Packaging machinery: space saving and eco-friendly

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Eco-friendly packaging, space saving and gentle robots are new developments in packaging machinery
Eco-friendly packaging, space saving and gentle robots are new developments in packaging machinery

Related tags Packaging

Food and drink manufacturers are constantly having to boost production to meet an ever-growing demand for their products, prompting a need for developers of packaging machinery to keep up.

From the need to become more sustainable to increasing throughput in a factory with little space for conventional packaging lines, we explore the latest developments in packaging machinery benefitting food and drink manufacturers.  

As it stands, not every manufacturer can simply shift to using more environmentally friendly packaging materials in their production lines. It’s this issue that machinery manufacturer Ulma Packaging has sought to tackle in partnership with compostable packaging supplier Tipa. The collaboration will optimise Ulma’s box motion and flow-wrapping machines to handle compostable films with the same ease as conventional plastic. Market share for eco-friendly alternatives to conventional plastic, like compostable films, is expected to be an important factor contributing towards the growth of the global flexible packaging market.  

We’re delighted to collaborate with Tipa to create more compostable solutions and help give the packaging market a push towards a more sustainable future,” ​says Ulma sales director Ed Williams.

“Indeed, this is a crucial development in ensuring sustainable, compostable packaging, which will not leave a long-lasting impact on the planet, is made available to all companies without fear of its use costing them.”​ 

Compostable packaging ​ 

Tipa’s compostable packaging products are designed to break down within months under compost conditions just like any organic matter and are designed to fit existing machinery and supply chains.  

Daphna Nissenbaum, chief executive at Tipa, added: “Consumer demand for compostable alternatives to polluting plastic films has ignited the industry to prepare for a global shift toward ecological materials. We are scaling up to meet the demand with strategic partnerships along the packaging supply chain.​ 

“We are incredibly excited about the future of compostable packaging, which is being achieved at scale and readily available for organisations across the world to adopt.”​ 

Machines to tackle online delivery kits

A tray of food
Tray sealing has become more prevalent as demand for home delivery grows

Tray sealing systems provide an ideal packaging solution for the increased number of online and home delivery services now available, according to Proseal. 

The company’s bespoke range of innovative conveyor systems, including chain conveyors (OC), belt conveyors (SC), and single-line-to-twin-diverging (slipstream), can be fully integrated into the production line. 

Project manager Eddie Holmes said: “Tray sealing provides very effective product protection and security, and latest reclose film options mean food can be further preserved after opening. ​ 

“Just as important, the majority of trays are fully recyclable, unlike some alternatives such as pouches and bags, which can also cause food waste by not sufficiently protecting product from damage, such as squashing, throughout the supply chain. ​ 

“Some trays are also now manufactured in new materials made from renewable or recycled board, and this offers an added sustainability benefit.”​ 

Sustainable and eco-friendly packaging has been a big focus for Smurfit Kappa, which has launched a new system for its TopClip product – a paper-based replacement for plastic shrink wrap that bundles beverage multi-packs. 

Its latest system is designed for smaller businesses and brands, allowing the supplier to offer end-to-end packaging machinery suitable for beverage companies of all sizes. TopClip has a 30% lower carbon footprint than shrink wrapped consumer packs and is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. It is also made from less material and does not require glue. 

Systems such as the one offered by Smurfit have allowed manufacturers to introduce easy environmentally friendly wins into their businesses. One such firm is Czech beer brewer Pivovar Clock, which has implemented the system for 500ml cans. Pivovar Clock has been noted within the industry for its early adoption of sustainable technology – such as steam technology – local ingredients to produce their beer. 

TopClip paper packaging
TopClip is an alternative to plastic wrap

Standard for the industry ​ 

Jiří Andrš, chief executive at Pivovar Clock, says: “We want to provide this standard across our business and Smurfit Kappa’s TopClip solution offers us a new sustainable alternative while providing an excellent consumer and branding experience.”​ 

With the development of more advanced packaging systems comes the question of where and, perhaps more importantly, how a new piece of machinery will fit on the factory floor. With space at a premium within many UK food factories, demand has risen for compact, space-saving packaging equipment.  

Endoline Automation’s slimline 251 Fully Automatic Case Erector has been presented as one solution to manufacturers’ needs. At just 1 metre wide by 2 metres long, the 251 can be integrated on to the ends of packaging lines and offers an automated solution to replace manually intensive work. 

The system features ‘dual opposing vacuum technology’ that Endoline claims enables efficient case opening, while eliminating any associated issues with stiff board and glue migration, which can cause product waste. The 251 can erect up to 10 cases a minute. 

Endoline managing director Andrew Yates comments: “While space has always been a challenge for many UK manufacturers, COVID-19 has led to calls for automation which not only fits into small areas, but are compact enough to leave enough space for people to move around safely.​ 

“As the preferred case erecter supplier of Moba Systems, we originally designed the 251 to suit their egg packing systems. However, demand for compact solutions has increased and the 251 offers any of our customers a case erecting solution which can be quickly integrated into existing lines.”​ 

A delicate situation​ 

Robot packing apples
New machines can delicately pack fruits

Many developments in the world of packaging machinery have focused on wins that integrate seamlessly into an existing production line. Replacing existing packaging with eco-friendly solutions and installing machines in factories tight on space, these developments assume that the product being packaged needs no extra consideration. 

While these systems can be easily automated, the same isn’t always possible when it comes to packaging more delicate items such as fruits. Few apple packing facilities have adopted robotics, as they haven’t found solutions that enable high speed packing without damage to fruit, so instead they elect to stick with manual methods. 

Brillopak’s UniPAKer robotic crate packing cell has been developed to solve this issue and four have been deployed by Kent apple producer Adrian Scripps – Tesco's largest apple supplier. 

Each of the crate loading cells houses two delta type robots, each performing a single pick. The robots perform this task with a degree of dexterity and rotation that would not be feasible with a layer-based automated handling system. 

BrilloPak ​director David Jahn says: “Apples are very delicate products, making them very difficult to pack at high speed. We are the only automation supplier who can successfully pack apples at speeds of 75 packs per minute without damaging the product.”​ 

The robots achieve delicate packing through a system of vacuum heads and motion control that prevent the machines dropping the product from damaging heights. 

“When lifting a pack of apples, the robot arm accelerates strongly upwards into a curve, then decelerates down into the crate, so the pack is tightly controlled as it reaches the bottom of the crate,” ​Jahn explained. 

Developments in the world of packaging machinery continue to rapidly accelerate as manufacturers adapt to greater demand for their products. Whether it be eco-friendly designs promoting sustainability, or space saving solution, food and drink manufacturers can be confident that there exists an answer to their packaging machinery needs. 

Cans and boxes boost wine sustainability

Canned wine
Kingsland has invested in a new canning line for its wines

Drinks processor Kingsland Drinks has been exploring different ways to make wine production more sustainable by investing in new packaging methods. 

While traditionally packaged in glass bottles, a material known for its ease of recyclability, Kingsland has seen a rise in demand for canned and boxed wines. 

To that end, the manufacturer invested £1.2m in a new canning line at its Irlam, Manchester facility. It has since launched two new convenience lines – Vin Crown and Mix Up – and predicts significant UK growth in the sector. 

This year will see Kingsland also boost its bag-in-box wine capacity by investing in production. 

It can produce 1.5 litre, 2.25 litre and 3 litre bag-in-box formats using ethylene vinyl alcohol bags that are easier to recycle and use shorter wine taps, requiring less plastic per bag. 

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