Beverage Industry

Bending Over Backward

March 1, 2007

Bending Over Backward
By ELIZABETH FUHRMAN

Case packers and wrappers provide flexibility and efficiency for processing demands
Case packers and wrappers are so flexible these days the machines could also double as gymnasts. But flexibility isn’t the only skill these machines must offer to meet the demands of beverage companies that are manufacturing more products of different sizes than ever before. Efficiency, increased processing speed, quick changeovers and low-maintenance designs are all qualities that case packaging and wrapping equipment need to provide.
Nimble changeovers
Standard-Knapp, Portland, Conn., created Continuum Integrated Tray/Shrink System for the beverage and food industries to provide such qualities. Standard-Knapp’s tray/shrink system handles a large diameter range, and is suitable for both loose containers and multipacks in a variety of materials, including glass, PET, HDPE, metal and fiber cans, HiCone, shrink bundles and paperboard overwrap. The products can be packed into corrugated or chipboard trays for additional flexibility. The system is offered in a free-standing or integrated shrinkwrapper, as well as an integrated tray stacker option.
“It has tremendous flexibility to handle a variety of different sizes, shapes and packaging types,” says Kris Kolstad, Standard-Knapp’s vice president of marketing. “Coupled with that, it also has a very short changeover time when you want to go from one package type to another or one size to another. Flexibility in packaging is so important today, with the proliferation of packaging types and sizes, it really has fit a lot of companies’ needs.”
Operating at speeds up to 100 trays per minute, Standard-Knapp’s system provides a smooth transition during the product/tray merge. Additionally, the Continuum Integrated Tray/Shrink System offers a quick, by-the-numbers changeover system with minimal change parts that require no tools. The system also features touch-screen controls and a push-button grouper changeover.
Servo-driven for increased precision and repeatability, Standard-Knapp’s Continuum Integrated Tray/Shrink System offers Zero-Gap in-feed technology for balanced, jam-resistant packing lanes. Zero-Gap incorporates precise geometry and sensors to ensure a continuous container supply to the downstream lanes and grouping section.
With these new technologies available on case packers and wrappers, Standard-Knapp has zeroed in on a trend that has progressively become more challenging during the past few years. With additions such as servos and multifaceted controls, advanced technology has allowed machines greater capabilities, but at the same time the operator’s interface has also grown more complex and literacy rates have not necessarily kept pace.
“We’re looking at fairly complex machinery in terms of the tasks it must do, being controlled by operators who are not engineers,” Kolstad says. “So what we’ve done is made our machine interface, from the HMI operator’s interface push-button all the way to things like changeover, maintenance and troubleshooting much simpler and more ergonomic. When something does go wrong, it’s quite obvious what it is and how to correct it, or when you are conducting a changeover, it can be done in a very routine manner. When something does require maintenance it’s not only obvious that it needs it but it’s easy to do it.
“A change toward simplicity is something that our industry will go through because we have these machines that we can do great things and have all sorts of diagnostics, but they are not necessarily designed intuitively.”
Accommodating size
Specializing in end-of-line solutions for case packing and palletizing needs, Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. Inc., Brewerton, N.Y., offers a wide variety of automated gable-top case packing solutions, including side-load, bottom-load and top-load machines. The machines’ size range includes half-pint, pint, quart, half-gallon, gallon and more.
Initially designed for the dairy and juice industries, Schneider’s case packers for gable-top cartons are ideal for any application where gable cartons are packaged into corrugate cases. These case packers will pack half-gallon gable-top cartons into corrugated containers at speeds up to 33 cases per minute, depending on pack pattern.
“Our customers are looking for flexibility,” says Paul Burdick, Schneider Packaging Equipment’s director of marketing and sales. “They want to have the ability to accommodate future products, pack patterns and case sizes.”
To meet the demands of improved throughput and reliability, the high-speed horizontal case packer is designed for rapid, repeatable changeovers from the three-pack convenience case to the four-, six- and eight-pack case for half-gallon style cartons. Schneider also has other machine designs to accommodate half-pint, pint-, quart- and gallon-sized cartons.
Schneider offers case packers that are operator friendly, flexible and designed to handle the real world conditions of a production environment, Burdick says. “Speeds up to 30 cases per minute in our high-speed horizontal gable-top machine set the standard for intermittent motion case packers. Our standards include a Rockwell Automation Allen Bradley Logix platform controls system and two operator HMI touchscreen control stations. Machines are available in stainless steel wash-down construction with Nema 4x electricals or carbon steel painted construction with Nema 12 electricals.”
All Schneider gable-top case packers and Accumulator/Loaders for Gable-Top Cartons can be integrated with Schneider Gable-Top Carton Lane Dividing and Transport Conveyors, and Robotic Palletizers engineered for complete end-of-line automation.
“We are constantly working on improvements, including using more servos for higher speeds,” Burdick says. “We also are constantly reviewing and applying the latest advances in technology, especially controls technology, to make sure that our machines provide the best and most up-to-date solution possible.”
Speed and agility
For companies that face high volumes of pallet loads, Lantech, Louisville, developed the RS-6000 20-second stretch-wrapping system to provide a capacity of 180 to 200 loads per hour. The RS-6000 Ring-Straddle design introduced a film delivery system capable of wrapping loads with 50-gauge film, pre-stretched 250 percent or more without film breaks. According to Lantech, the new pre-stretch head and speed wrap get film onto the load so quickly that almost all film recovery, term used for the film trying to “un-stretch” itself, occurs on the load, resulting in high containment force and reduced film use.
The RS-6000 automatic conveyorized stretch-wrapping system enables OEMs to satisfy mass merchandisers who want more SKUs in their warehouses, wider brand selection on their shelves and faster turnover of smaller inventories.  
“The new requirement from big retailers is 40-inch load height, not 70-inch, so the same volume of product has to ship on twice as many pallets,” explains William Caudill, Lantech's marketing manager for automatic stretchwrapping products, in a statement. “Suppliers want to minimize floor space and capital equipment with a single high-speed stretchwrapper that can match the 20-second cycle time of today's fastest palletizers, and the RS-6000 has been developed for this specific requirement.” He adds that all suppliers to the large retailers are being affected, including beverage suppliers.  
The RS-6000 Ring-Straddle stretchwrapper can wrap loads up to 50-inch length by 50-inch width by 80-inch height. Starting and ending the wrap cycle is a new cut-and-clamp system that combines a heat-free Press ‘n Seal film sealing system.
“A cut/clamp/seal cycle takes 4 to 5 seconds with a typical system, but this new patent-pending system gets it down to about 1.5 seconds to reduce our total cycle time,” Caudill says.
Standard on the RS-6000 is Lantech's patented Pallet-Grip system for locking a load to a pallet. Pallet-Grip attaches a load to the pallet with bottom wraps of film twisted into a cable along the lower 4 to 6 inches of the web. This tightly wound film cable is wrapped with 50 percent higher wrap force as it is secured an inch or two below the deck of the pallet, while the remaining film web stays above the deck and secures the load. Pallet-Grip wrapping leaves the fork-truck through holes open, ensuring that wrap force is never weakened.
The film delivery system can wrap the complete pallet all the way to floor level without a load lift. It also allows loads to be wrapped with as little as two pounds force.
“Light loads are a problem for an electrically powered pre-stretch system because the load always has to pull on the film to keep the system in dispensing mode. This machine can put a dust cover on a pallet of uncased paper towels without deforming the load, twisting it, or crushing product on the corners,” Caudill says.
According to Caudill, the RS-6000 breaks through a sound barrier of sorts that has limited stretch-wrappers to a maximum speed of 50 rpm. “Above 50 rpm, the forces on the machine structure spike off the chart, but more importantly, the response time of an electrically powered pre-stretch system cannot match the acceleration and deceleration needed to go faster,” he explains. “The structural issues were overcome with good mechanical engineering and finite element analysis. However, the film delivery system required a new approach that mechanically links film payout to the movement of the head on the support ring.”  
A standard electrically powered film pre-stretch system has to first sense a “demand” for film, then it gradually ramps up output as it continues to sense “pull” on the film, he explains. It also has to decelerate in a gradual way at the end of the wrap cycle. “This lag in response time adds to the overall cycle because the film delivery system needs one revolution to reach peak output, and one revolution to decelerate,” Caudill says. “Our new film delivery system has no ramp-up delay. It instantly pays out film in direct proportion to its speed of movement on the ring. This allows it to accelerate to 60 rpm from a dead stop without breaking the film. An electronic system cannot do this.”
Application adaptability
Flexibility, reliability and compactability also are qualities being featured in packaging equipment. The Beverage Meridian machine from R.A. Jones & Co. Inc., Covington, Ky., provides high output and application adaptability for beverage can packaging with standard features, including metric stainless steel design and left- or right-hand configurations for can sizes from 8 to 16 ounces.
Beverage Meridian machines can be configured for single-tier six- to 24-can packs. Dual pitch provides high pack speeds (up to 210 packs per minute) at the low linear speeds, translating into half the wear on components. The reduced linear speeds also permit pack and flap handling at much lower velocities and accelerations for more precise control.
The electrical and mechanical components were engineered for endurance with minimal cost for maintenance and repairs. To further enhance operational efficiency, quick changeovers typically can be performed in 10 to 30 minutes. The compact frame fits numerous applications, and ships in a single section to minimize installation time.
The machine’s guarding and controls are ergonomically designed for operator convenience. Beverage Meridian machines feature direct coupled servos and belt drives, providing automatic pitch changes on the transport during size changeovers and smooth pick-off and opening on the three-head rotary carton feed.
Returning to roots
Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, repackaged Michelob Lager, Michelob Light, Michelob AmberBock and all of Anheuser-Busch’s specialty beers under the Michelob family brand name in re-designed embossed teardrop bottles based on the original package launched in 1961.
To support the new Michelob AmberBock bottle design, Anheuser-Busch has partnered with Riedel Development USA to create a custom-designed glass with an outward angled gold rim to complement the complexity and taste of Michelob AmberBock.
A new Malibu
Pernod-Ricard announced Malibu coconut rum brand will get a packaging makeover. The standard white Malibu bottle was the basis for the packaging change, which now features a color-coded top for the three flavor extensions. The company says the new package is the first of many innovations the brand will have this year.
3-D effect
Graphic Packaging International, Marietta, Ga., developed a special paperboard basket carrier featuring 3-D holography to create dramatic visual impact and enhance impulse sales for Miller Light this past holiday season. The container, which held six 12-ounce glass bottles, consisted of holographic film laminated to Aqua-Kote board at GPI’s laminations plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and then printed at the company’s facility in Golden, Colo. The finished cartons were first shipped to the glass manufacturing plant, where they were drop-packed with bottles. Then cartons were shipped to the brewery, where the bottles were taken out of the cartons, filled with beer, and replaced in the cartons.