PACK EXPO presents

19 Min Read
PACK EXPO presents


Editors from Packaging Digest, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and PlasticsToday


PACK EXPO presents us with a singular opportunity each time it occurs: to get a snapshot of where we are and where we are going as a group. Through conversations and new product launches, we're able to see market trends and shifts in technologies, like how a return to manufacturing in the U.S. is driving new automation ideas or how the next phase of sustainability will include a push for more bio-based material sources. With skilled operators a rare commodity these days, many machinery manufacturers are combining sophisticated automation technologies with simple controls to take the worker out of the production equation. Additionally, several exhibitors have integrated multiple systems into one seamless operation, often with a single HMI for easy control and monitoring, or featured one machine that did two (or more) functions.

Seven journalists from three UBM Canon brands—Packaging Digest, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and Plastics Today—spent four days interviewing several hundred exhibitors.

Here are notable developments we saw at the show—our end of the year gift to you.

Go mobile
A couple exhibitors were showing how tablets could provide control and diagnostics on packaging equipment. Weighpack demonstrated the use of a tablet to control its weighing system and to connect wirelessly to the internet to transmit data and communicate with customers and in-house personnel. Also, a new handheld tablet device from Haver Filling Systems—which produces automated equipment to fill dry bulk, liquid and pasty materials—is placing near-immediate equipment diagnostics, troubleshooting and maintenance in the hands of the company's customers. The Haver Service Pad combines the machine's PLC controller capabilities and weighing controls with mobile technology that provides the ability to monitor and analyze performance, order parts and video conference live with Haver service technicians. — Jack Mans, plant operations editor, Packaging Digest

App for anywhere authentication
Recent studies suggest that global smartphone ownership and app usage are on the rise and may become a powerful asset in the fight against counterfeiting.

For that reason, AlpVision, a world leader in digital invisible technologies for product authentication and counterfeit protection, has developed an iPhone application capable of detecting Cryptoglyph—a digital invisible marking that is applied to cartons, leaflets, labels and blister packs using regular visible ink and standard printing processes—and Fingerprint—a breakthrough authentication solution that tracks and authenticates mass produced objects manufactured by molding without changing the standard molding practices.

Unlike other mobile authentication solutions available on the market today, AlpVision's iPhone authentication application is capable of detecting covert/invisible safety features. Working in real-time, it determines the authenticity of a package or product within seconds. Product-specific and user-friendly, the application works flawlessly with a variety of packaging materials (paper, board, plastic and glass) and packaging types (flat and round surfaces).

In addition to providing instant positive authentication, it also allows brand owners to connect with and market directly to consumers, as well as to experts in the field and supply chain agents. AlpVision's iPhone authentication application could be a powerful tool to perform market studies, announce product releases, give promotional discounts and share upcoming news. — David Vaczek, senior editor, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News

Multiple systems: one seamless operation
The Pro Mach companies were showcasing several examples of packaging machines working well together. 

One such example was the end-of-line solution by Edson Packaging Machinery, which sync'd the company's SR3550sa case packer, a Currie by Brenton robotic palletizing system, an Orion FA-ST stretch wrapper and Shuttleworth product handling conveyors.

Benefits of selecting an integrated system from one company include one purchase order for multiple-vendor systems, less overall risk related to multi-vendor systems and faster trouble-free start up. The combined system also delivers a smaller footprint than buying separate machines.

Also launching at the show was Edson's Inteletül intelligent change parts system. It reads the RFID tags on the case packer's changeparts to make sure they are all correct. If not, the machine will not operate. This follows a trend of automating a function to take all the guess work out and eliminate human error. Inteletül also provides reminders for preventive maintenance, keeps operator logs and more, as account manager Steve Boothe explains. — Lisa McTigue Pierce, executive editor, Packaging Digest

"Opened" indicator also brands
"We've been bombarded." That's how Joel Lewis, account manager for Rollprint Packaging, described to PlasticsToday the level of interest at PACK EXPO for the company's new proprietary, patent-pending, color-changing sealant technology for heat-seal applications.

Called the Chameleon, the coextrusion-coated sealant can be applied to any thermally stable web including polyester, nylon and polypropylene, or on any of the company's ClearFoil barrier structures. Chevron pouches and lidding materials for trays are expected to be the first commercialized applications.

The Chameleon technology, a year in development, has been engineered to allow a film of one color to transfer a peel indicator of a different color providing visual indication that a package has been opened.

Traditionally, when one peels open a standard chevron pouch, there is a white indicator to show that the contents have been accessed. Rollprint engineered a way to leave a visual reference with a desired color.

Calling it a "forgiving heat-sealant," Lewis says no adjustments need to be made to the machines and this technology can run in a variety of colors.

The objective of the product is to enhance product security and help deter counterfeiting. 

Lewis says the technology is applicable to a range of industries.

In addition to enhanced security, Chameleon technology offers manufacturers a new way to communicate branding attributes or color code products by type or size. 

The web can be made up to 65 in. wide and also can be flexographically printed for additional brand support. — Heather Caliendo, senior editor, PlasticsToday

Algae-based plastic prototype
Dordan Manufacturing showed the first prototype of an algae-based plastic, developed in partnership with Algix, and thermoformed on Dordan's sample press. Algix (collaborating with the University of Georgia and using technology licensed from Kimberly-Clark) is looking to commercialize cultivation of algae and other aquatic biomass as a bioplastic feedstock material. According to Chandler Slavin, sustainability coordinator and marketing manager at Dordan, the material behaves similar to other blended resins, like PP with calcium carbonate. — Jenni Spinner, senior editor, Packaging Digest

Ergonomic with easy access
The new Unipac U 2060 automatic tube filler from Romaco has an enclosed design that meets ergonomic requirements. With a compact structure and a footprint of less than 1.5 sq. m, the unit reportedly is easy to access and versatile.

Equipped with eight stations, the system is suitable for filling semi-solids-pharmaceuticals and cosmetics-such as ointments, creams, gels and pastes. Products are filled into aluminum, laminate or polyethylene tubes, which are closed either mechanically by means of a series of folds or in a heat-sealing or hot-air process. Intended for small-to-medium-sized batches, this robust machine has a maximum output of 60 tubes per minute. — Daphne Allen, editor, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News

Shopping for better designs
Clemson University set up shop (literally) on a lower mezzanine in McCormick Place. Visitors were invited to put on a pair of glasses and walk through a small supermarket, picking packages. The glasses tracked what the visitor looked at and how long. I tried it last year in Las Vegas and found it amazing. This year they added electroencelograph and galvanic skin response sensors. This allowed them to determine not only what the visitor looked at but how they felt about the product. It sounds a bit big-brotherish for general use but as a research tool to help develop better products, I think it is great. — John Henry, KC Boxbottom blogger, Packaging Digest

Robotic "rainbow" packer
Hartness Intl. introduced a patent-pending, automated process for the robotic uncasing and collating of variety packs (also known as "rainbow packs.") The heart of this solution is a unique robotic uncasing and mixing system that offers greater flexibility of product configuration in a smaller footprint than traditional, fixed automation solutions. Both the innovative robotic tool and the process were on display and functioning at the Hartness booth. 

While Hartness has executed many rainbow lines throughout the last 15 years, many of those solutions reportedly were executed with minimal automation. Volume growth in the variety pack segment and increasing labor costs, coupled with consumer's desire for more choices and brand owner's need for product differentiation on the shelf, are resulting in the implementation of more highly automated variety pack solutions.

"It's important to understand that the variety pack has been around for a long time," says Matt Job, general manager of the company's Robotic Automation. "For years, it was difficult to meet ROI hurdles on variety pack lines, so the majority of the production was outsourced. But, after 15 years, many companies have come to the conclusion that this is not a fad. It is a sustainable product, so, we see more people bringing the manufacture of variety packs in-house for pure cost savings."

In recent years, Hartness has executed both semi- and fully automated systems. The company has executed variety pack lines in a number of industries including juice, sports drinks, soft drink and food. It has created solutions for both primary packs (bottles) and secondary packaging (cartons). — Mans

Tweak no more
One of the buzz words heard on the PACK EXPO International 2012 show floor was "centerline." Centerlining, defined by the folks at Kliklok-Woodman, is a way to reduce operating variability by clearly marking specific setpoints on machine parts that can be adjusted. The point is to eliminate the infinite and often detrimental tweaking that typically happens by operators running a line.

The concept was being shown on K-W's new Enterprise end-load cartoner, a middle-market system introduced to fill the company's breadth of product line. It now offers high-end output machines, medium speed/good performance and slower speed entry-level systems.

Centerlining helps speed changeovers (which are tool-less) by taking the guess work out of machine setup. Machines designed with centerlining in mind also deliver flexibility for handling different packs and pack sizes in the future. As K-W vp Ross Long explains, products have a much shorter lifecycle these days and packagers often need to be able to redeploy their existing equipment to handle something similar but different.

K-W opted for laser-etched metric scales because the company sells worldwide, but Enterprise's HMI does an automatic conversion to American inches, says Hugh Darnley, quality assurance and training manager.

Another talking point of K-W's Enterprise: In the carton pick area, the system uses both mechanical "cam" motion and servo-controlled profiles on the suction cups for better carton setup control. Each cup also has its own mini vacuum generator for better vacuum control.

See the system in operation on Packaging Digest's YouTube Channel: — Pierce

Personalized alarms
Patlite has long been a leader in visual and audible alarms and indicators. It is perhaps best known for its stacklights (the stacks of lights on top of a machine that indicate status). It introduced a new alarm system that uses MP3 software. The end user will record their message (such as "rear door open") on any standard recorder and save it to an SD card. The card is mounted in the alarm system and the file played automatically as appropriate. — Henry

Small slider: Big benefits
Director of global marketing at Zip-Pak Robert Hogan demonstrated the new Slider Select—a small, lightweight slider option—pointing out its light weight and compact size. It reportedly offers a high degree of leak resistance, which is suitable for keeping food products fresh and flavorful, and keeping personal-care items such as pre-moistened wipes dry and usable. Unlike some slider options, which require an area of pre-activation, the Slider Select does not require a small opening or protruding finger for the clip to work properly. Further, because the slider uses less material than competitive products, it offers users cost savings and sustainability benefits. — Spinner

Affordable, portable robot palletizer
Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. Inc. debuted its new E3 Robox palletizer for low-cost, flexible, portable, small footprint robotic palletizing. Designed with economy in mind, the E3 Robox is equipped with fork pockets and can be transported by forktruck between lines for fluctuating production demands. The E3 provides a simple and portable robotic end-of-line palletizing solution at a price point and small footprint that is easy to justify. The built-in flexibility simplifies handling multiple SKUs, often without any mechanical changeover. 

A key feature is the small footprint. At 8 x 7.5 ft, the E3 fits into the same space as a manual palletizing station and is available with product labeling and bar code reading for product tracking applications. The unit is also available with semi-automatic and automatic pallet exchange and other options. 

"With the introduction of the E3, Schneider now offers the broadest range of robotic palletizing solutions available today, from the small and economical E3 to fully integrated multiline multi-SKU solutions delivering wrapped and labeled unit loads ready to ship," says Terry Zarnowski, director of sales and marketing. — Mans

Combo scales on a horizontal plane
Introduced at the 2012 PACK EXPO show, the FAS SPrint Revolution bagger from Automated Packaging Systems teams up with a horizontal combination scale to efficiently package foods sold in fixed-weight packs, such as grapes, shrimp, vegetables and beef jerky. The semi-automatic system positions six Yamato Dataweigh TSDW-205W weigh scales on each side of a central conveyor for a total of 12. One or two operators manually place products onto the scales and the system automatically calculates the best combination of products to hit the target weight. These products drop onto the central conveyor and are then loaded into the bagger. The conveyor is positioned such that the product has a short drop into the bag, allowing the system to handle fragile products. — Pierce

Dual-function X-ray
I've long known about X-ray technology for product contaminant inspection. I saw two applications that I'd not seen before. Teledyne Taptone was showing an X-ray level detection system. This uses X-rays to detect the product level in an opaque container such as a can. If the level is either high or low, it can trigger a reject signal. The X-ray inspection system at Eagle Product Inspection seemed fairly typical on first impression. It does a nice job of inspecting for bits of metal, plastic, glass or other contaminants. But wait, there's more. The system also calculates the mass of the product as it inspects. This allows it to reject based on being over or under weight and eliminates the need for a separate checkweigher. — Henry

Food packaging's future: edible films
Cloud Packaging Systems and MonoSol have introduced a system for packaging food products in edible, water-soluble film packets. The companies say all the pieces are now in place to commercially launch successful products in this new food delivery system. Pouches can be formed using Cloud's Hydroforma packaging equipment.

Cloud and MonoSol have worked together for decades creating systems for water-soluble packets. The latest development uses MonoSol's new Vivos Edible Delivery System featuring an edible, water-soluble film. Pouches engineered from Vivos films disappear and release their contents when exposed to hot or cold liquids. The dissolved film can then be consumed along with the food.

Vivos film is composed of a proprietary blend of food-grade ingredients. The film is transparent and has no smell or taste when consumed. It offers good oxygen barrier properties and has robust mechanical properties that enable real-world usage with a variety of food products and dry beverage mixes, such as instant coffee and cocoa. Vivos was designed with specific characteristics to enable its use on the Hydroforma. It has already performed as well as its non-edible counterparts in trial runs at Cloud. — Mans

Delightful dispensing
Constantia Flexibles has launched the Comfor Lid, a unique peel-open foil lid that offers users a range of aperture possibilities. Geared toward food, beverage and pharma applications, the product can be run on standard-die-cut machines. Potential applications include over-the-counter drugs and supplements, spices and seasonings, granular drinkable yogurt, grated cheese and other items. It consists of an aluminum layer over a PP layer, with separation dots beneath. It can be printed with vibrant, colorful graphics, the company says. — Spinner

Stabilizing unstable pallet loads
Intelligrated launched two new enhancements for its Alvey 950 series hybrid palletizers. The new features include an on-board stretch bander that adds stability to otherwise unstable loads and an integrated control system that allows both the conventional palletizer and its robotic arms to operate from a single PLC. Ideal for reduced secondary packaging applications that require gentle handling, the Alvey 950 series hybrid palletizer integrates robotic arms with a conventional high-speed palletizer to increase pattern flexibility and facilitate quick product changeover.

Intelligrated's hoist-mounted stretch bander is well suited for industries with small and lightweight packaging, and can reduce or eliminate the need for tie sheets and stretch wrapping to stabilize loads. The Alvey 950 on-board stretch bander uses fewer consumables than traditional stretch wrapping, reducing both time and material requirements.

Intelligrated's integrated PLC control platform, now standard for all Alvey 950 series hybrid palletizers, eliminates the need for traditional proprietary robot controllers. It streamlines complex control communication, reduces response time and minimizes changeover delays. By maintaining a standard familiar control platform, the integrated PLC control system also reduces startup time, training, programming, hardware and troubleshooting costs. — Mans

It's a pallet! It's a brand billboard!
ITW-Muller makes stretch wrappers with a twist. Its Logo Wrap option turns any pallet load into a brand billboard. This is accomplished with a second film roll and applicator that applies a wrap of printed film under the clear film. — Henry

Dual-function; intuitive
Billed as the world's fastest air-cooled induction sealer, the Super Seal Max from Enercon Industries offers 20 percent more sealing capacity (measured in either more power or more speed) due to new system components and a redesigned layout of the internal equipment.

The system integrates induction sealing for caps with inspection to detect missing foils, high caps and stalled bottles. Both sealing and inspection functions are controlled from the same touchscreen panel.

The top of the unit, which is rated IP65, has rounded corners to facilitate washdown for improved food safety. 

Additionally, the touchscreen has been enhanced to mirror the more intuitive functionality of consumer electronics. For example, the menu bar of four key sections remains at the bottom of the screen to make it easy to find your way around the various control options. — Pierce

Bundled software
ABB displayed the most recent results of its ongoing mission to develop robotic software that reduce programming complexity and create an intuitive human machine interface for production operation-highlighted by the RobotStudio Palletizing PowerPac, PalletPack 460 and PickMaster3 products.

The Palletizing PowerPac has been developed in a logical format allowing users to configure the product conveyors, pallet locations, gripper functionality, the definition of each product to be handled and the configuration of all products and components included in the pallet stack. Once the cell configuration is complete, RobotStudio Palletizing PowerPac provides a fully functional palletizing cell simulation with accurate robot performance information. The complete RobotStudio model is ready to be transferred directly to the robot controller for cell operation.

ABB's recently introduced PalletPack 460 function package controls the complete robot cell operation. The PalletPack 460 PalletWare configures a complete palletizing system via the configuration wizard on the robot's FlexPendant, eliminating the need for traditional robot programming. PalletWare also provides a complete FlexPendant HMI for cell operation, and an integral ABB PLC controls the flow of product on the infeed conveyors, pallet conveyors and gripper operation. ABB FlexGrippers are preconfigured in the PalletWare for plug-and-play operation.

The IRB 660 and 760 robots are programmed using Robot Studio Palletizing PowerPac software, which combines previously developed ABB software technologies-PickMaster 5 and RobotStudio-into a single bundle. — Mans

Bio-plastic goes full-circle
Nomaco showed its NomaGreen sustainable foam. Most plastic packaging degrades slowly if at all after disposal. Non-plastic biodegradable materials degrade but can have performance issues. NomaGreen's lifecycle circularity starts life as natural gas, becomes polyethylene, prevents waste by reducing breakage in packaging and ends up decomposing to methane in the landfill where it can be recovered for energy production. — Henry

A packaging partnership that will stick
At the show, executives from Nordson and Henkel announced their global alliance on new technology development for the packaging market, resulting in the Freedom system. The system combines Nordson's Freedom hot-melt dispensing equipment and Henkel's Technomelt adhesives. According to company officials, the project is aimed toward helping customers contain costs, simplify operations, increase productivity, boost reliability and implement sustainability improvements. A number of Freedom systems are undergoing field tests. The companies expect the projects to launch in the first quarter of 2013. — Spinner

ABB, 248-391-9000.
Algix, 706-389-0382.
AlpVision, 312-283-8260.
Automated Packaging Systems, 330-342-2000.
Cloud Packaging Systems, 847-390-9410.
Constantia Flexibles, +43 888 56 40 1000.
Currie by Brenton, 800-535-2730.
Dordan Manufacturing Inc., 800-663-5460.
Eagle Product Inspection, 877-379-1670.
Edson Packaging Machinery, 905-385-3201.
Enercon Industries, 262-255-6070.
Hartness Intl., 864-297-1200.
Haver Filling Systems, 888-964-1837.
Henkel Corp., 860-571-5100.
Intelligrated, 877-315-3400.
ITW-Muller, 800-628-6787.
Kliklok-Woodman, 770-981-5200.
MonoSol, 219-762-3165.
Nomaco, 919-269-6500.
Nordson Corp., 770-497-3400.
Orion, 800-333-6556.
Patlite, 310-328-3222.
Pro Mach, 866-776-6224.
Romaco, 973-709-0691.
Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. Inc., 315-676-3035.
Shuttleworth, 800-444-7412.
Teledyne Taptone, 508-563-1000.
Weighpack, 702-450-0808.
Yamato, 262-236-0000.
Zip-Pak, 800-488-6973.



Engineered for success
Packaging Hall of Fame 2012 recipient and Automated Packaging Systems founder Bernie Lerner shared his advice for engineers entering the packaging industry during an interview in his booth.


"Find out what you're good at and pursue that. Study customers and see how you can relate what you're good at to what the customer's needs are. If you can meet the customer's needs with what you do, you're sure to be successful. 

"Take courses, stay on top of things, see what the packaging industry is doing—there's always something new. There's a digital revolution going on. Digital is replacing a lot of the mechanical features. But, still in all, mechanical engineers do have a sense of what the total project is. 

"Put it all together and push your ideas. Don't be afraid. Keep going."


2012 Automated Pkg Pack Expo booth


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