3D printing brings significantly more flexibility to the packaging industry, as the organically shaped parts and ease of use enable easier and more flexible format changes – while delivering consistently high quality and process reliability. Manufacturers of consumer goods in particular benefit from additive manufacturing: Due to their fast availability, customised 3D format parts facilitate the smooth adaptation of packaging lines to new products every few weeks. With PARTBOX, Schubert Additive Solutions has created a complete system consisting of a digital platform and a 3D printer developed in-house along with the corresponding plastic printing material, with which customers can print high-quality format sets directly at their own operations.
On-demand systems are more sought after than ever. In the manufacturing industry, 3D printing is used to produce tools and spare parts at the touch of a button. This cutting-edge technology has many advantages, especially for manufacturers in fast-moving industries such as food, confectionery, beverages and cosmetics. “In such highly competitive industries, it is important to be able to respond quickly to market changes. 3D printing makes this possible,” says Conrad Zanzinger, CTO at Schubert Additive Solutions. Schubert has been offering the PARTBOX streaming platform for some time now, which customers can use to call up certified print jobs in their own production facilities. The new 3D printer, developed in-house, makes the process even more reliable and of higher quality.
“Many products from the consumer goods sector are difficult to package due to their shape. Conventional grippers in packaging machines are not always ideally matched to the goods and they may drop products during the packaging process,” explains Conrad Zanzinger. But things are different when the tools are perfectly matched to the food or cosmetic product thanks to 3D printing. Not only does the process in the machine run more reliably, but there is also less waste because the products are placed safely into the packaging and do not slip out of the tool’s grip. Another advantage that 3D printing offers to FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) manufacturers is the tremendous flexibility that allows for a short time-to-market. As new products are added to the range, manufacturing companies can print their own format parts – without having to wait until the required tools are manufactured and delivered by an external company. This is especially important in the B2C industries, as new products are constantly being developed and launched throughout the year. Even seasonal products at Easter, in the summer or at Christmas time are no longer a problem when it comes to packaging: Quick tool changes, ideally matched to the product thanks to 3D printing, also speed up production.
The design versatility of 3D parts opens virtually unlimited applications in practice, as can be seen on various customer machines from Schubert. Today Schubert does not build a single new packaging machine without the inclusion of 3D format parts. The long-established German Heinrichsthaler dairy from Saxony, for example, uses a Schubert cartoner with robots equipped with 3D format parts to pack its Grilltaler barbecue cheese rounds. The organic shape of the vacuum cups ensures a perfect grip on the soft plastic packaging.
3D-printed robotic tools are also hard at work in French pastry manufacturer Bijou’s packaging lines. They pack the madeleines and other sweet baked goods into boxes and in a variety of unusually-shaped tins. This ensures maximum flexibility for the family business with the highest degree of automation. Even the Transmodul transport robot is equipped with a flexible format plate made of 3D-printed parts, which saves the manufacturer several format changes.
The international Best World cosmetics group now relies even more heavily on the flexibility of 3D format parts: The company invested in an extremely agile and sustainable monoblock filling line from Schubert-Cosmetics. The compact system fills different viscous filling media into various bottle formats with the highest filling accuracy and precision, and packs them into ready-to-sell boxes. With the PARTBOX, the manufacturer can print spare parts or new format parts for its line in-house. With few exceptions, all change parts can be easily reproduced this way. Eddie Lai, Deputy General Manager for Best World’s production sites, welcomes this sustainable form of value creation: “3D printing on-demand opens up many new possibilities for new formats for us. We experienced how convenient it is when we jointly developed the trays for feeding the individual components of our current bottle formats.”
It was important for the developers at Schubert Additive Solutions to design a very simple solution for the new PARTBOX printer that could be used by anyone without much previous know-how. “By doing so, we are making the advantages of additive manufacturing accessible to everyone,” adds Conrad Zanzinger. If the customer owns a Schubert machine, he can call up the print jobs for the corresponding parts on the PARTBOX streaming platform. If new products need to be processed on the machine, Schubert develops suitable format parts and then uploads the print job to PARTBOX. “This allows the customer to easily print the required part in-house with the printer we developed,” says Conrad Zanzinger. The PARTBOX printer offers a consistently high print quality, which significantly improves process reliability within the packaging machines and therefore efficiency in the packaging process for customers. The use of high-precision components such as a milled aluminium frame, ball screws and a unique guiding technique ensures that the print head is positioned accurately. Schubert ensures the exact dosage of the printing filament by means of an extruder with direct extrusion. A ‘hood’ over the unit eliminates environmental influences such as heat or dirt.
The PARTBOX from Schubert Additive Solutions can be used universally, so not only parts for Schubert packaging machines can be produced, but also those from other machine manufacturers, as well as parts designed in-house. “Our streaming platform and the printer guarantee consumer goods producers the most rapid availability throughout the entire process. To produce tools, they do not need an individual printer for each production stage. With PARTBOX, they are very well taken care of,” explains Conrad Zanzinger. “At the same time, our customers benefit from high-level data security and easy operation.”
Of course, all parts that come into contact with food, confectionery or cosmetics have to be certified accordingly. Especially for the production of spare parts – i.e. everything that comes into contact with products during the packaging process – it is important that the plastic material is wear-resistant. With PARTBOX Black plastic, Schubert Additive Solutions supplies the right printing material for the 3D printed parts. The difference versus commercially available filaments lies in a polyamide optimised for the FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) printing process. The material is food-grade and detectable with a metal detector. PARTBOX Black also features excellent mechanical properties and high temperature resistance. This allows very smooth surfaces to be achieved in the printing process.
With its own streaming platform and printer, Schubert’s PARTBOX is now a complete system that also enables FMCG manufacturers to produce components with the fastest possible availability directly in their own operations – and with a high level of data security during the transfer and use of 3D data. Thanks to the digital process, customers save on process, shipping and warehousing costs and can compete more successfully in the market.