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Honey, I shrunk the packaging

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Faster speeds, higher safety standards and greater machine monitoring control and correction are driving the development of shrink-wrapping equipment. Jamie Wade writes for Packaging.

Manufacturers are increasingly looking for specialised shrink wrapping equipment that can handle a wide variety of product types.

AB Autopack founder and managing director Brian Budzynowski says in the last decade there has been an increased demand for higher speed machines, higher safety and electrical standards and more recently, and a push for better pack appeal through the use of higher lustre or printed and registered films.

To keep up with varied demands, says Budzynowski, industry specific machine options have been developed which can be equipped with three levels of electrical complexity.

“Increased speeds were initially achieved by designing multi-lane infeed systems. For instance Model 45SLM is capable of achieving 30 ppm when packing small volumes in six or 12 packs,” Budzynowski told Packaging.

“As the trend for higher speed continued, we’ve added Models 62 and 82, tandem function machines, capable of packing from 40 50 multi ppm.

To allow for multi-machine installations in the UHT industry Autopack developed line splitters and mergers which can send product from a high speed filling line to three shrink wrappers then merge them back into one.

“In Australia we have observed an unusually strong demand for inclusion of cardboard trays in the Shrink Packaging process,” Budzynowski said.

AB Autopack sales engineer Alex Popov said that some enquires for tray packing is coming from smaller manufacturers, who in the past would not invest in a cardboard packer.

“Most of these are for packing in quantities of 12, six and even three,” Popov said.

“This demand obviously driven by the ‘shelf ready’ concept, presented some problems as packing small quantities requires high-speed equipment in order to cope with even slow production rates.”

Autopack has responded with a re-design of their tray-packer to handle higher speeds and smaller sizes. Currently, Model 60CZH30 can handle up 20 trays per minute and can adjust down to tray size of 200 mm x 150 mm.

Besides tray packing, says Budzynowski, there has been a rising demand for printed and registered film in beverage and drinking water industry. The need to secure sales in a very competitive industry has driven this trend.

Autopack shrinkwrappers have as optional a print registration device, which can be also, retrofitted to existing Autopack machines. Currently, the company’s engineers are working on continuous motion machines to cater for tray and shrink-wrapping speeds beyond 30 ppm.

SMI Pacifica manager Steve Warren highlights computer monitoring and control as another significant development in shrink-wrapping equipment.

“Computer monitoring and control of each step of the process means computer can correct the many minor variations in flow that add up to major breakdowns in obsolete machines with mechanical linkages. With each step being mechanically independent, any local failures will stay local. The machine will stop itself if necessary and call for operator attention,” Warren told Packaging.

Warren sites Internet-style operator interface for intuitive interrogation and adjustment of all internal functions as another key trend.

“The concept of learning special machine code, requiring specialised operators, is fast being rendered obsolete,” he said.

“Streamlined mechanicals with minimal direction changes means the machines are gentle on the machinery as well as the products.

Demands

Manufacturers are increasingly looking for specialised shrink wrapping equipment that can handle a wide variety of product types.

When it comes to machinery, says Budzynowski, there are two main considerations: equipment functionality; and compliance with regulatory bodies and end user standards.

“By functionality we mean: speed, flexibility, packing with or without cardboard pad or tray, printed and registered film, film perforation for easy opening as well as catering for multiple pack sizes and fancy bottle shapes,” he said.

Satisfying standards, says Budzynowski, is just as involved. For instance, exporting to Europe requires CE certification ensuring compliance with EU Electrical and Safety standards.

“In Australia we see similar demands for manufacturers to comply with Safety and EMI standards. Machines destined for pharmaceutical industry worldwide now days require Installation and Operation Qualifications,” he said.

“To make it more interesting, most multi-national companies, have their own safety, wiring, PLC, electrical and pneumatic component standards.

Packaging manufacturers, says Warren, demand reliability, speed, smooth finish and an easy life at low cost.

“Operators shouldn’t have tears at midnight looking for a loose screw, which is all it takes to stop and possibly break a conventional shrink-wrapping machine,” he said.

“SMI pioneered the technology that continuously adjusts and corrects itself. Our first installations are still working beautifully but the latest systems, with 18 years of refinement built in, are simply brilliant.”

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