“In a world where standard machine settings on customer lines are commonplace, there is now less opportunity to adjust lines, and more emphasis on producing cartons that have a very tight upper and lower data-driven spec limit,” Dave Reed, technical sales manager for UK consumer branded at Multi Packaging Solutions (MPS) – now part of the US WestRock group – told Food Manufacture.
“The three key factors to be mindful of when running machine-erect cartons are: material; coefficient of friction (or slip); and crease resistance values. One or more of these factors could be critical to consistent line performance.”
Measurement and monitoring of key parameters needed to occur at all stages in the conversion process, he added. Overall, the newer generation of more heat-sensitive, bio-derived films are more likely to rely on heat-sealing and processing equipment where temperatures can be more accurately regulated.
“We control temperatures to 0.1°C, so handling biopolymer materials such as PLA is not a challenge for our machines,” said Multivac sales director Matthew Jackson.
While primary-pack forming and sealing processes were typically where machine-material compatibility was most often put to the test, issues could also occur in end-of-line operations, claimed Chris Yates, sales director at Endoline Machinery.
“Essentially, any case type, regardless of its thickness and grade, can be run through an automated end-of-line system,” said Yates. “But each type behaves differently and can affect output.”
Customers should start working with automation and packaging suppliers early to implement any modifications, either to the case or the machine, he advised.
There were some specific challenges though. “Recently, there has been an increase in high-gloss cases,” said Yates. “These have brought new challenges, particularly as the sensors on the machinery, which ‘reads’ the case and adjusts itself depending on the size, can be affected.”
Over the years, end-of-line equipment had evolved from heavy corrugated boxes to lighter and more complex shelf-ready packs, he explained. “Packers within the fresh produce sector still tend to require more robust cases due to the fragility of their product.”
But while corrugated board weights in other areas might have reduced, the degree to which those reductions could occur was relatively limited, given the protective role that the case had to play, Yates added.
- For the low-down on the latest challenges and developments in packaging machinery, look out for Food Manufacture’s April issue, p20-21.