Tag Archives: packaging equipment

Inline Inspection SystemThe future of package quality inspection systems on high-speed case and carton sealers.

Packaging technology has been changing, updating and upgrading since the day the very first package manufacturing plant opened. Questions on whether a small adjustment in the speed of equipment could help solve a regular issue, or evaluating if a new system would increase the pace of operations and reduce downtime are perpetual to manufacturing. Today is no different and tomorrow will be more of the same. There are always improvements and advancements to be pursued in packaging manufacturing lines for things like food and beverage cartons, as well as for other cases or carton products.

In a globalized manufacturing world, competition is relentless. Keeping ahead of that competition is about selecting the best equipment, working with the best raw material suppliers and constantly being ready to make adjustments that will improve the profitability of your operations is vital. With this in mind, automated vision inspection technologies could be your next great decision. As a rapidly growing technology on case and carton manufacturing lines, vision inspection systems are designed to automatically verify the integrity of your cases and cartons while operating at top speeds.

An effective in-line vision inspection system will identify any packaging faults or problems immediately. This quick identification of problems is huge in its prevention of fairly large runs of items with consistent (or inconsistent) points of failure. With high-speed cartoners running at 6,000 – 8,000 cartons per hour, catching a fault even a single minute earlier can make a huge difference. Running with a traditional method of manually inspecting a single case every 30-minutes for an operator to inspect whether package sealings are correct will inevitably miss faulty packages. You can easily see the benefits of an automated visual inspection system that watches and verifies the quality of every single case as it passes. Let’s say your manual packaging inspection operator catches a consistent failure 10-minutes after it started, that’s good news – but you missed the start of issues and you probably don’t know exactly when the fault started. How many cases or cartons do you have to pull out of your palletized products to make sure your shipment remains top-quality? How much time will that take?

At first glance, those consistent faults might seem precisely like the type of dire situation that in-line visual inspection would offer significant benefits compared to traditional sampling inspections. And that is true as the failure will be identified by an automated inspection system immediately when it starts. Some may say that traditional inspection still catches that type of consistent fault pretty quickly as well. However, having such consistent faults with every package is actually a fairly ideal situation for traditional sampling inspection methods as long as it is caught fairly quickly. What happens on a beverage manufacturing line where operators eject a single beverage case every 30-minutes to inspect if there is an inconsistent failure? Imagine a line operating at high-speeds where only 5% or 10% of the cases have faulty sealings coming through – that logically means that you only have a 5% or 10% chance of catching the failure before the first faulty packages are palletized and shipped out to customers. That 5% or 10% failure rate is the type of error that gets truckloads of product returned.

It is also the reason automated in-line inspection systems exist today. The way visual manufacturing inspection systems identify every failure, even inconsistent failures or a flaw in one individual package, is the key point of advancement. An automated infrared visual scanning system will allow you to inspect and validate the integrity of every hot-melt seal on every case shipped. Such visual inspection systems allow manufacturing lines to operate at top speeds without missing inspection on even a single package. That means you can run faster with more certainty that each and every package is correct. That certainty that batches of failures as well as one-off single failures will be caught before palletizing is a great sense of security and giant quality improvement for your packaging operations. By identifying problems immediately, a visual inspection system can also help you increase the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in your plant. For example, inspection systems can help identify periodic failures that indicate specific consumable parts are approaching their life-span. Then you can conveniently schedule maintenance before a before the occasional error transitions to become an active trend or a complete part failure that produces a stream of faulty packages.

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The growing use of visual inspection systems in manufacturing has shown that such systems can be used effectively to inspect any type of packaging line. However, automated inspection systems have made their earliest headway in packaging for products with some physical weight to them. This includes products such as beverage casing for items like beer, liquor, or soda – as well as for food products like cartons of baking soda or muffin mix. The importance of ensuring quality packaging for any B2C company is obvious. With packaging failures of your food or beverage cases and cartons, it may send the message to customers that your product is cheap. Customers might interpret a failed beverage case or food carton to mean that your product’s quality issues extend beyond the packaging and into the contents of your product. That is not the type of message you afford to send to consumers about your brand or product in this global marketplace. Such brand reputation harm can happen with new companies as well as with trusted and established brands alike, having packaging failures can raise suspicions that your company is either scrimping on or reducing quality.

Even with packaging products outside of the food and beverage sectors, an automated inspection system can still be worth its weight in gold. A box of powder that fails in a customer’s car trip home or fails when a package is tipped to pour some of its contents out can drive a customer away from future purchases. That is, of course, assuming the failure holds out long enough to get to a customer. Having the grit of cat litter boxes spilled on your manufacturing line during operations can be catastrophic with considerable downtime required for cleaning. As illustrated with that example, the impacts of ensuring quality packaging through visual inspection systems are a big deal even before your products leave the plant.

Reducing in-plant packaging failures will likely help to reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing consumable part replacement and cleaning needs for equipment that get gummed up with spills.

Other similar examples of in-plant benefits exist with almost all heavy products that need to be shipped in packaging. For example, think of the time and labor involved when flawed cases fall apart inside a pallet or lead a pallet to tip over in your plant. That can happen with packaging for heavy items like cases filled with cans of paint being delivered to a store, or even with items like beverage cases that fail during palletizing in a manufacturing plant like yours.

There are undoubtedly a few different inspection tasks that an automated system would be valuable in helping to solve at your plant. Visual inspection systems can serve many different quality verification purposes in manufacturing operations, including essentials like verifying the lid on cases/cartons are closed and sealed properly. Issues like failed hot melt applications or faulty wrapping in applied packaging tape are things you can inspect. You can also integrate such automated vision inspection systems into convenient areas of your operation line that would work best for your operations. Would it fit better in your packaging line systems or on your exit conveyor system? Both are possible.  All you have to do is think about the packaging issues on your manufacturing line and search for a visual inspection system to address those problems.

You’ve probably already heard the buzz about automated inspection via a trade show, video, or colleague at another plant. Even if the competition doesn’t already have such systems in place, you know they are at least looking at automated vision inspection systems. The reality in today’s competitive manufacturing is that you can get ahead or you can fall behind, but the global markets are moving too fast to stand still. This article started by noting that, “Packaging technology has been changing, updating and upgrading since the day the very first package manufacturing plant opened. ”  Are you ready for the changes coming?

It can be a frightening question, but the answer is easy to find. If you already know about automated visual inspection systems and how they would help your operations – then you have taken the first step. The next step is about finding the right systems for your operations at a price point that helps raise your OEE levels and reduce your TCO for the manufacturing systems you have running.

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To learn more about Valco Melton’s automated visual inspection systems click on any of the below links:

  • ClearVision – A branded series of camera inspection technology suited for the inspection of various aspects of packaged goods and boxes across the packaging, folding carton, and corrugated industries.
  • PackChek –automated packaging inspection system to inspect missing, weak, damaged, open, or misaligned glue beads.

Would you like to read more? Check out the next topic on Big Data Collection in Manufacturing.

We are frequently asked about the convenience of switching from traditional stretch wrap for palletizing systems to the adhesive dispensing based alternative. Given that this is a reoccurring question and the advantages can be clearly defined, we have decided what better way to talk about the answers than on our blog.

1. First and foremost, savings are the most obvious benefit. Switching to adhesive based palletizing processes brings immediate savings by removing the large amounts of stretch wrap used to secure pallets in a traditional method. You are then automatically reducing material investment, material storage costs and material disposal costs.

taped boxes showing condition of quality
taped boxes showing condition of quality

2. Additionally, adhesive based systems with palletizers are completely automated, so there’s no need for the operator to handle heavy packages or to use blades to complete the stretch wrapping process.  This means a safer work environment is possible.

3. Adhesive based palletizing systems minimize transportation damages. Adhesive creates a secure bond between stacks, to prevent movement during handling and transport. This method protects the outer box, the contents, and minimizes product damage for the largest benefit: preventing an unhappy customer and returned product.

4. Avoid storage damages. When product needs to be kept in stock, sometimes storage conditions are not the most adequate. If even the slightest bit of moisture makes contact with the product, the stretch film will prevent it from evaporating.  This keeps it in contact with the product, which will most likely affect the outer packaging and the product itself.

adhesive dispensing in action5. Aside from bringing important improvements to your production process, palletizer systems with adhesive areeasy to install in an already existing line. Whether you are using hot melt application or a cold glue spray, palletizing systems can be mounted into any existing conveyor.

To help you understand what type of adhesive based system might best fit your needs, we have prepared a small guide to efficient palletizing. You can download it today by following this link.

If you would like to learn more about palletizing systems, click here.

Download Coating Guide

Tray Forming in Packaging Machinery
Tray Forming

I often hear colleagues discussing their take on various adhesive related topics.  Most recently, the conversation was about hot melt glue systems vs. tape systems in the packaging industry. I questioned whether one system was truly more beneficial than the other or if it was just the right choice for a few specific groups.  And if not, why not? In formulating an opinion, I thought whom better to ask than my colleagues who are specialized in both? From a cumulative response, a pattern was discovered. I noticed a set of 5 differences. I have listed them here with the hope that this might also benefit you when trying to decide which system is right for you.

1)    Consumption: If you have sustainability requirements, its important to consider how much glue is being used. A hot melt system applies less adhesive with the ability to provide a shorter glue line. Small amounts are used on the minor flaps as compared to a roll that uses more glue.

The tape roll is replaced once it reaches its end, but before the entire tape roll can be used.  Most companies that tape will replace the roll that is not finished during changeover.  This can cause up to 10% waste. No replacement is needed with hot melt. In addition to this, about three inches past the end on both sides in necessary to provide the strength needed.  Which leads me to our next point…

2)    Strength:  Strength is important in most situations. Broken bonds can result in product jams on the line. Once the shipment makes it out for delivery, a deeper strength is sometimes required for adverse weather or wear-and-tear caused by moving and re-use.  Hot melt not only burns into the microfibers of the box, but also continues to burn several minutes past the compression section of the parent machine. Product tape does not gain additional strength after application.

A glued box is more secure after glue has been applied and transformed from liquid to solid. The box will remain sealed until the product has reached the end user. If using tape, cutting the tape can easily open the box. To re-seal, new tape must be applied.

Box Closing with a Dispensing System
Box Closing with a Dispensing System

How do you know what type of strength you need? Well, subsequent drop tests show that boxes sealed with hot-melt outperform those with tape.  The deeper bond is necessary if you believe you need additional security with the possibility of a dropped box.

3)    Price: I am confident that most of you are looking to find the best deal.  Unfortunately, one place that tape and hot-melt systems are alike is in their fluctuation of price off-set by the cost of raw materials. However, in order to produce tape, a large and expensive coating system is required to apply costly pressure sensitive adhesive to the product. This is an additional step in the process adding additional cost to the customer. Once adhesive is manufactured, it is shipped in a number of sizes, from 25-pound boxes to 250-pound totes; all of which have an effect on the price of adhesive.

Packaging companies that use corrugated boxes can use a less expensive adhesive (EVA) to lower cost. Hot melt equipment has the ability to control the amount of adhesive used through several different methods: pattern placementpattern length, and stitching the same length (up to a 50% reduction).

The actual adhesive for a hot-melt system costs somewhere between $2.50 and $3.50/lbs.  Tape is about $8-$10 a roll.

4)    Safety: When it comes to safety, as with most machinery equipment, both hot-melt and tape systems involve some risk.  Hot melt is usually installed inside a secure machine that you cannot operate while the doors are open. If touched improperly, there is a risk of burn. However, there are a number of systems available with safety features available to prevent this from happening.  One example is a locking lid feature. This inhibits the user from coming in contact with the unit during operation to prevent any potential burn. Another feature, as seen on Valco Melton’s new EC Series Melter, forces the unit to lose pressure if the doors are open. On the other hand, tape machines’ cutting blades can be dangerous. During operation and when changing out the roll, the cutting blade is exposed offering little protection to operators.

Image of Tape Sealing Quality
Image of Tape Sealing

5)   Maintenance Cost: For both tape machines and hot melt equipment, the maintenance is about the same. Each has moving parts that may fail. Standard preventative maintenance is also necessary for both.  Knowing this, it’s important to compare the potential cost of maintenance care. Hot melt equipment has a larger upfront cost ranging from 5-10k for a new line with 5-7 year life. New, high-end tape machines can cost around the same. Others will cost less overall if you use the same machine more than 10 years. Hot-melt parts are changed out more often than tape seal equipment. However, the cost of these parts can be recovered if you can focus on using less glue to provide a superior bond.

Did you find this information useful? We have prepared a comparative chart summarizing these and other key points to help you determine the optimal solution for your packaging line. Download the Hot Melt vs. Tape ‘cheat-sheet’ here.

Remember that for additional information or to learn more about our products and solutions from one of our leading experts at anytime, you may contact us directly here.


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