Tankless hot-melt systems are having their moment in the spotlight right now, but what does it mean? Should you jump on the bandwagon, or should you stop and think? Before you go switching over your machinery, consider that there’s a lot more to think about than just the costs. Consider the following realities, all of which are too important to ignore:Warmup time: We’re all hearing that tankless hot-melt systems heat up faster than reservoir systems. But here’s what you have to think about: In most packaging plants, the hot-melt machines remain on for extended periods of time, from one shift to many weeks. That means the 10 to 15 minute difference in initial warmup time is inconsequential—and not an actual significant benefit.Space: The discussion of the smaller space required for the tankless system is not a valid point, because the tankless systems, in order to include temperature controls and stands, are easily as large as the standard systems.Tankless technology: The technology used to convey hot melt in pellet/bead form to the hot-melt system from a bulk bin is the key to the tankless system’s “tankless” claim. This bulk pellet conveyance system blows very small quantities of hot melt into the tankless system frequently. But here’s the thing: If there is any interruption in the feed, the tankless system will run out of glue, and it cannot be fed manually. This is a big problem and a big risk for packaging companies, as downtime is very expensive. Should anything go wrong, a packaging business loses time and money quickly with the tankless system.Time-tested results from standard machines: Standard hot-melt machines have a reservoir with a one- to two-hour melt-rate capacity. They can operate without the venturi feed altogether. What’s more, many companies are buying larger “Melt On Demand” reservoirs that require manual filling only once per shift. The larger conventional systems that are available have already been filled with the pellet conveyance system used by the Freedom and Invisipac system for more than 20 years.Not all melts are compatible: Nordson and Graco, who produce the Freedom and Invisipac Tankless systems, have to specify which sizes, shapes, types and hot-melt manufacturers of hot melt are approved for use with their tankless machines. Not all packaging-grade hot melts will easily blow from a large holding tank to the tankless system. So, before you jump on board with tankless machines, you have to double-check your melts are compatible.
Bottom line, the tankless hot-melt system, while being an interesting concept, is just that: an interesting concept. Much like the electric car, it’s a fun flash in the pan that’s well intentioned, but not a realistic product for manufacturers over time.
For this reason, we recommend that packaging customers buy quality, high-performance hot-melt tank systems; use quality, hot-melt adhesives; and maintain their machines properly. If you want to reduce filling and maintenance, add an automatic filling system to the unit—that’s an advantage all companies offer and one that actually delivers value.
Pierce Covert is the president of Glue Machinery Corp. a copmany that builds, sells and services industrial hot-melt and cold-glue systems used worldwide by a range of manufacturers.