Shrink wrapping machines have taken over the packing industry by storm. This equipment is versatile and highly applicable for both small scale, batch and mass production centers. The process involves heating a plastic film so that it contracts and conforms to the cover of the container.
Flexible manufacturing environments are common in most small and large scale manufacture environments. The food, beverage, pharmaceutical, chemical and agrochemical industry are some of the heavy users of shrink wrapping machines.
Need for flexible manufacturing
Due to increased competition, small and medium product manufacturers are emerging and this represent a significant break from the traditional large scale manufacturers. For example, in addition to large soft drink manufacturers such as coca cola and Pepsi; there are millions of other small scale firms selling wide variety of drinks.
To cope with increased demand and high competition, mass producers have also been forced to produce more and more varieties. These varieties differ in terms of container size, volume and shape.
Nature of flexible packaging systems
This manufacturing environment entails the making of goods with high degree of variability. In other words, the devices are able to handle containers of different sizes, shapes and materials. In addition, the packing device must be able to adapt to changes in production volumes depending on demand.
Use of shrink wrap in flexible packaging system
This wrap process embraces three main factors that affect its quality, speed and usability. These factors must be carefully controlled.
First, the material used is of prime importance. Shrink wrapping machines use polyolefin, PVC, polythene and polypropylene materials during packaging. PVC films are widely used due to low cost and strength but these must never come to contact with food or other products. Polyolefin is approved by FDA and can be used for drug and food packaging.
Secondly, the shrink wrapping machine is of paramount importance in this packaging environment. The machine must allow for a wide variety of products to be sealed with minimal change in parts. The in-feed, the conveyors, wrap placing mechanisms must be easily adjusted to accommodate large and small containers. The device must also be able to handle containers with varying shapes since manufacturers are currently using attractive containers with different shape profiles to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Thirdly, the heating mechanism is of prime importance in these machines. The cost of this equipment is directly related to the type of heat sealing method, the length of the heater and production volume. Good equipment for flexible manufacturing must be able to handle a wide variety of containers and be able to seal different films such as tubing, bags, centerfold rolls as well as flat rolls.
Automation is imperative in these systems. The machines must have integral microprocessor or programmable logic controller to allow control the application of heat, heating time, as well as the amount of heat depending on the film material, size of container and production volume.
Since these systems incorporate various products, the machine must be easily movable and easily incorporated at different points in the production line.
This article is written by Arjun Rao – CEO of Multi Pack Machinery Company.