Squeezing out a healthy tube market
Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor -- Packaging Digest, 11/1/2012 12:25:00 PM
Montebello Packaging, headquartered in Hawkesbury, ON, Canada, has been manufacturing collapsible aluminum and laminate tubes for 60 years. Collapsible aluminum tubes in Europe are used to package a wide variety of food products, and knowing this, Montebello foundedMonfitello Inc. to introduce, promote and facilitate the use of tubes as a preferred food packaging choice in North America.
The company is working with many customers to test market a variety of condiments that it is filling into these convenient and resealable packages. The tubes are air-tight and keep the freshness and flavor in by keeping the air out.
In 2010, Monfitello developed and produced its first branded product-Intuition-as the world's first herbal infused liquid concentrates in a tube. A line of registered natural health products, they are a special blend of medicinal herbal tinctures and juice concentrates, delivered in an add-to-water mix. Low in calories, gluten-free and with no sugar added, Intuition's Natural Health beverages are available to reduce stress, increase energy and help with weight management.
The products are packaged in a 20mL single dose peel-seal laminate tube, making them portable, convenient and easy to use. A unique feature of the tube, which has a patent pending, is that, instead of a cap, the 1-in. diameter tube features a foil seal that can be peeled open. Intuition won the Tube Council's "Ted Klein Tube of the Year Most Innovative Tube" award in 2010. "We were the first company in the world to print on laminate tubes," says plant manager Dominic Fournier. "We use a HP Indigo digital press."
The Intuition product line was inspired by president Betty Pilon, who has always been health conscious. She wanted to produce something for women that would offer health benefits without the inconvenience of having to swallow supplements or have the typical tastes usually associated with herbal tinctures. Intuition achieves the perfect balance of herbal blends and delicious taste.
Pilot plant operation
Realizing that customers would need a facility to produce market-test quantities of products to determine their salability, the company installed a pilot plant at its Montebello plant in Montreal, where it could contract pack products for market tests. Packaging Digest published an article in April 2011 about maple syrup packaged in a laminated tube that Monfitello ran for Turkey Hill Sugarbush Ltd.
The facility is equipped with two tube-filling machines, both designed to handle a range of viscosities and tube sizes from ½ to 1¾ in. in diameter and 2½ to 7¾ in. long. Monfitello purchased both machines used and extensively modified them themselves. The E250Matic from TGM-Tecnomachines s.r.l. can run metal, EVOH and laminate tubes at a rate of 25 to 41 tubes/min. The IWKA TFS30 tube filling machine from Oystar North America can handle only aluminum tubes, but is equipped with saddle fold capability. By filling and crimping two tubes at a time, its filling rate is increased to 47 to 75 tubes/min.
The laminated tubes, which are made from a PE/AL/PE structure supplied by Huhtamaki Inc. in the adjoining Montebello plant, have the peelable seal already applied and are delivered with open bottoms for filling.
The tubes are manually loaded into a magazine on the filler. From there, they travel down a track to the intermittent-motion filler, where they are placed into cavities in the rotating turret. As the turret rotates, the tubes are turned so that they are properly oriented for the bottom seal.
The tubes are then transported to the filling station where they are lifted and the product is dispensed by a piston filler. At the next station, the bottom of the tube is crimped shut, the expiry date is embossed into the sealed end and excess material is trimmed off.
As tubes leave the filler, they are flipped over to ensure that hot product contacts all interior surfaces, after which workers place them into cavities in specially designed cases for shipment.
"This is a basic operation, but the fillers are very accurate, so it is great for developing the process," says Fournier. "We will add higher speed equipment as the market grows."
While not officially rated as such, the filling room incorporates HEPA air filtration and is essentially a Class 1,000 clean room. All water used in the product passes through a reverse osmosis treatment system.
Montibello tube production
Tubes for Monfitello products are produced in the Monte bello Packaging plant of which Monfitello is a part. The Montebello operation in Montreal is a full scale, high-output plant that supplies tubes for a range of companies. It has six tube production lines.
Montebello has installed two state-of-the art printing operations incorporating HP Indigo WS4500 7-color digital presses. During PD's visit, one press was printing six images at a time in two rows on the continuous web of the laminated film, which is supplied from a roll mounted at the inlet of the press.
The different color inks are contained in individual cans that are mounted in the printer cabinet and supply ink to the printing operation. The web reciprocates back and forth in the printing zone as the different colors are applied.
After the ink has cured, the web passes beneath equipment from A B Graphic Intl. Inc. that applies a corona treatment to raise surf ace tension so that the varnish, which is applied next to keep the ink from smearing, will adhere properly. The film next passes beneath a UV light to cure the varnish.
In the final operation, the web is slit into individual rolls that will be delivered to the tube manufacturing machines.
"We were the first ones in the world to print on laminated tubes using a HP Indigo press," says Fornier. "It took us years to perfect the process, and there were a lot of proprietary developments involved."
A B Graphic Intl. Inc., 909-230-6640. www.abgint.com
HP, 866-312-8943. www.hp.com/go/indigo
Huhtamaki Inc., 913-583-3025. www2.huhtamaki.com/web/north-america
Oystar North America, 732-343-7600. www.oystar-group.com
TGM-Tecnomachines s.r.l., +39 035-893135. www.tgm.it/EN/company
Videojet Technologies Inc., 800-843-3610. www.videojet.com
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