Flow Wrappers: Perfectly Packaged
September 01, 2009
by Shane Whitaker
Some bakeries and snack manufacturers using horizontal flow wrappers require the machines to package the same product thousands of times per day, every day of the year. However, many other bakeries need horizontal form/fill/seal (f/f/S) machines to package a variety of baked foods or snacks on the same line, and they desire minimal changeover time to wrap the most products possible during a shift using the fewest number of machines.
“Bakeries are looking for machinery with flexibility, quick changeover, adjustable formers designed for easy changeover and lower maintenance in parts replacement,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing, Formost Fuji Corp., Woodinville, WA. “Labor reduction and increased throughput is achieved with automation.”
Bakeries, especially large ones, want high efficiencies and high speeds from their horizontal f/f/s machines, according to Chris Root, product manager, wrappers, Bosch Packaging Technology, New Richmond, WI. “These qualities are desirable if not mandatory in today’s competitive market,” he said. “Process lines run nonstop and require highly efficient packaging equipment with minimal downtime to cut down on wasted product and film while enhancing profitability from increased equipment uptime.
“Options such as auto film tracking and auto film splice on the fly allow the wrapper to run continually without stopping,” Mr. Root continued. “The no-product/no-paper option can eliminate empty packages thereby eliminating film waste. The no-gap/no-seal option eliminates damaged packages, and the product can then be rewrapped by the customer if desired.”
The high-speed splice-with-knives option offered by Bosch allows operators to perform roll-to-roll film splicing at speeds in excess of 400 packages per minute, he
said. In addition, automatic film tracking enables more consistent fin seals and an added level of automatic quality control, and a self-centering film roller affords faster product changeover, according to Mr. Root. Greater flexibility and userfriendly interfaces are important features to today’s flow wrappers, according to Mr. Gunnell. Formost Fuji’s most recent introduction, the Alpha VI Wrappers, offers improved man-machine interfaces, ease of operation, troubleshooting accuracy and quicker responses from the heater control system. “One green aspect has been addressed by conserving power consumption through improved heater control systems,” he observed.
Campbell Wrapper Corp., De Pere, WI, offers a full lineup of horizontal flow wrappers featuring sanitary designed sealed frames with complete automated product handling solutions. The company’s Pioneer, Legacy and Revolution model flow wrappers are fully electronic and include the latest in Allen-Bradley and Rexroth Indramat control packages, according to Don Stelzer, vice-president, sales and marketing, Campbell Wrapper. “Servo-related features such as no-product/no-package and out-ofposition/no-crimp keep the lines running at higher efficiency levels and also minimize product and material waste,” he noted.
Campbell horizontal flow wrappers can be quickly and easily adjusted for product and/or packaging material changeover, often without the use of tools. With the Pioneer flow wrapper, up to 40 product records can be stored for retrieval through the PanelView Plus 700 touch-screen operator interface. In addition, the machines’ ergonomic designs make them operator friendly , according to Mr. Stelzer.
“Wrapper diagnostic systems also improve efficiency by tracking production information and machine faults,” he added.
Cavanna Packaging USA, Oradell, NJ, newest horizontal flow wrapper is the Zero4 with Allen-Bradley ControlLogix. It is capable of wrapping 300 to 400 packages per minute and is at a price point to compete against middle-ofthe-road machines, according to Ed Cusack, USA regional sales manager for the company. The fully automated flow wrapper features auto-splice and inline heating capabilities. Another popular model from Cavanna is the Zero5 horizontal wrapping machine that is programmable for up to 99 different sizes of packaging.
Cavanna is in the process of promoting and developing ultrasonic sealing, according to Mr. Cusack. A major advantage to ultrasonic sealing is that processors can use any type of film without heat, he said. “Looking at economics today, people want to run inexpensive films and also operate more efficiently,” he said. “Ultrasonic sealing will offer a better quality seal with thinner gauge films, so you have an opportunity to get a better seal that may potentially extend a product’s shelf life.”
Specially formulated packaging material and seal requirements have also influenced seal-head designs from Campbell Wrapper, according to Mr. Stelzer.
As companies look at becoming more sustainable, or green, one of the things they have done is investigate the use of different films such as corn-based, biodegradable films. Bosch Packaging Technology has done a lot of testing with these films, according to Mr. Root. Its customers report that the corn-based films do not offer as much flexibility as far as look and feel and are more expensive. Manufacturers who are really devoted to sustainability efforts are willing to pay the price, yet this is a small percentage of its customer base, he said. What is more common , however, is customers looking at using the lightest gauge film possible and the narrowest width to maximize film savings because most film is sold by the pound.
While hot seals are used for most lines running less than 300 packages per minute, most will migrate to a cold seal film at higher rates, because as they ramp up and down, the cold seal is able to give them a much more consistent wrap with less waste, according to Mr. Root.
Bosch Packaging Technology offers a full line of horizontal f/f/s machines from an entry-level Stratus to its high-speed multiple wrapper systems that are integrated with product distribution systems or Delta robots and secondary packaging, according to Mr. Root. The company’s latest flow wrapper offerings are its Pack series wrappers, including the Pack 201 and 401 globally designed machines. “These wrappers are offered and supported from Bosch Packaging facilities internationally with locations in Europe, China, India, Singapore and South America,” he said. “The international multi-country offering allows global companies to purchase like equipment worldwide and enjoy the benefit of common spare parts, local service and training.”
The speed of horizontal flow wrappers has continually increased during in the past decade, according to Mr. Root. “Bosch Packaging Technology customers are demanding faster running equipment designed to fit into a smaller footprint,” he added. “Higher speeds allow for higher throughput on the same or fewer lines. Competition between bakeries has led to a decrease in per package profit margins. Higher equipment speeds mean more product throughput allowing customers to increase profitability.”
According to Mr. Root, in the 1980s and 1990s, speeds of 300 to 400 packages per minute were considered the top end by most manufacturers of horizontal f/f/s machines. “Over the past 10 years, the speed of Bosch wrappers has continually risen to the 600-plus packages per minute we offer today,” he said.
Speed that horizontal wrappers run at is largely based on the product and its required handling. Mr. Gunnell said that some items can be run up to 600 pieces per minute or more. “Each product is evaluated individually to determine the correct design for machinery, automation and speed requirements,” he said.
Campbell Wrapper’s horizontal f/f/s machines offer production rates ranging from 250 through 600 packages per minute. The efficiency and uptime of wrappers manufactured by Campbell Wrapper have increased dramatically because of the full servo electronic packages and robust design, according to Mr. Stelzer. “Individual single lane wrappers are rated for up to 600 packages per minutes and dual lane wrappers up to 1,200 packages per minute,” he said. “Our bar distribution systems employing five wrapper legs will handle bar production rates of more than 2,000 bars per minute.”
Ease of sanitation is another feature manufacturers of horizontal flow wrappers noted among the qualities desired by their customers. Mr. Root pointed out that sanitary equipment is important due to the concentration by processors to fight bacteria and microbial issues in order to avoid consumer complaints and lawsuits. “Our open, easily accessible design, hinged interlocked guarding and stainless-steel construction help meet sanitary requirements,” he said. “Cantilevered construction on automatic feeders allows for easy disassembly, more complete sanitation and simpler parts replacement for less downtime.”
Campbell Wrapper’s horizontal f/f/s machines offer improved sanitary features because many food applications require washdown capabilities, according to Mr. Stelzer.
Formost Fuji has engineered modifications such as cantilevered stainless design into its flow wrappers with sanitation in mind, according to Mr. Gunnell. “Safety requirements that meet and exceed industry standards are also integrated into the machinery designs,” he added.
Advances in horizontal flow wrapping technology allow processors to have greater flexibility and longer production runs with less waste. Features such as splice with knives and no product/no paper have also improved efficiencies of these packaging machines.