“There’s a shift away from traditional plastic packaging. Traditional laminated film has up to seven layers to protect products from oxygen and humidity, yet is hardly recyclable,” Marcus says. “Manufacturers are looking to shift to mono-materials that can be recycled easily.
Mono-films respond differently to processing than the materials manufacturers have used for decades. These emerging materials are more sensitive to temperature and react differently to heat.
“The behavior of the materials is particular challenging,” Marcus explains. “From the automation standpoint, we must modify our machines to include more controls and sensors for better controlling the heat applied in bag making. We also must modify the algorithms used for achieving quality requirements.”
Customer Goals Drive Innovation
HDG is developing a system that will help a large European manufacturer use mono-materials as it transitions to 100% recyclable, paper-based bagging.
“They’re ahead of the trend with a roll-out in the coming years to replace all the plastic packaging they sell,” Marcus says. “Their passion is motivating us to go the extra mile and develop things that aren’t available yet.”
HDG is also working with Rockwell Automation to develop HFFS systems with an energy monitoring solution that will help customers access and visualize data to reduce energy use.
“When you know what your line is consuming, you can compare current data with previous and future batches,” Marcus explains. “If the energy consumption is different, the question is: why so? The data is helpful, and the transparency will give you a warning of necessary equipment maintenance or deviations in material quality.”
Already, such insight has helped HDG uncover an opportunity to lower the temperature of the heat used to seal bags and reduce energy costs by 20%.
Marcus says that a team effort is essential to success when pursuing sustainable forms of packaging and materials.
“It’s important you involve the packaging supplier together with the machinery supplier and the customer. This triangle is the strong bond to make a project work perfectly,” he says. “There’s always a little bit of tweaks and fine-tuning needed, but a lot of time can be saved if everybody works together.”