The Innopack Kisters SP Advanced shrink packer is quite exemplary in the way it incorporates three sequential further developments which are based on growing customer demands. These include gentle row infeed, which conveys single or pre-packed products to the packaging process reliably and without error, resource-saving film web control, which enables the film width to be reduced and thus up to 10% in materials to be saved, and external film feed, which eases the ergonomics of the process for operating personnel.
During the continuous improvement of packaging machines the first port of call is usually the customer; at regular workshops the experts from KHS interview their customer contacts to find out what expectations they have and in turn which requirements KHS customers have to meet on their respective markets. The clear demands made by the point of sale (POS) of manufacturers are normally top of the list; this primarily constitutes the often relentless battle over how to reduce costs and materials.
Everyone profits in the end
The workshops therefore highlight all of the various aspects which make up the packaging process, such as cardboard, film, and glue. The topic of TCO or total cost of ownership is also a point on the agenda. Criticism may be voiced during these discussions – and is certainly welcomed. And for good reason. “We profit from these workshops just as much as our customers do,” summarizes Karl-Heinz Klumpe, packaging product manager at KHS. “There’s practically no easier way of pinpointing and exploiting the potential for improvement on our machines than during discussions like these. As a result, our customers profit from innovations which are perfectly tailored to their requirements.”
Saves on resources
The development of film web control also goes back to a workshop, when a customer asked KHS if it could make noticeable film savings in the packaging process one of its objectives. Without the new option higher film tolerances are needed in order to compensate for inexperienced operating personnel, for instance. The reels themselves also present possible sources of error, such as telescoped film reels, partially inclined winding, perhaps due to the nature of the print, or film reels being inaccurately positioned on the mounting mandrel by the operator.
The film web control function exclusively developed by KHS compensates for drawbacks like these by having sensors scan the film edge to detect whether it is within the target area or not. If not, a control unit which guides the film triggers a suitable correction thereby ensuring that the film is always centered. On multiple-web formats with a supplementary film cutting and spreading system, additional actuators mounted on both sides – i.e. drive elements which convert electrical signals into mechanical movement – move the outer film webs to their target positions. Lateral deviations of +/-10 mm can be compensated for using this technology. This allows the film width to be reduced – for 0.5-liter PET bottles, for example, from the previous standard 260 mm to a film width of just 230 mm which cuts the amount of film used by up to 10%.
Gentle to containers
The pressureless row infeed, for example, is a technology which has been developed according to the zero error concept for increasingly lighter containers. “In beverage cans especially the metal is becoming so thin that we sometimes joke about them being aluminum bags,” smiles Klumpe. “And PET bottle lightweighting, where the aim is to continuously minimize weight, means that it’s absolutely essential that containers are treated as gently as possible.” At the container infeed the integrated dosing belt control and container refeed unit ensure that the infeed is practically pressureless. Row distribution from the mass flow can be much gentler than it has been in the past and there are considerably fewer errors. The times for type and format changeovers are also much shorter. A 30° bend in the machine layout also anticipates the 30° increment at which the containers are fed through the lanes and the PTFE* coating on the guides enables PET bottles in particular to be conveyed especially friction free.
* Editor’s note: PTFE = polytetrafluoroethylene
Consideration for employees
The savings potential is by no means exhausted with the aforementioned innovations alone. Refining the idler shafts with a coating of microporous material also reduces the consumption of compressed air during film spreading by up to 90%. “This unit saves on operating costs to such an extent that we can budget with a very short payback period of just six months to a year,” states Klumpe, convinced about the three great new packer options.
However, it’s not just the pressure of cost which calls for permanent technical optimization; ergonomic handling also plays a big role. International companies in particular are very careful to adhere to ergonomic issues in the operation of their equipment. This is why KHS affords this aspect very special attention.
One good example of this is its external film feed function. In the standard configuration the film reels are located inside the machine frame, with the operator having to partially crawl into the machine to mount or splice a reel. External film feed is a good alternative here, where the film is readied and automatically spliced in a separate external module. “This makes work much easier for the operator as this task can now be done standing up,” says Klumpe knowingly and stresses what benefits this also has for the company. “When tasks become simpler to perform, the resulting quality of the work also improves.”
The fact that these efforts are appreciated by customers is not without good reason, according to Klumpe. “Many of our developments profit from the input we receive while working with customers during our workshops. We then present our innovations at trade shows where we can see how great the interest on the market is,” he explains. It’s obviously considerable – as Danone Waters has now opted for not one but several packers featuring the units presented in this article.