Every day, consumers make split-second purchasing decisions. And when it comes to common household goods, brand reputation – plus overall shelf impact – can make or break a sale. American Packaging Machinery (APM) provides cost-effective shrink wrapping systems designed to maximize brand presence and deliver a consistent, attractive point-of-purchase package. Specifically, the company's MS Series horizontal cross-seal solutions have established a reputation for innovation and efficiency.
In addition to shrink wrapping, Illinois-based APM meets the needs of diverse industries with shrink bundling and custom solutions. “Our horizontal cross-seal solution for disposable dinnerware is a good illustration of a shrink wrapping system that delivers a pleasing shelf-ready package,” said Stefan Martelli, sales and marketing manager, American Package Machinery. “Like virtually all of our systems, we customized our machinery to meet the unique needs of this application.”
Shrink wrapping is a multi-step process. First, the product enters the system in predetermined pack patterns or stacks via conveyor. Next, it is appropriately staged and transferred to the wrapper. To ensure labeling appears correctly, product positioning must be maintained as the preprinted film is applied. Once trimmed, the pack enters a heated shrink tunnel to shrink the film around the product. The shrink wrapped package is manually inspected before it moves downstream. “Maintaining print registration is critical,” Martelli said. “Our system combines product staging with print registration technology to help ensure labeling is uniform on every pack.”
Disposable dinnerware provides unique staging challenges – especially for paper-based products. Since multiple plate-forming presses deposit plate stacks on the infeed conveyor at varying intervals, the product enters the shrink wrap system randomly spaced. Depending on environmental and machine conditions, stack height can vary as well. “The front end of our system conditions the product to ensure consistent height and spacing,” Martelli explained. To achieve the appropriate spacing, the system uses a series of photo eye sensors to read the incoming product. Then, conveyor speed automatically adjusts to uniformly space the product before transfer to the wrapper.
With the product appropriately staged, the system's print registration technology takes over. Since the product is consistently spaced, the servo-driven wrapper can continuously run the imprinted film and make any position adjustments on the fly. “Our system reads product flow – and incorporates speed modulation to maintain registration,” Martelli said. “It knows exactly where the product is in relation to the film imprint and adjusts accordingly.“ The APM shrink wrapper is based on a Rockwell Automation control and information solution. An Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ programmable automation controller manages overall machine control. Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6000 multi-axis servo drives and Allen-Bradley MP-Series™ low-inertia servo motors provide motion control for the wrapper portion of the system, while Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® AC drives control conveyor speed. Depending on customer requirements, the system is integrated via an EtherNet/IP™ network or SERCOS interface. The system is monitored on an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 6 graphic terminal.
Overall, the APM solution helps maximize throughput – and minimize rework. “Usually, our machine can run 30 percent faster than the machines it replaces,” Martelli said. “And along with increased production speed, there are significantly fewer rewraps.” Shrink wrapped product that does not meet print registration standards is pulled from the line during inspection. The product is unwrapped and staged for reentry at the beginning of the process. Typical systems can have rework rates up to 20 percent. APM estimates their rework rate at less than 2 percent. “In the disposable dinnerware industry, product changeovers are frequent,” Martelli explained. “The control system's recipe-driven interface helps ease that process.”
Through the PanelView terminal, operators call-up the appropriate profi le for the next product run. After a few tool-less mechanical adjustments, the system is ready to run – generally, in less than 15 minutes. “Our company has been using Rockwell Automation products right from our beginning in 1992,” Martelli said. “We know we can rely on Rockwell Automation technology – as well as support. The company's responsiveness to our needs and our customers' requirements is critical.”
For more information: Stefan Martelli, Sales & Marketing Manager, American Packaging Machinery