Pattern control options for packaging

By Pierce Covert in Adhesives on December 19, 2014

If you’re looking for a way to cut down on your adhesive costs, or simply need the ability to create customized adhesive patterns for your specific packaging process, you’ll want to take a look at employing a pattern controller. Available for both hot melt and cold glue systems, pattern controllers are relatively straightforward mechanisms. In most cases, it’s a matter of a sensor sending to a pattern controller which in turn sends a signal to a solenoid to actuate an automatic glue gun.

Two types of pattern controllers:Timer and variable speed
There are two main types of pattern control mechanisms: those that are timer-based and those that are variable speed. In an automatic adhesive system using a timer, a photo sensor sees your box being advanced through the packaging machine, which triggers the pattern controller to begin a countdown until it’s time to glue; then the gun applies adhesive for a predetermined amount of time.

In a variable speed pattern control environment, an encoder actually tracks the line speed of the material that’s moving through the packaging system. Instead of working with time, a variable speed pattern controller applies a pattern based on the distance and speed the substrate travels— the encoder tracks the speed of the product through the system and sends a signal to the glue gun based on the package’s distance from the sensor. It goes without saying that if your packaging line is advancing product through the machine at variable speeds, you’re going to be better served by being able to track the speed of the package so you can vary your pattern according speed versus time.

Spot gluing patterns
Imagine that you’re running a three-inch glue pattern from a glue gun onto a minor flap and you want to figure out if there’s a way to reduce the amount of adhesive you need. One way to achieve this would be through spot gluing, cycling dots or lines with gaps between them, which could generate a very similar bond characteristic to your original three-inch pattern. 

Many businesses that use timer or variable speed pattern controllers have had success reducing adhesive quantity by spot gluing. Assuming you’re using a modern high-speed hot melt glue gun that has the capacity to cycle at 20, 50 or even 100 cycles per second, you likely have the ability to spot glue a pattern. However, if you’re using older style hot melt equipment, spot gluing is not recommended; turning things on and off at high speed can cause problems in older systems by advancing the wear on the solenoids and the modules.

Pattern controllers can help streamline the packaging process
Pattern controllers can help you reduce the amount of adhesive that’s necessary in your packaging process. Deciding which type of pattern controller will best meet your needs will ultimately depend on your budget and your packaging process. Timer-based pattern controllers work well in most environments, but if your production line moves at anything other than a constant speed, variable-speed pattern controllers may make more sense. Additionally, spot gluing may be a viable option for cutting adhesive use (and cost) in packaging applications using newer machinery. Though they may seem complicated at first glance, pattern controllers can actually help simplify and streamline your packaging operation when used correctly.

Pierce Covert is the president of Glue Machinery Corp., a company that builds, sells and services industrial hot-melt and cold-glue systems used worldwide by a range of manufacturers.

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