Drink cartons pack convenience

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

January 30, 2014

9 Min Read
Drink cartons pack convenience
Canadian company VinFirst Innovative Packaging recently installed a vf/f/s machine that is running premixed cocktails, including Bob Chinn’s famous MaiTais and Jose Cuervo’s 1800 mojitos and margaritas, as well as a wide range of wines, in ase




Drink cartons pack convenience




Drink cartons pack convenience

VinFirst Innovative Packaging was founded in 2005 in response to the growing demand for alternative packaging containers for wine and other alcoholic beverages by companies around the world. To meet this demand, VinFirst built a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Ontario's Niagara wine region just 15 minutes from the U.S. border. It now has installed an A3Flex vertical form/fill/seal (vf/f/s) machine from Tetra Pak Inc. to package alcohol-containing products, including Bob Chinn's famous MaiTais, from a Chicago-area restaurant group, as well as Jose Cuervo's 1800 brand mojitos and margaritas, in Tetra Prisma aseptic cartons. VinFirst has provided its services to wine clients such as Constellation Brands Inc., Andrew Peller Ltd., E&J Gallo Winery, Y+B Wines and other wineries around the world. In it's offering,VinFirst can accommodate 250, 500, 750 mL and 1 L Prisma packages on its A3 Flex vf/f/s machine.

"The Tetra Prisma package benefits everyone from the supplier to the distributor to the consumer," says Kevin Ruddle, vp-operations. "The carbon footprint of this format has been reported to be 80 percent less than conventional glass and plastic cartons, and up to 40 percent more product can be shipped in trucks without maxing out on weight. For the consumer, the benefits are convenience, safety and a reflection of their environmental commitment. It travels well to any activity and can be resealed for added convenience. It won't shatter or drip, and it doesn't allow any light or oxygen transfer for longer shelf life." 



Drink cartons pack convenience

VinFirst holds a winery license, distilled spirits license and a Canadian excise warehouse license. It is certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), is organically certified for Canada and the U.S. and has begun steps for ISO 22000.

Machine can run 8,000 packages/hr
The A300Flex machine runs 5,500 to 8,000 packages/hr depending on the package volume, using Tetra Prisma packaging material supplied in large rolls. In addition to its unique eight-sided shape, one of the most striking features of the Tetra Prisma package is its metallized aluminum foil outer layer surface, printed by rotogravure rather than offset for better graphics, and laminated with a PE barrier. 



Drink cartons pack convenience

The material, which is received in rolls, is actually a seven-layer laminate (inside to outside) of PE/adhesive/aluminum foil (to provide an oxygen barrier)/PE/printed paperboard/aluminum/PE. The material is scored during the manufacturing operation so that it can be folded into its final shape in the f/f/s machine.


Two rolls of film are mounted side by side on the back of the machine, and the material is spliced automatically without requiring operator intervention. During production, the material is pulled from the roll and travels up the back of the machine through a unit that punches the openings for the caps and then seals plastic patches across both sides of the opening. This patch is punctured when the cap is attached to the carton. The flat material then goes past a strip application station where a thin plastic strip is applied to one edge. Later in the operation, this is sealed to the other edge of the paper to form the longitudinal seam.



Drink cartons pack convenience

The material travels over the top of the machine and down through a bath of 160-deg F, 32 percent hydrogen peroxide solution. It then passes through a squeegee that removes liquid peroxide, followed by a hot air jet that blows off and evaporates the remaining peroxide. The flat, sterile material subsequently descends through the f/f/s section on the front of the machine. The material is formed into a tube shape, and the edges are heat sealed together, after which it passes around a filling tube that runs down the center of the cylinder of material. The liquid level inside the packaging material, which rises above the filling nozzle, is regulated automatically to achieve the proper fill in the package. Servo-driven, reciprocating jaws, which move up and down to pull the film through the machine, close at the end of each fill cycle to form the top seal of the lower package and the bottom seal of the upper package. A blade cuts the lower carton loose after it is sealed. The sealed but unformed cartons then pass through a rotating folding section that gives the packages their unique eight-sided construction.



Drink cartons pack convenience

Two cap applicators

Packages leave the vf/f/s machine in single file and are conveyed past a Domino Amjet Inc. Series 5300 laser printer that applies the date and lot number. The cartons then travel through an eight-lane accumulator that provides 2.5 min of storage if downstream equipment malfunctions. This allows the fillers to keep running without interruption. The packages then travel through a five-zone in-line conveyor that controls their movement. Next, the packages are conveyed to Tetra Pak Model 45 cap applicator that inserts the caps into the openings mentioned previously and heat seals them in place. The cartons travel through the cap applicator single file, and the application of the hot melt glue is synchronized by a servo drive to ensure precise dosing of the glue. The plant has two cap applicators; one for the 1 L packages and the other for the smaller packages. 

The Tetra Prisma packages are sold as individual packages and in four-packs. In the latter case, packages pass through a MeadWestvaco Corp. Cluster-Pak 410 packaging machine where a carton, also supplied by MWV, is wrapped around them. This carton is designed to wrap around the sides of the packages, and partially around the front and back to achieve a window effect that allows customers to see the packages inside the carton. 



Drink cartons pack convenience

Infeed screws separate the single file of Tetra Prisma packages into two rows entering the machine, where they are clustered into groupings of four, and side-lug chains move them along. 


Suction cups on an overhead reciprocating arm swing over to pick up a wraparound carton blank from a magazine, then swing back and lay it on side-lugs traveling above the packages. The packages transfer to a bottom-lug conveyor, and stationary bars fold the side flaps of the cartons down into a vertical configuration. Simultaneously, arms fold the front and back pieces into place. 



Drink cartons pack convenience

The cartons transfer to side-lug chains again, and stationary bars fold the bottoms of the side flaps underneath the cartons. They also push the flaps together so that the male piece on one flap locks into the female slot on the other flap to provide a very secure package. A Domino A series inkjet printer applies a date code as the cartons leave the wrapper. 


The Tetra Prisma cartons then enter a Tetra Pak Model 70 wraparound case packer, where 24 individual paper cartons or six four-packs are assembled and pushed onto a one-piece paperboard blank. The blank is wrapped around the packages and hot-glued using a system from Nordson Corp. The cases are conveyed past a print-and-apply system that incorporates a Domino Amjet PCU III printer control unit. The system applies a label that includes a bar code and other identification. Cases are then hand-palletized.

"The A3Flex is one of the most accurate and efficient machines available," says Ruddle. "Our fill tolerance is 0.5mL and the product waste target is only 0.15 percent. This is particularly important when we are running expensive products like alcoholic cocktails and wine. The consumer is looking for alternative convenient containers to hold their favorite alcoholic beverages, and we believe the Tetra Prisma is an excellent choice to achieve this and more."

Domino Amjet Inc., 847/244-2501.
MeadWestvaco Corp., 404/897-6759.
Nordson Corp., 770/497-3700.
Tetra Pak Inc., 847/955-6000.



About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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