these machines are also used in other food processing industries.
In the following, the way a clipping machine and the clip closure system work will be explained in greater detail with reference to selected examples.
Everything has an end – only a sausage has two
That much is generally known. Far less familiar is the know-how involved in putting two ends on the sausage. The expert knows, of course, that sausage manufacture is not as simple as it appears at first glance. This is particularly true of the separation and closure of sausages. In meat processing, division/portioning by twisting off is only satisfactory for thin sausage types, such as frankfurters (hot dogs), for example. With larger calibres reliable sausage closure is provided with the use of clips.
Basically, clipping machines may be divided into single- and double-clippers. Both variants are available either as table top models (bench models) or as semi- and fully automatic machines coupled to a filler. With table top clippers, only the tying process is actually mechanised, but they are universally applicable. Genuine added value is offered by clipping machines coupled to fillers. With these machines an integrated casing brake ensures that the casing is firmly filled. The portion is then closed and the finished product is ejected and conveyed away.
Besides the single-clipping procedure, in which only one clip is ever applied at a time, there is the double-clipping procedure. With the clipping system of a double-clipper, two closures are performed simultaneously, that is to say, the end of the filled packaging unit and the beginning of the next, as yet unfilled packaging unit, are closed at the same time. In this case a knife cuts through the casing (tubular bag) between the two clips and the next unit is then filled.
The separator – the “core” of the clipping machine
In order for a clip to be applied, ideally an empty space must first be created in the casing or tubular bag where the clip is to be placed. This is where the “separator” comes in. The simplest version of this is the “normal” separator. To produce as clean a casing tail as possible, many double-clippers employ the tried and tested voiding separator.
Two pairs of separator blades apply a V-shaped notch – as with a pair of scissors – to the filled casing and constrict it. The so-called “spreading” process then commences, as the left-hand pair of separators is moved away from the stationary right-hand pair. The spreading process produces a clean casing tail of predetermined length, free of filling, around which the two clip closures are created. The (sausage-shaped) finished portion can then be separated between the closures.
Clip closure requirements
Today, clipping is a natural and core component of all industrial sausage production. And for small and medium-sized operations, too, the clipping machine has become part of the armoury of important production tools which considerably lightens the workload and saves time, as it replaces the labour-intensive tying procedure. But it is not as run-of-the-mill as it sounds. It is of course the form of a clip closure that is always demanded for a casing or tubular bag, but the requirements placed upon this closure are extremely varied.
Clip closure is subject to a range of conflicting requirements. It must, for example, close casings and tubular bags of differing thickness, sensitivity and hardness, and must do so gently, but also powerfully. Pre-tied casings with widely differing filling capacity must be closed just as securely as products which are divided into portions of precise weight. Production speeds up to 300 portions per minute are possible, depending on the filling weight, product viscosity and package calibre (diameter). In addition, there are a variety of product forms involved, such as portioned sausages (chubs), rounds, half rounds and bladders.
Additionally, clip closure must withstand the high filling pressure, and it must be tight, but also flexible where necessary. Clip closure must be dimensionally stable even above 80°C, since the product is sometimes subjected to further thermal treatment, as in the case of cheese which is smoked. It must be capable of closing both hot- and cold-filled products. Thus, clipping technology is more demanding than it might at first seem.
A growing number of clip types and sizes are on offer for the various casing types and products. A basic distinction is made between pre-formed reel clips (R-Clip, R-ID Clip) and U-shaped single clips (S-Clip/U-Clip). Clips on reels (spools) are the indispensable standard in industrial manufacture.
S-clips are used for special applications, for example where high product weights or very large calibres are involved, for the processing of portioned products (with pre-tying), with natural casings for traditional products and with table top machines. The wide range of requirements made by small and medium-sized firms are also exceptionally well catered for by the multi-faceted S-clips.
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