The heat is on28 November 2016
The heat is on
The heat is on
Temperature is a vital parameter throughout the packaging industry, and controlling it effectively is equally important, especially as packaging innovations move towards more dynamic form factors. Ian Collins at West Control Solutions explains how businesses can use reliable, compact and cost effective solutions to transform temperature control.
Heat is an essential component in many processes – none more so than in the packaging industry. Whether it’s controlling the temperature for film application to a range of PET-based form factors, joining a variety of substrates together, specialist sealing applications in the pharma sector, or applying high-quality labels, the fine control of heat is crucial all these workflows.
For brands that need to constantly innovate their packaging in order to hold the attention of an increasingly distracted consumer, understanding how converters and design specialists can use heat effectively is essential. The industry is pushing the envelope with design and how substrates can be manipulated.
Machine, sensor and control technologies have been rapidly advancing. New substrates operate at much lower temperatures than in the past, with temperature ranges of ±1°C variation easily maintained within today’s workflows. Reliable temperature set-up, monitoring, control and analysis are the foundation on which many manufacturing processes across multiple industries are built.
As packaging has advanced, the need for accurate temperature control has become a crucial part of the production process. The temperature ranges in use by packaging manufacturers are vast, for example, from 66°C for low-density polyethylene in heat sealing applications up to 204°C for polyethylene terephthalate.
Take Lumilid, for instance, from US-based Toray Plastics, which has featured in Packaging Today recently. Developed to support the trend for increased transparency in packaging materials that brands are seeing as a key driver across the food sector in particular, the new substrate offers a clear anti-fogging film that can be used with fresh or refrigerated foods packaged in polypropylene (PP) trays. The film has a broad sealing range of 90–150°C for PP trays.
Shown in May 2016, researchers at two Fraunhofer Institutes – Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg and Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Dresden – have developed a new method to reduce the instances of incorrectly sealed packaging. A thin-film temperature sensor is integrated into the sealing bar, enabling inline monitoring of the process. Brands in the confectionery sector will welcome this advance.
With regard to heat sealing, one of the most demanding sectors is pharma. Here, a valid seal on packaging needs to meet the ISO 11607-2 standard. The need to ensure heat is applied correctly to the seal is vital, as is even heat distribution. To meet the stringent demands of this sector, machine manufacturers such as Bosch use multiple heat sensors across the sealing process to ensure uniformity and high integrity of the seal.
Adhesives are another key area where heat control is crucial, with hot-melt adhesives being a particular focus. Last year, HB Fuller exhibited a range of products, including its Advantra True LT 9340, which offers low temperature adhesion. With some of their adhesives able to operate at temperatures as low as 100°C, significant energy savings can be made.
What everyone wants across the packaging and allied sectors is a temperature control system that delivers information quickly via a device that can be easily set up. No one wants to make major modifications to their plant in order to install a new temperature control system. How long it will take to set up a workflow, and how simple it is to configure the correct temperature, monitor it accurately over time and reduce costs are important considerations.
A recently introduced solution is MAXVU from West Control Solutions. The unit can be fitted to a wide range of packaging machinery, particularly shrink-wrapping and heat-sealing equipment. The large display is easy to read from a distance, as it uses LEDs rather than the LCD displays seen on competing models. And, requiring just a simple button operation when temperature adjustments need to be made, the unit offers new users a very easy learning curve, and can be quickly installed. The short set-up time – of a minute or less – is achieved with simpler menus and default settings for the most common applications, making a valuable contribution to overall productivity.
Anyone who is managing heat in any manufacturing process is constantly looking for more accuracy and ease of use with their systems. There is no panacea with heat control, but, with incremental advances, effective temperature control is becoming a more accurate and cost-effective component in many manufacturing processes within the packaging environment, a fact that brands are finally beginning to appreciate.