Keeping Up With Packaging Technology
Monday, September 18th, 2017
The food industry is always seeking more efficient ways to package food. What are the latest innovations for form, fill & seal technology today? By Martin Tanner, director, product management & marketing, and Robert Fesl, head of sales for liquid food product line thermoforming machines, Bosch
Form, fill and seal (FFS) machines offer high speeds and pack style versatility, which makes them ideal for packaging almost any food. Currently, there are several key trends in the food industry when it comes to FFS technology, especially with regard to dry foods, biscuits, powders and liquid foods.
In the dry free-flowing food sector (snacks, confectionery, coffee and powders) there has been a moving trend towards reclosable packaging to address the growing need for convenient on-the-go packs.
A popular innovation today is the doy bag, a recloseable stand-up bag with outstanding stability that integrates it with form, fill and seal on vertical machines.
These stand-up bags can also be equipped with a zipper, which preserves product freshness after opening due to its reclosability. Additional customisable features such as easy-opening tear notch and perforation further enhance the packs usability, reaffirming consumer loyalty.
Efforts have also been made to increase production efficiency of vertical baggers—machines that fill the doy bags. Those such as by Bosch allow producers to reach up to 100 bags per minute, as opposed to the 75 to 80 bag capacity featured on conventional vertical machines.
The increase in production speeds is made possible by harnessing the power of the continuous motion vertical bagger and combining it with the zipper application technology, compared to the intermittent machines with an external zipper applicator used in the past.
Another challenge in the market is the protection and packaging of high quality products, such as coffee, from internal factors like roasting gases, and external influences, such as light and oxygen, which impair the product’s flavour and taste. After the roasting process, coffee produces a large amount of roasting gases—one kilogram of coffee releases about six litres of gases within five weeks.
To safeguard the sensitive aroma and taste of coffee, coffee producers need to incorporate technologies that prevent the emissions from destroying the packaging due to increasing air pressure inside the bag. Inside and outside valves are among the most advanced product protection technologies.
Valve applicators can be easily integrated with vertical FFS (VFFS) technology. By precisely applying the internal valves to flexible bags using heat or ultrasonic sealing, the technology provides a visually appealing package with a barely visible, strong sealing seam.
The external placement of the valve also enhances safety by enabling easy monitoring and inspection. VFFS lines also offer a broad variety of top closures for easy opening and differentiation at the point-of-sale.
Today, the biscuit industry is striving for smaller portion packs as well as large family packs for both biscuits on edge and pile pack styles, therefore demanding high flexibility in terms of product count per pack.
Biscuit manufacturers are hence increasingly looking for scalable solutions that offer flexible layout configuration, allowing them to expand production capacity or increase the level of automation—from entry level hand-fed machines to fully automated systems.
For these manufacturers, it would be ideal if there were automated solutions to address their flexibility needs for biscuit production. There are such solutions that exist today. Bosch for example, has developed a mid-range automation solution for the efficient and flexible flow wrapping of biscuits on edge. Depending on the manufacturer’s requirements, this new solution is capable of packaging rectangular, square and round products, as well as sandwich biscuits.
Other solutions that appeal to these manufacturers also include combinations of systems such as one that combines different types of biscuit packaging. These allow manufacturers to switch from slug to pile packs and vice versa in less than three minutes without changing parts, therefore allowing great savings in time while increasing product efficiency.
Having a solution that allows this would also enable count changes to be made. For example, manufacturers wishing to run special product promotions need not worry about needing to change packaging parameters as these solutions allow them to switch from 14 to eight biscuits per slug or from twoby- two to two-by-four piles in less than one minute.
In the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sectors, there is a growing market need for accurate single-dose packages to optimise product savings for manufacturers and offer consumers precise dosages.
For the single-dose packaging market, the popular trend includes accurately dosed sachets and stick packs. Compared to other pack styles, they are easily portable, making them quick and simple to use for on-thego lifestyles. The lightweight, discreet packaging is becoming increasingly important as it enables patients to slip their medications or supplements into their bags for consumption on the move.
In the liquid foods industry, the focus is on preservation of the product’s nutrient value along with the safety of the product, especially for dairy and highly sensitive products such as baby food and clinical nutrition.
For liquid foods, thermoforming machines offer the perfect answer for manufacturers seeking to protect nutrition and extended shelf life of liquid and viscous products like yoghurt, desserts, coffee creamer, baby food or clinical nutrition.
Cups are thermoformed either from a polypropylene or polystyrene reel, filled with highly precise piston fillers and closed by heat-sealing the top of the lid. The production of various cup heights on thermoforming machines, without the need to replace format tools, allows manufacturers to quickly adapt the machine to different production and market needs.
Different hygienic executions from clean to aseptic are also available for the liquid food market, with aseptic technology offering the highest level of protection and extended shelf life of up to 12 months without refrigeration.
Extended shelf life facilitates storing and shipping as no cooling chain is required—a particularly important factor for hot climates like in South East Asia.
The Positives Of Up-To-Date FFS Technology
Again, the benefits vary depending on the type of FFS technology used.
When employing VFFS technology for packing free-flowing dry foods into recloseable stand-up bags, manufacturers save production floor space. A vertical bagger will only take up only six square metres—up to three times less than horizontal machines.
These solutions also enable higher output—up to 50 percent in some machines—per sq m than horizontal machines that have the same functionality.
Coupled with the lower initial investment, these also present lower cost-per-bag and lower total cost of ownership, while matching the quality of the bag to those produced on the horizontal line.
As a result, snacks and confectionery producers can now enhance shelf appeal with the premium look of the bag and increase sales, without compromising on operational efficiency and floor space imposed by horizontal alternatives.
To save operational efforts and respective costs, innovative mid-range automation solutions for the biscuit market have been designed with the total productive maintenance in mind. This means that solutions can be laid out and accessed from all sides for smooth operation, fast and easy cleaning and low maintenance effort all of which will boost machine uptime and availability.
High-performance combination systems allow for increased productivity. The speed of all line components is balanced to eliminate bottlenecks, minimise downtime and optimise product flow, which facilitates a high overall equipment effectiveness. In addition, the system is easy to operate with the same look and feel across the entire line, which reduces the risk of operating errors, further enhancing uptime.
When it comes to sachets, the machine of choice should be highly accurate with precision filling technologies to minimise product waste and maximise production and profitability.
For cost-intensive pharmaceutical products, such savings can make a significant difference. Moreover, accurate sachet filling ensures that consumers receive the exact dosage of the medicine for reliable and safe treatment.
In liquid foods, technologies are able to output up to 178,000 cups per hour and handle various cup sizes ranging from portion packs to single cups. These also enable toolless changeovers to ensure more flexible production and shorter downtime, hence increasing machine productivity.
In order to ensure FFS equipment continues to operate at its maximum level of productivity, suppliers of packaging machinery must constantly strive to innovate and provide ideas to address industry issues. It is by finding the answers to these issues that drives the efficiency of manufacturers forward for the future.
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