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Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO) on plastic bags

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article image “We achieved a very substantial cost reduction ... saved us on labour,” said David Arnold (right). With David is Richard Wallis of Tronics.

A DESIRE to improve the presentation of its packaging, significantly reduce packaging costs and have readily available plastic bags carrying all variable data, were the three key issues that prompted T&R Pastoral to review its packaging procedures for ovine (sheep) offal at their Lobethal meatworks in South Australia.

"We had been handling our packaging and labelling of relatively short runs by hand ... placing the offal in 0.5kg to 4kg bags and then inserting, by hand, a label carrying detail which included the variable data - best before date, production date, and the translation in Arabic," said David Arnold, plant manager at the Lobethal works.

The company has a steady trade exporting ovine offal (sheep livers and kidneys) to Saudi Arabia. The system of placing the offal in the bags and then inserting a label inside the bag was not good, as it was a slow process, labels were subject to staining and the label was inclined to move around when inside the bag.

"We needed an organisation that could develop a system to meet our special needs and carry out the integration work needed to get the whole system right," said David.

Based on T&R's experience at another of its plants in South Australia, they turned to Tronics .

"When T&R explained the issues ... and the small production runs, often around 500 bags, our recommended solution was to propose that the bag supplier produce pre-formed, pre-printed bags ... pre printed except for the variable information. The pre-formed bags could then be supplied in rolls with each bag separated by perforations," said Paul Molloy of the Adelaide office of Tronics.

"This roll fed concept would then facilitate automation of the printing of the variable data.

"But, no one had printed onto roll fed blanks with perforations, that we knew of," Paul added.

T&R's bags for the offal are now pre-printed in bulk, separated by perforations, and supplied in rolls.

The solution for over printing variable information was a Tronics custom made bag winder, integrated with a Videojet Dataflex Direct Thermal Overprinter.

Developed especially for flexible packaging, the printer allows for intermittent or continuous motion. Its clutchless ribbon drive helps deliver a high level of reliability, less maintenance and a low 'cost of ownership'. According to Tronics up to 80% of total cost of ownership can be attributed to equipment reliability. It is no accident that reliability is a primary design philosophy for products like the Videojet DataFlex.

The system has enabled automated overprinting of the bags at rates of up to 65 per minute for T&R ... although the Tronics system is capable of faster speeds.

To start up the system, the operator simply selects the required message, from the DataFlex on-board database and then enters in the required quantity, on the DataFlex touch screen control panel. Then it's press go and then the machine is underway.

"As the Tronics system is stepper motor driven, it is extremely reliable, cost efficient and accurate throughout the life of the machine explained Paul.

"Tronics labelling modules, be they conveyors, label applicator heads, wrap units or stabilising conveyors are all stepper motor driven. This gives perfect synchronisation which ensures high levels of accuracy and reliability."

T&R, when reviewing its position five months after installation of the system recommended by Tronics, was able to point to total success. The three key objectives were achieved with the Tronics system.

Reduction in labour costs:

"We achieved a very substantial cost reduction as the automating saved on labour in the section," said David Arnold.

Increase in production speed:

"We've achieved better presentation of our packaged product as well as substantially speeding up the whole packaging process.”

Increase in system flexibility:

"The system is also suitably flexible, so it can help us with other packaging demands. The DataFlex printer is capable of producing point-of-sale barcodes, should our customers desire them,” concluded David.

"The touch screen computerised control system also makes it easy and user friendly. We have had no problems."

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