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Integrated labelling and inkjet coding

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article image Josh Starling of Mexican Express with the recently installed Tronics labelling and coding equipment.

THE addition of a new product to its range of specialist Mexican cuisine triggered a need for Adelaide based manufacturer, Mexican Express, to upgrade - 'hot up' - its labelling line to a fully automated process.

First, was a need to apply labels to a range of plastic bottles of different sizes and with different profiles such as flat sided, round and oval.

Second, was a need to code the plastic containers with batch numbers and other variable data, including 'Best Before' dates.

Mexican Express already had some equipment for coding but wanted to upgrade, due to inefficiencies with existing equipment. They were looking for a stainless steel machine that was easier to clean at the end of a shift according to Josh Starling, Production Manager at Mexican Express.

Space limitations on the floor of the production area, placed another set of limitations on the labelling equipment - there was a critical need for an unusually small foot print for the labelling machinery including the necessary vacuum wrap, overhead stabilising conveyor and the front and back label application heads.

Mexican Express shopped around and found that Tronics were best able to meet their particular needs. Tronics adapted their machines to suit all of Mexican Express’ requirements without compromising on performance.

Tronics selected the Tronics Series 3 (Videojet 43S) equipment for Mexican Express. The modular design of the machine allowed a solution to be quickly put together - a solution that met the production and limited space requirements of Mexican Express.

Mexican Express's line needed to achieve a moderate rate of 40-50 bottles per minute with labels on both the back and front of the bottles.

The Tronics Series 3 labeller has integrated stepper motor control systems that ensure accuracy and consistency of label application across a variety of production speeds and label types.

The synchronisation of all the machine modules guarantees front and back labels are always accurately positioned for best on shelf presentation says Paul Molloy of Tronics.

Rather than have separate ac motors for the different functions on the labeller, stepper motors are used to ensure synchronisation of all labelling components. This approach eliminates variations in positioning of labels, caused by voltage fluctuations and mechanical irregularities.

Not all equipment on the market has the advantages of this synchronised system according to Paul Molloy.

The other big plus with the Series 3 unit, noted by Josh Starling, is the simplicity of operation compared with some other makes of equipment. This is important to Josh as they often introduce new staff who may be unfamiliar with such machinery.

As for Mexican Express's coding requirements, Josh explained that one of the big issues was cleaning. The Videojet 43S's stainless steel construction presented advantages over other materials, such as plastic. And, the automatic print head flushing - reduces the need for the operator to clean the head daily - a big plus.

Another design advantage Josh discussed was reduced maintenance costs.

If Mexican Express experience a breakdown with the head, or damage it, they can replace individual parts, whereas with their previous machine they had the significant cost of replacing the whole printing head.

Capacity has been another good feature according to Josh. The Videojet coding unit can print three lines of text whereas their previous machine could only handle two.

Mexican Express can now meet the demands of present coding regulations, as well as those into the future. Changing from one message to the next is also easy as the pre-formatted messages can be changed on the fly.

The company’s line speed is currently running at about 40-50 containers per minute. However, in the future they may want to go faster. The Videojet 43S and the Tronics labeller have the speed and capacity to grow with Mexican Express says Josh.

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