This year’s PACK EXPO International takes place in the Windy City, Chicago. Expecting more than 50,000 processing and packaging professionals, over 2,300 exhibitors, 100-plus educational sessions and serving over 40 vertical markets, this is the place to be. Sharing floor space with Pharma EXPO at McCormick Place, there is something for everyone in the packaging industry including product demos, educational seminars and market breakout sessions.

Show owner/producer PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, introduced PACK EXPO to packaging professionals in 1995.  Since then, the event has grown exponentially from 200,000 sq. ft. of floor space to now 1.2 million sq. ft., an estimated 50,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors.

November 6-9, 2016
McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois USA

An Inside Look: Show Floor Highlights

PACK EXPO International affords on-site, industry-specific pavilions and resources so that packaging brand owners, processors and manufacturers can easily locate the suppliers and solutions they need.

>> The Containers & Materials Pavilion (Upper North Building) will explore materials, containers and cutting-edge printing and labeling for your brand. Over 180 exhibitors will show off new types of glass, plastic, metal and paperboards, along with labeling and decorating technologies.

While here, stop by the 13th Annual Showcase of Packaging Innovations® (Upper North Building, Booth N-5765), which is sponsored by Dow Chemical. The exhibit features award-winning designs from competitions around the world.

>> The Confectionery Pavilion (South Building) is home to more than 30 exhibitors touting candy production advances to help create shapes, tastes and textures to gain greater flexibility for your product such as aeration, batch refining, extruders, cutters, depositers, coaters, fillers and more. Make sure to stop by the Candy Bar Lounge (Booth S-2583) to chat with other confectionery experts, hosted by the National Confectioners Association.

>> The Processing Zone (Upper Lakeside Center) gives attendees a look at processing solutions for a variety of industries, adding up to more innovation than at any single food-related expo all year. This is where to start for locating modern processing equipment and solutions, with nearly 100 exhibitors.

>> The Reusable Packaging Pavilion (Upper Lakeside Center), sponsored by the Reusable Packaging Association, offers valuable insights for your organization – whether you are new to reusables or have extensive experience with reusable transport packaging solutions. End users and their suppliers will share best practices to offer ways to cut costs, reduce environmental impact and gain supply chain efficiency.

During your time at the Pavilion, stop by the Beverage Cooler Lounge (Booth N-4575), which provides networking opportunities and advice sharing with other industry experts.

In addition to the aisles of technology, the EXPO offers learning hubs with educational seminars free of charge. Innovation Stage (Booths N-4560, N-4570 and N-4580) is expected to be the largest and most robust since its inception in 2012, according to PMMI, with free 30-minute seminars every half hour while the show floor is open. These supplier-led presentations introduce exciting technologies and techniques to the audience.

The Food Safety Summit Resource Center (Booth S-2962) returns with discussions by food safety experts. Past sessions have covered infectious disease issues, aseptic technology/traceability, food commissioning requirements, monitoring molds in a packaging plant and more.

Here are more innovations and solutions you will find as you stroll through the aisles at PACK EXPO International this year:

Biscuits on Edge packaging system

Bosch Packaging Technology (Booth S-3514) will debut its biscuit on edge packaging system, now available in the U.S., for the efficient and flexible packaging of biscuits and crackers in slug packs. The modular system consists of a loader, a transfer unit, a feeder and the Pack 301 LS (Length Slug) horizontal flow wrapper. The Pack 301 LS has been developed as an addition to the Pack Series of horizontal flow wrappers, which range from entry level, hand-fed machines to fully automated solutions. It is designed to help manufacturers meet the increasing market demand for biscuit wrapping together with premium product quality.

Metal belt option expands conveyor capabilities

Dynamic Conveyor Corporation (Booth N-4836) will unveil metal mesh belting on its DynaClean™ conveyor line, expanding conveyor capabilities. Food processing customers including meat/seafood, produce, baking, snack and confectionary, will be able to coat, drain, wash, dry or rapid cool their food products. There are almost unlimited options and configurations in metal mesh belting available to meet the needs of the product and/or process. Belts can vary in materials used, wire diameter, spacing, design pattern and lateral widths. Metal belts are USDA accepted and manufactured in 302 stainless steel.

Inserting & labeling equipment go high speed

Visitors will discover the flexible inserting and labelling equipment from tna’s Unique Solutions (Booth S-2882). Unique Solutions PouchPlus® 1000, an In-Pak® performance inserter for 2D, 3D inserts and pouches that is capable of working at high speeds to keep up with production turnover. tna will also display its Unique Solutions LabelPlus® 360, an On-Pak® label applicator featuring “Auto-Teach” optical sensors enabling faster setup for customers, and product sensing to ensure there is no waste or downtime from missed labels.

Films run the gamut, offer varied features

Toray Plastics (America) Inc. (Booth N-5879) will feature its advanced Torayfan® OPP and Lumirror® PET film technologies. Torayfan CBS2 film is a PVdC-free, clear, excellent oxygen- and moisture-barrier BOPP film designed for use as the inside sealant web for packaging of snacks, cookies, crackers, granola, fruit/nut mixes and confections. Lumirror MR20 is a new eco-friendly, polyester metal-transfer film. It is manufactured in-house, in-line in one step and allows aluminum deposited onto the film surface to be transferred to a paperboard for superior brightness. See these and other films on display.

Palletizer can handle variety of package types and stacking patterns

Intelligrated’s (Booth S-3666) enhanced Alvey® 891i palletizer offers an updated design packed with standard features to provide exceptional flexibility and versatility in a reduced footprint to handle packaged food, beverage, converted paper and personal care products. Able to handle a wide array of package types and intricate stacking patterns, these two models provide a level of refinement focused on ease of use and maintenance with the latest safety technology. A 10-inch color touch-screen interface enables operators to easily create new load configurations. Standard features like automatic layer-centering compression dams and Intelligrated’s unique package stop design makes adding new products and patterns easy and cost effective.

2D profiling dud detector inspects closures with laser technology

Silgan Equipment Company (Booth N-6016) will display its new 2D Profiling Dud Detection system. The compact system employs a laser to inspect filled food and beverage containers for complete closure application and sufficient container vacuum level to hold the closure safety button or surface down, confirming seal quality and ensuring food safety. The 2D Profiling system inspects closures on filled containers at production line speeds. The compact unit is mounted on universal hardware that fits over existing production conveyors.

Vertical form fill seal bagger with zipper applicator

Triangle Package Machinery Company’s (Booth S-2430) Model XYRJ bagging machine now features an optional longitudinal zipper. The vertical form fill seal (VFFS) bagger is designed to run a wide variety of bag styles, thanks to a rotatable sealing jaw. Model XYRJ can run pillow bags, gusseted bags, 3-sided seal and Doy bags, offering the flexiblity to seal bags with Ultrasonic welding or traditional heat sealing.

Fast and easy integration for ultrasonic welding of SUP

Herrmann Ultrasonics (Booth S-2573) newly developed digital ultrasonic generator allows for directed build-up of the oscillation amplitude and provides valuable data for quality surveillance thanks to its permanent measuring and analyzing the major measuring variables. More than twenty different measured values are recorded and processed 10,000 times per second. The integrated HDM ProcessControl makes sure that critical seal conditions are 100% monitored. The system identifies and indicates creases in the top seal area, big chunks in the seal area, incorrect positioning in the weld station, lack of pouches and double pouches. Based on the information, faulty bags and pouches can be safely identified and rejected, significantly increasing product safety.

Lift vertical conveyor has simple open design

Simplicity and versatility are key features of Modular Conveyor Express’s (MCE) Neroco Lift Vertical Conveyor (Booth N-5541). The simple open design of the conveyor enables it to easily fit into packaging operations while allowing for easy maintenance with quick access to all components. The continuous motion of the Neroco Lift Conveyor allows for smooth product handling, making it versatile enough for packaging lines with several different sized packages that are co-mingled on the same line. Cases, trays, bundles or cartons need only fit on the platform. No changeover is required between different package types or sizes. The conveyor has recently undergone design improvements to further prolong life, increase its versatility and enhance operation while reducing maintenance.

PMI Case Packer

PMI (Booth S-3566) will feature a new universal case packer. The addition to the HCP family of case packers has the ability to run wrap-around, side-load and top-load cases on a single machine. Additionally, the HCP can pack cases with inner or outer fifth flaps as well as trays of product. The all-servo design features Allen-Bradley multi-axis Kinetix servos, allowing for maximum uptime, quick changeovers and simple operation. Operator-friendly controls from Rockwell Automation include ControlLogix and AB PanelView Plus. A dual-arm servo assembly is used for case blank erecting and opening. Additional features include an automatic lube system, open flap detect/reject and an integrated case up-ender and print conveyor.

TLM technology has high degree of flexibility

Schubert Group (Booth S-4366) will offer information on the advantages of its modular TLM technology. On a compact machine, the German machine builder demonstrates how flowpacks can be packed at high speed. Despite its reduced complexity, the machine offers the highest degree of flexibility for producers in various industries. The toploading process demonstrated will be equipped with the proven standard components of the TLM packaging machines. The packaging process will be demonstrated on the example of flowpacks containing cylindrical wafer sticks. These flowpacks are placed into display cartons, which are then closed by an F2 closing robot and finally placed on a discharge conveyor.

Inspection systems and commitment to connectivity

Mettler Toledo (Booth S-1700) will exhibit a variety of its checkweighing, metal detection, X-ray and vision inspection equipment. Systems on display will include two new vision inspection systems, a combination metal detector and checkweighing system and a loop display linking all four Metter Toledo inspection capabilities: metal detection, X-ray, checkweighing and vision. The 360˚ loop display will include a Safeline Profile Advantage metal detector, a Safeline X37 X-ray system, a CI-Vision V2410 paneled inspection system and a Hi-Speed C3570 checkweigher.

Single gripper tool can handle range of objects

With developments by Soft Robotics (Booth N-5427), a single end-of-arm tool (EOAT) can now handle an unprecedented range of objects without the need for tool changes or software modifications between cycles. Soft Robotics has demonstrated the ability to grasp difficult-to-handle products with variable characteristics such as fresh produce or raw dough, all with a single device. This disruptive capability addresses unmet needs in existing markets and unlocks new markets for cost-effective automated solutions. JLS partnered with Soft Robotics to help expand the capabilities of existing robotic packaging technologies. “Grippers” can now be integrated with JLS’ EOAT, which truly act as fingers that gently pick and place hard-to-handle products. The grippers are adaptive, cost-effective, simple-to-use and can help bring automation to traditional manual packing applications.

Flexible, modular labelling solutions

SACMI (Booth S-2066) will debut its new range of KUBE modular labelers. Developed to respond to the most sophisticated production needs, it offers the ability to work in parallel, efficiently, across multiple technologies and labeling systems. With a solid, compact structure made entirely of stainless steel, the new KUBE has labeling units outside the carousel, allowing operation (without distinction and with just one passage through the machine) on different label application systems (self-adhesive, hot glue, cold glue). The advantages of manufacturing flexibility have been combined with an extremely linear structural configuration that, thanks to its modularity, allows easy access to vital machine parts and simpler use and maintenance.

Shorter install times with conveyor retrofit services

SLIDEWAYS (Booth N-5128) will display a full range of components for complete conveyor retrofit services featuring custom fabricated tracks, wear strips to leveling feet. The conveyor retrofit services offer shorter installation times for shorter downtimes, allowing customers to save time and money. SLIDEWAYS will feature its full range of custom and standard engineered plastic components for conveyors and packaging equipment including guide rails, roller chain guides and sprockets, extrusions for traditional and high temperature applications, rollers, pulleys and bushings for harsh environments and basic and easy clean levelers. The full offering of retrofit, custom and standard products allows customers to utilize a totally reliable and fully responsive source for packaging and process industry conveying requirements.

Various dispensing technologies share improvements

Aptar Food and Beverage (Booth N-6378) will exhibit a variety of dispensing technologies designed to enhance the consumer experience. Ranging from its VersaPouch, featuring various flip-top closure choices integrated with SimpliSqueeze® to the company’s proprietary BAP® (Bonded Aluminum to Plastic) technology, which provides brands the opportunity to improve seal integrity and preserve product freshness and safety, there will be  many solutions on display. Aptar will also offer insight into megatrends influencing the food and beverage packaging industry at Innovation Stage on Nov. 6th (Booth N-4570).

Tamper-evident machine offers serialization capabilities

HERMA US Inc. (Booth W-694) will showcase several enhanced labeling solutions including the HERMA Tamper-Evident Machine with Serialization for the pharmaceutical/medical packaging market. It can outfit a wide range of pharmaceutical cartons with anti-counterfeiting and track & trace features. Compact and user-friendly, the machine enables each individual carton to be printed with a unique identity and 2D matrix code, which is produced by sophisticated software linked to a vision system. The data from all serialized cartons is stored, allowing each pack to be traced back to the manufacturer at any point in the supply chain. The module also applies a tamper-evident label to each end of the carton, providing a secure seal and ensuring that opened packages cannot be resealed without detection. The machine reaches a maximum speed of 300 products per minute.

Showcase of Strip Packaging Machine and Tablet Press

Romaco North America (Booth W-691) will feature two machines. The Siebler HM 1-230 heat-sealing machine packs pharmaceutical solids in air, light and moisture-tight strip packaging. Configured with eight-lane product feeding, the compact, balcony-style machine processes up to 3,200 tablets or 1,800 capsules per minute. Cool, fast and clean mark the Romaco Kilian KTP 420X tablet press. Incredibly versatile, the special effervescence concept allows fragile effervescent products to be processed very reliably. There is no risk of breakage or dust when the effervescent tablets are transferred directly to the Siebler packaging machine or tube filling machine.

PMMI’s Chuck Yuska shares his take

To get you geared up for this year’s event, below is an excerpt from an interview with Chuck Yuska (as seen in the PACK EXPO Planner, August 2016).

PMMI's Chuck Yuska

PACKAGING STRATEGIES: What new features can attendees expect to see at this year’s show?

YUSKA: Attendees to PACK EXPO International and Pharma EXPO can expect unprecedented learning opportunities at this year’s show. There will be a robust series of presentations taking place at four Innovation Stages located on the show floor. These learning hubs will offer more than sixty-five 30-minute seminars on breakthrough ideas and technologies conducted by exhibitors and industry thought leaders. Some of the topics include overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machinery safety, remote monitoring, track and trace technology, sustainability, multipack solutions, high-pressure processing, ultrasonic technology, total cost of ownership (TCO), flexible manufacturing and more.

Finding qualified workers to operate, maintain and manage processing and packaging operations is an industry challenge that touches all manufacturers. To help facilitate connections among students and industry, PMMI is introducing the NextGEN Networking Fair, Sunday, Nov. 6th from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Education & Workforce Development Pavilion. This event will be an opportunity for industry professionals to interact with PMMI partner school students from programs ranging from packaging, processing, materials, package design and mechatronics.

And of course, plan to join the processing and packaging community for an evening of magic and laughter where Penn and Teller will perform for a good cause at our annual charity and networking event – PACK gives BACK. The event will take place on Monday, Nov. 7th with a reception at 4:30 p.m. and the performance at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $75, and proceeds benefit No Greater Sacrifice, an organization dedicated to relieving the burden of education costs faced by families of fallen and wounded Service members.

PS: What is the outlook for machinery sales the rest of 2016 and for 2017?

YUSKA: Looking forward, packaging machinery sales are projected to be strong. According to PMMI’s State of the Industry report, available for download on, the value of U.S. domestic shipments of packaging machinery is estimated to have been worth $7.5 billion in 2014. We are forecasting this to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6% reaching $8.1 billion in 2019.

The form, fill and seal machinery and labeling, decorating and coding machinery categories are forecast to grow the fastest of all machinery types to 2019, at CAGRs of 3.5% and 3.1%, respectively. As far as industries go, the pharmaceuticals sector is forecast to grow the fastest of all sectors to 2019, at a CAGR of 2.7%. This is followed by the beverage sector, which is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 2%.

PS: What do you think are some of the most promising technologies for packaging?

YUSKA: Automation and added connectivity technologies like remote monitoring look to bring manufacturers some of the biggest benefits in time and cost savings, but keeping pace with this evolution is difficult at best. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has the potential to transform manufacturing resulting in operational benefits such as increased flexibility, improved performance, reducing unplanned/unscheduled downtime, better safety and regulatory oversite and much more. But before these benefits can be realized, a layer of concern about issues such as data, plant information and product security need to be addressed.

Processing and packaging professionals can come to PACK EXPO International to explore these challenges, listen to experts on the Innovation Stage, ask questions of technology providers on the show floor, interact with groups such as the OpX Leadership Network, OMAC Packaging Workgroup and PLCopen that are wrestling with these issues and may offer solutions.