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8 top packaging lines for engineers

Article-8 top packaging lines for engineers

8 top packaging lines for engineers
Blockbuster integrated systems

Since our startup 50 years ago, the packaging-line story has been the heart and soul of Packaging Digest. During the past 10 years alone, we have done about 600 line stories. As I went through every issue from the last decade, I discovered how hard it was to select just a handful-I liked them all.

So what I am presenting here are my choices of some of the best packaging line stories of the past 10 years. I am sure that any of you readers who look at these past issues would select other stories, but this is my feature so my choices.

I decided on several criteria for these selections. The stories had to be about complete packaging lines. Some of our stories focus on single machines on a line, but this is supposed to be about line stories, so I have not considered those. Every story here is about a complete line starting with bottle, carton or film delivery and ending with case packing or palletizing. 

In each story, I have selected one machine supplier to illustrate the operation. If the emphasis of the story is on a specific technology (though it is still a complete line story), I have identified that piece of equipment. Otherwise, I have selected the filler because, in my opinion, the filler is the most critical and distinguishing machine on a line. If anyone would like to see a list of all of the equipment suppliers on the line, click on the web address at the end of the particular item.

Anyway, here are the stories I have selected, along with the features of the line that prompted my decision. 


Bottles fly on new aseptic line
An 81-head low-acid aseptic rotary filler at the HP Hood plant in Sacramento, CA, runs 600 bottles/min on a highly automated and flexible packaging line designed for fast, pushbutton operation. The filler was manufactured by Shibuya Kogyo Corp. (Shibuya Hoppmann Corp. in the U.S.). 

The Shibuya filler was the first FDA-accepted rotary filler for low-acid beverages when it was validated in 2005, and the packaging line at the Sacramento plant is one of the fastest and most sophisticated low-acid aseptic lines in the world. 

Hood installed the first Shibuya aseptic low-acid rotary filler in the dairy industry at its plant in Winchester, VA, in 2004. When the machine was installed in the Sacramento plant, there were only three Shibuya aseptic machines in the U.S., and Hood had two of them. 

The Shibuya system is equipped with a fully automated CIP/SIP system that cleans and sterilizes the product lines and enclosure before each operating cycle. The system can maintain an aseptic environment inside the aseptic chambers for up to 156 consecutive hours. During this time, access is provided through glove boxes, and the entire system must be resterilized if sterility is broken. Bottles are sterilized by vaporized hydrogen peroxide sprayed into them. 

The Shibuya system actually incorporates three operations-sterilizing/rinsing, filling and capping. Bottles are transported through the operation by clamps that grasp the bottle at the neck. Neck gripping allows for the filler to accommodate different sized bottles with minimal changeover required. 

All of the conveyors and equipment in the line, except for the Shibuya filler, are monitored and controlled from the HMI in the control room. The entire Shibuya operation can be monitored by a centrally located SCADA computer and is operated through a touchscreen HMI. Hood runs a number of different bottles on the aseptic line and each requires different sterilizing conditions, depending on shape and size. Torque settings are also different for different bottles. Once these operating parameters are set for a container, they can be recalled automatically on the touchscreen.


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Blockbuster integrated systems

    (Integrated systems help Blockbuster improve video disc packaging for speedy order fulfillment.)


New labeling, loading method is a smash hit at Blockbuster

Blockbuster Video, McKinney, TX, redesigned four packaging lines and added a fifth automated line to its 850,000-sq-ft packaging/distribution center to cut reject rates and improve the data flow and processing of rental products for timely delivery. 

The project involved modifying some of the existing packaging equipment and incorporating new technology to save both time and money. Blockbuster worked with Videojet Technologies Inc. and DVD video-disc packaging equipment manufacturer GIMA S.p.A., Bologna, Italy, for assistance on this project.

The four existing packaging lines and the new automated fifth line are managed by Videojet's Data Management System (DMS). The DMS is a customized suite of seven separate software applications developed specifically for Blockbuster by Videojet's Integrated Solutions Group. It provides a data control and reporting system that handles a flow of information in real time between Blockbuster's warehouse-management system (WMS) and movie-rental product-handling machines from GIMA on the five lines. The interface links the host WMS information into the packaging equipment and manages the data for each production run, feeding the information back to the host WMS. 


Altogether, five GIMA DVD872 disc-packaging machines, five GIMA 8A6 labeling machines, five GIMA 8A5 vertical hoppers and five GIMA 8A7 tote packer/collators were installed.

The results produced an integrated packaging line that delivers "perfect" order fulfillment and process efficiencies, a reduction in product damage and a reduction in rejection rates from 0.5 percent to less than 0.01 percent. Operational efficiencies have improved by more than 40 percent while downtime has dropped to less than 5 percent. 

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A ‘suite' spot for flex packs

GSC Packaging's move into a new 100,000-sq-ft facility with 16 separate side-by-side packaging suites improves quality control and removes much of the risk of product contamination. Because it packages nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, the plant adheres to 21CFR111 guidelines that are a higher standard than for food processing for all products. 

Entered through a plastic curtain, each suite is subdivided into primary and secondary packaging operations and offers positive air flow and state-of-the-art dust collection for the largely powdery products.

The new facility also positions the contract packager for continued growth in stick packs, pouches and bags for powdered and other dry products.

Within the suites, the plant boasts 15 packaging production lines comprising seven horizontal form/fill/seal (FFS) lines, three six-lane stick pack vertical FFS packaging lines, as well as various semi-automatic, large-format automatic, secondary packaging, shrink wrapping, banding and cartoning, kitting and point-of-purchase display packaging. The newest FFS machine at GSC is a Model ST560 stick-pack machine from Viking Masek Global Packaging Technologies.


Using these systems, GSC Packaging packages dry food-grade powders and particulates for products, including nutritional and protein supplements, drink mixes, dry cereals, hot chocolate mix and cheese powders. In addition to powdered products, it also packages croutons, soup mixes and rice. These dry foodstuffs are packaged into three primary package formats, all of which are flexibles: stick packs, stand-up pouches and bags that range in size from a 2x2-inch sugar-packet size sachet to a large-format, one-kilo bag 18 inches tall x 12 inches wide.


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Filler gets a grip on accuracy
Founded in 1932, Xttrium Laboratories, Mt. Prospect, IL, is one of the largest U.S. suppliers of FDA-approved 2- and 4-percent chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) formulations. These are antimicrobials for surgical scrubbing and health care personnel hand washing. 

Xttrium opened a new 106,000-sq-ft facility earlier this year and installed two new monobloc filler/cappers from Serac Inc.: (1) A basic model RB machine that essentially is dedicated to running a single bottle size and the star of Serac's product line, and (2) its new model FC machine on which Xttrium runs bottle sizes ranging from 4 to 32 fl oz. 

With its host of technological advances, Xttrium sees the new FC machine as an excellent answer for its requirements of sanitation, accuracy, speed and easy maintenance. 

Features of the FC machine include:
• All machine components are mounted above the floor and are enclosed by large sliding doors that provide total visibility and accessibility for easy maintenance and operation.

• New universal transfer clamps hold the bottles by the neck. The system can handle neck diameter ranging from 25 to 45mm and 35 to 60mm and bottles of almost any height without requiring a change of tooling. 

• A new valve design uses magnets positioned inside and outside of the fill-nozzle cylinder. The inner magnet is attached to the fill valve and a vertical screw on the outside of the housing moves the outer magnet up or down. This "drags" the inside magnet with the attached fill valve to the proper position. 

• Serac's patented Dynaflow technology achieves extreme accuracy, while optimizing the filling time based on the product specifications. The Dynaflow can be thought of as a smart flow-meter that controls and adjusts the flow of product based on how much weight is filled into the container during a filling period. The filling accuracy is not affected by any variation of product temperature or viscosity, and it allows direct connection from the process piping to the filling valves. This eliminates the need for a hold tank on the filler, simplifying the cleaning process.

• In addition to handling the net weight calculations, the computer-based control system on the filler records processing and filling data for every bottle run and provides statistical production feedback. 

The machine was designed with the operator and maintenance personnel in mind. The control cabinet is mounted on the machine instead of the wall, which eliminates external wiring and cable runs and provides easy operator access.


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Cosmeceuticals company lifts filling productivity
Hawknad Mfg. Industries Inc., Alexandria, VA, tripled its filling productivity by installing a customized UniPuck adjustable-puck in-line filling system from TurboFil Packaging Machines. 

The automated system, which uses UniPucks to steady and fill bottles and jars of different shapes and sizes, eliminates manual filling regardless of bottle shape or size and tripled production from 2,000 to 6,000 units/day. 

Hawknad runs a variety of lotions and creams ranging from complexion lightening creams to acne lotions. Particularly challenging were 6-oz Silique tottles used for high-viscosity lotions. The tottles, which essentially are bottles that stand on their caps, presented two challenges when Hawknad looked to automate the filling operation: The tottles needed to be steadied by a puck system, and they are filled from the bottom-up. 

Hawknad decided to go with the UniPuck adjustable in-line filling system because the easily adjusted pucks allowed quick changeovers between different types of containers, and the in-line filling heads could be used for top or bottom filling. TurboFil Packaging Machines worked with partners to create a small, automated filling system that not only met Hawknad's requirements, but would work as one unit. 

Hawknad's filler is custom-configured with four, piston fill heads with positive shutoff nozzles that achieve high precision (+/-0.2 percent) and nonsplash and nondrip operation. The system fills bottles from the bottom-up with high-viscosity creams and lotions at a speed 50 filling cycles/min.

In operation, containers are manually placed in the UniPucks, which then carry the pucks to the filler. When five bottles are in place, a sensor signals the machine to lift the first four bottles, fill them and lower them gradually.


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Zippy new carton is revolutionary
U.S. Sugar Corp. is the first company in the world to market its product in a revolutionary new cartoning concept called Zipbox that integrates a poly-coated paperboard carton with an attached flexible film header containing a zipper. Zipbox is a joint venture between T.H.E.M. and the Zip-Pak division of Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW). 

Among the many features of the new Zipbox is a DoubleZip press-to-close zipper on top that allows for easy opening and closing, and an airtight seal configuration on the package bottom that eliminates the need for an additional liner to maintain product freshness. 

Zipbox cartons are produced on a Model MP2 Assembly Machine from Zip-Pak Systems. This is the same machine that is used to apply zippers to flexible bags. In this operation, folded cartons are fed into the machine from a magazine, while zipper and film are on rolls on the front of the machine. 

The flat film is pulled into the machine and is folded to form a "C" shape with the trough of the "C" facing upward. The zipper is inserted down into the trough in the film, which is heat sealed above it. The film/zipper is then folded over the edges of the carton and is heat sealed to the cartons. 

Carton erecting, filling and sealing is done on a system designed and built by Yeaman Machine Technologies. In this process, the Zipbox cartons are placed in a magazine with the zipper section facing upward. The cartons are filled through the bottom, so an arm rotates the cartons 180 deg, so that the zipper tops are on the bottom and the open carton bottoms face upward.


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Putting the Plus in Sanofi's new blister pack
A new custom-made packaging machine was a critical element when giant French drug maker Sanofi introduced an updated version of its Maalox heartburn relief product in a new blister pack design. Called Maalox Plus, the product, which was introduced in Italy, adds simethicone to standard Maalox. A key design element of the new machine was flexibility. It must be able to fulfill numerous customer requirements and create a variety of pack styles. 

The package for Maalox Plus is a new blister pack design that combines a traditional thermoformed/foil-sealed blister and a patient information leaflet (PIL) together in a compact carton that has an engaging opening system.

The user-friendly package contains two thermoformed and foil-sealed blisters-each holding six tablets-as well as an information booklet, all permanently contained in the carton. This keeps vital product information connected to the package throughout its use. Consumers open the double-blister pack by pulling out a blister on one side, which automatically pushes the second blister out the opposite side. It's somewhat like a teeter-totter, except it moves side-by-side instead of up-and-down. 

Key to the package is the slider system, which is protected by numerous international patents. The slider was also one of the most challenging elements of the packaging machine design.


To automate production of the slider blister pack in adequate volumes, slider-pack designer Burgopak Healthcare & Technology partnered with Bosch Packaging Systems, which was chosen for its experience in feeding, product handling and film handling at high speed. Built by Bosch in Switzerland, the custom-made Burgopak system assembles the separate components-blister, booklet and carton-to create a fully functional Burgopak slider pack.


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Lean efficiency pays dividends
From simple beginnings in a 50,000-sq-ft facility, contract packager Aerofil Technology Inc., Sullivan, MO, has grown into a 400,000-sq-ft facility with 16 production lines. Key to this growth has been a commitment to a culture of total employee empowerment that drives continuous improvement every day. 

ATI adopted the philosophies and practices of the Toyota Production System (TPS), and it had an immediate and dramatic impact on the entire workforce and culture. At the core of the learning, ATI focused on what it considers its most valuable resource-its employees. It engaged every single employee throughout the entire enterprise, driving continuous improvement on a daily basis. 

In the spring of 2009, ATI began looking for the latest high-tech/high-speed liquid bottling line available in the marketplace. In designing the high-speed line, ATI first established the operational requirements for each piece of equipment on the new line and then used another Lean tool known as 3P (Production, Preparation, Process) to optimize the line layout. This provided a good idea of how the equipment would fit in the room, and how accessible it would be for the operators. 

The result is an efficient high-speed packaging line that is operated by only three people. The new line, which started in October 2012, runs 15 different bottles with seven different closures, including trigger sprayers.

A major change that was instituted for the new line was that processing and packaging are in the same room, though they are in separately defined areas. The company had always located processing and packaging in separate rooms, but this new arrangement allows close interaction and effective communication between blending operators and line operators.

ATI installed a Pneumatic Scale Angelus (PSA) monobloc filler/capper that includes a 30-head mass flow filler and a 12-head capper. The filler incorporates Coriolis technology that achieves +/-1g fill accuracy. To meet ATI's explosion-proof requirement, the monobloc system is rated as intrinsically safe.


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Shibuya Hoppmann Corp., 800-368-3582

GIMA S.p.A., 39 051 6169711

Videojet Technologies Inc., 630-860-7300



Viking Masek Global Packaging Technologies,



Serac Inc., 630-510-9343



TurboFil Packaging Machines LLC, 914-239-3878


T.H.E.M., 800-322-8436;

Yeaman Machine Technologies, 847-758-0500

Zip-Pak, Div. of Illinois Tool Works Inc.,

Zip-Pak Systems, 770-921-1777





Bosch Packaging Systems, 919-413-3307

Burgopak Healthcare & Technology, +44 207 089 1950;



Pneumatic Scale Corp., 330-923-049





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