Consumer demand for greater variety in baked goods and snacks is driving up the number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) bakers and snack producers must offer in these categories. It also means they must get more flexibility and efficiency out of their form/fill/seal (FFS) machines.
“The consumer is increasingly focused on convenience and portability, leading to more demand for single-serve packages,” says Ross Long, executive vice president, Kliklok-Woodman, Decatur, GA. “This convenience drive is coupled with a demand for greater variety in products and flavors. Together, these two factors mean that bakers and snack food producers require more machine flexibility, coupled with higher speeds when running smaller package sizes.
“However, we’ve seen a move away from a focus on pure speed to quick changeover and flexibility in machine design to accommodate the wider range of package shapes and features,” continues Long. “Our latest machine designs are able to satisfy these demands. However, we recognize the need for even greater bag format versatility with even quicker changeover time.”
Jeff Almond, snack food industry manager, packaging systems, Heat and Control Inc., Hayward, CA, agrees that bakers and snack food producers need flexible FFS equipment to meet consumer demand for new products that provide convenience. “That’s where creative packaging comes into play,” he says, adding that Ishida’s latest Atlas 204 Flexible Format bag maker produces pillow, gusset, flat-bottom and hemseal bags. Automatic film roll centering, auto bag length calculation, a vacuum splice plate and automatic film splicing options help speed changeover. In addition, remote control units display product photos, so packages can be verified at a glance during operation to prevent selection errors.
Dave Andronico, vice president, Reiser, Canton, MA, sees consumers demanding more allergen-free baked products, such as gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free, which also impacts the type of product packaging manufacturers must use. These products can benefit from the safety FFS packaging and equipment offers by protecting them from contamination while on the shelf. “FFS packaging also can extend the shelf life of these typically more0expensive products,” he adds. “Specialty goods sometimes sit on the shelf for longer periods of time; FFS packaging can help keep those products fresh.”
Packaging equipment innovations
The latest FFS systems are designed to help manufacturers meet consumers’ various packaging demands, as well as address some of their own packaging requirements and challenges.
The updated Repak horizontal FFS packaging machine from Reiser produces flexible, semirigid vacuum and gas-flushed packages ranging from ¾ inch by 2 inches to 25 inches by 39 inches and up to 7 inches deep. The Repak features lifting stations that generate up to 5 metric tons of closing pressure to ensure consistent forming of the package pouch and reliable sealing. It also features a multilanguage, programmable touchscreen with diagnostic software for easy operation.
Triangle Package Machinery Co., Chicago, offers two vertical FFS baggers: Model XYT15C-RJ and Model XYT15C-PP. Model XYT15C-RJ features rotatable sealing jaws and can run standard pillow bags or three-sided seal bags.
Thanks to a license agreement with Clear Lam Packaging Inc., maker of the PrimaPak packaging system, Model XYT15C-PP can form PrimaPak packages and quad-seal, stand-up bags on the same machine. “We believe the PrimaPak package will be of particular interest to the snack food market, as it is a reclosable and stackable alternative to rigid containers,” says Ralph Hernandez, vice president, sales and marketing, Triangle Package Machinery.
Triangle recently expanded its FFS technology to seal low-density polyethylene films, in addition to supported film. “Traditionally, ultrasonic welding worked well with supported film but was not available on unsupported film, so we are excited to offer the technology with an expanded range of film structures,” Hernandez adds.
Tna, Sydney, recently updated its tna robag series of vertical FFS baggers with an integrated auger system and high thermal conductivity (HTC) jaws. The auger system delivers powder from a storage hopper at a faster rate than augers using gravity. “Traditionally, restricting the hopper opening has been a solution to improve the accuracy of powder packaging,” says Lawrence Roos, group product development manager. “However, this can result in product bridging and a reduction in packaging speed.”
The auger system is integrated within the packaging system, allowing users to set a value indicating the number of increments needed to deliver the correct product volume during one feed cycle. In addition, the system is shorter than a standard auger filler, making it suitable for production facilities with limited space. “The integration between the bagger and auger enables a reduction in footprint, increased productivity and lower costs through improved packaging efficiency,” Roos adds.
The new HTC jaws have a quicker thermal response to heat, according to tna, resulting in less temperature differential between the heater element and the jaw face for optimal seal performance for all film types.
The Frontier vertical FFS bag maker from Kliklok-Woodman is designed for entry-level and emerging markets. “It updates the ‘drawbar’ mechanical design of our widely used Clipper series machinery with PLC controls and a single servo drive motor,” says Long. “All critical components can be changed out within minutes, should a problem develop, to minimize downtime and simplify repair with low-skilled labor.”
The Frontier bag maker is available in two configurations: one for biscuits, crackers and confections, and one for traditional salted snacks, such as potato chips and tortilla chips. Speeds up to 80 bags per minute are possible, and the machine interfaces with a variety of filling systems, including combination scales, volumetric cup fillers and augers.
Cloud Packaging/Roberts Packaging, Des Plaines, IL, has launched the Robert’s SPF Single Point Fill Standup Pouch packaging machine for pre-made bags, which offers users the reliability of the Robert’s IM Series at an entry-level price point. The SPF handles many sizes and styles of pre-made pouches, including resealable stand-up bags. It fills and seals bags ranging from a few ounces to more than 15 pounds. Package and product changeovers can be accomplished in 20 minutes or less, according to Sean Prena, sales director, Cloud Packaging/Roberts Packaging.
Cloud Packaging also has upgraded its IMP Series machines. The aluminum clamp assembly that holds bags has been replaced by a redesigned stainless steel clamp assembly that improves bag-picking and bag-handling efficiency. In addition, a new magazine loads 1,000 pre-made bags at a time, freeing up workers for other duties.
Bosch Packaging Technology, New Richmond, WI, has added corner-sealing capabilities of its SVC 2620 vertical FFS machine. The corner-seal option can be integrated into the existing SVC machine without increasing floor space, the company reports. By adding this functionality, the machine can produce four pack styles―pillow bag, gusseted, block bottom and corner seal―supporting the needs of marketers who increasingly choose stand-up pack styles to enhance product appeal at the point of sale.
Such FFS packaging flexibility will help manufacturers meet product demands today—and into the future.