Applicating machines on a packaging line are automatic or semi-automatic systems that attach something to a package, like a straw on drink boxes or a handle on a multipack or a zipper reclosure on a pouch. This "attachment" enhances the function of the primary package in ways that add value to the consumer.
Most applicating systems are dedicated to a single task. But some systems - handle applicators, for example - can be set up to accommodate different types and sizes of handles, as well as different configurations of multipacks.
In some cases, the supplier of the item to be attached (a handle, for example) is also the maker of the machine to apply it. Working with one supplier for both the machine and materials can simplify setup and prevents confusion on which company is responsible if/when problems arise.
For a simple operation (such as affixing a tear tape to a film wrap), the automated machinery can be integrated into other packaging systems. But most applicators are standalone systems that require separate space on the packaging line. Off-the-shelf systems are available to satisfy most applications, but custom systems can also be built as needed.
In addition to the action of application, these machines also position the package and stage the item to be attached. In most cases, the item is fed from roll stock (reseal devices and tear tape, for example), removed and applied in a smooth continuous motion, either horizontally or vertically, directly onto the packaging substrate while that substrate is being supported. Heat or ultrasonic friction can be used to meld the two pieces together; or glue can be applied before the item (a wrapped straw, for example) is affixed onto the packaging material.
Subsequent inspection downstream can provide manufacturers assurance that the item is, indeed, properly attached.
In the case of adding a fitment to a pouch, the operation may be intermittent motion instead of continuous, which may impact the speed/volume of the system.