The shift towards increasingly individualised packaging and sustainable materials is especially noticeable in the food industry. Companies that want to face these market trends with confidence need a high degree of flexibility in their production. With a Flowpacker from Schubert, manufacturers in the food sector can position themselves strongly to meet these and future requirements. This is because the robot-assisted flow-wrapping machine is so flexible that it can easily keep up with the new packaging trends. It is even possible to switch between conventional and recyclable films or trays on a single line. This is one of the reasons why a long-established manufacturer from France also packs its diverse range of biscuits and pastries with a new Flowpacker.
Today, no food manufacturer can afford to ignore the market’s need for rapidly changing, individually tailored packaging solutions that also conserve resources. The latter is a special challenge in the case of packaging into flowpacks. There is a good reason why composite films have conquered the world thanks to their ease of processing and product-protecting properties. However, the shift towards materials that are more recyclable will become increasingly pronounced and is likely to be irreversible in the long term. The answer to these developments is flexibility. Companies that can change their packaging processes quickly and as needed gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, especially when it comes to environmentally conscious consumers and future trends. With the Flowpacker flow-wrapping machine from Schubert, manufacturers of almost any product can capitalise on a packaging machine that combines effective packaging solutions with extremely variable processes – thanks to its modular design and the use of highly developed robot technology.
This is based on a machine concept that integrates the entire packaging process seamlessly, efficiently and in an exceptionally flexible manner into one TLM line. Firstly, in the Flowpacker, the products are fed to the flow-wrapping unit by pick & place robots which can be adapted to the customer’s desired output range and types of products. Secondly, the combination of state-of-the-art sealing technologies and the unique flying cross-sealing unit makes it possible to gently and reliably process both conventional composite films in cold- and heat-sealing processes, as well as mono films and paper-based films. And thirdly, the formats in the Flowpacker can be changed very easily and quickly thanks to the format parts which are customised by Schubert. The integrated concept therefore offers companies in the food industry outstanding flexibility on several levels – namely unrestricted choice of product, packaging material and sealing technology.
The medium-sized, heritage bakery from the French Alsace also counts on this flexibility. A wide range of fine pastries and biscuits are produced at the company’s facilities, including many products in organic quality, wafers and biscuits with and without chocolate, in layers or fully coated – and all in a wide variety of sizes. Packaging ranges from conventional to recyclable films, from plastic trays to cardboard trays and U-boards. The different sizes and consistencies of the products, as well as the quick change from one packaging to another, are no problem for the flow-wrapping machine. Easy-to-change format parts based on the plug & play principle facilitate easy handling for the machine operators. The individual gripping and suction tools on the pick & place robots can be changed in just a few steps.
The two-part forming shoulders developed by Schubert can also be replaced quickly and without requiring subsequent adjustment. The packaging machine manufacturer uses forming shoulders in the Flowpacker without sharp edges for all film variants. This is because during packaging, the film is pulled over the forming shoulders at top speed and formed into a tube, which places great stress on the film and components. Paper-based films are especially susceptible to tearing or wrinkling, and also wear down the material of the forming shoulders permanently. Therefore, to achieve an ideal result, the format parts are individually adapted to a packaging material by hardened and coated surfaces.
To keep all options open when choosing films, a flow-wrapping machine’s sealing system is also of particular importance for food manufacturers. This is because ecological films require exceptionally gentle sealing technologies due to the sensitive nature of the material. Thanks to its state-of-the-art sealing systems, the Flowpacker processes laminated films as well as the new sustainable variants – right through to paper-based films. The TLM machine can switch between different types of film without requiring much effort. This is due in part to the flying cross-sealing unit: It is the only cross-sealing system on the market which allows complete control over the entire duration of the sealing process. The sealing time can be selected to the millisecond and always remains constant due to the design of the sealing robot. The unit compensates for fluctuating production speeds by moving with or against each flowpack on the conveyor as required. This means that mono films and paper-based films can be sealed perfectly and without damage in the packaging machine.
Schubert also uses specially developed heating elements as its latest sealing system for longitudinal sealing. The five-by-five-millimetre ceramic elements can be controlled individually, heat up very quickly and, above all, cool down again in the shortest possible time. This means that the heat supply at the sealing seam can be precisely controlled at every point – in terms of temperature and time. Both are decisive for a consistently high and process-reliable sealing quality. Furthermore, every Flowpacker with heat-sealing technology and a flying cross-sealing unit can process both classic composite films and cold-seal films. This is because the sealing systems can be converted to cold-sealing in a very short time. Older cold-sealing films can also be processed well in the Flowpacker, as the glue joints in the longitudinal sealing unit can be easily preheated if necessary due to the available heating elements.
The exceptional flexibility in terms of product specifications and packaging material is one thing about the Schubert flow-wrapping machine, and the high processing quality and machine efficiency are another: Thanks to the robot-assisted processes, especially sensitive products such as Alsatian pastries, are packaged extremely gently. Long conveyor belts are superfluous. Instead, F4 robots place the biscuits flexibly and gently into the trays or directly into the chain. Breakage, damage and rejects are therefore minimised. Moreover, the Schubert image processing system inspects the goods in each Flowpacker to ensure that they are in perfect condition. Only products that meet the specified quality criteria are picked up and packed by the pick & place robots. At the bakery, an incident-light scanner is used for this purpose. Depending on the requirements, however, 3D image processing can also be used in the flow-wrapping machine, and for example, record and assess the product height.
With the flow-wrapping machine, manufacturers in the food industry in particular can benefit from highly flexible and reliable packaging processes: The wide range of options in the choice of packaging, the products to be packaged and the options on recyclable materials make the Flowpacker a future-proof packaging machine which can accommodate the fast-moving food industry in every respect.
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