It’s a wrap: The multiple benefits of stretch wrapping
Stretch wrapping equipment has a multi-purpose function of protecting the cased product, keeping the load stable, forming a tight seal and cutting off the wrap – all at high speed.
With technically just one job – to wrap case loads – one would think it was a simple task, with simple features. That is far from the truth when it comes to recent stretch wrappers on the market. With new technology to include portable units that practically do the work themselves, it’s no wonder the decision on which to choose for your operation may be tough.
To get an inside look at stretch wrapping, Neil Weisensel, product manager at Signode Americas (of which Muller LCS is a business unit) shares his take.
Packaging Strategies: What are some unique benefits of stretch wrapping?
Weisensel: Stretch wrapping offers enhanced flexibility both in the way it is applied and costs to incorporate. As an example, food and beverage manufacturers often carry multiple SKUs and have varying product loads coming down the conveyer. In the case of beverage, a load containing 12-ounce bottles may be followed by one containing 24-ounce bottles. Stretch wrappers like Muller’s Octopus rotary ring machines (shown above), offer varying wrap patterns that automatically adjust to ensure proper load containment for each load type. If the load requires more holding force on the bottom or top of middle, the machine will adjust where and how it applies the film. To that point, speeds, film tension and rotations can also be adjusted. For example, a 100-foot film roll can be stretched to 400 feet, ensuring optimal film consumption and reducing costs. It’s important to understand what’s required to properly contain the load but also ensure the stretch wrapping process is used most efficiently for each job.
Another key benefit to stretch wrapping is product identification. Whether needing an opaque black film for product security or different colors to greater product identification in a busy warehouse, film is also available in many colors. Some products allow manufacturers to customize film to include handling instructions or branding.
PS: What are some common challenges your customers face when working with stretch wrapping machinery?
Weisensel: There are many stretch wrapping solutions – from turntables to robots to fully automated stretch wrap machines. The first challenge is selecting the right equipment for the job. After that, a common challenge is optimizing equipment and film use. For example, many manufacturers will apply 25 revolutions of film on a load that may require only 12. That same load may be wrapped with an 80-gauge film when only a 51 gauge is required. It’s these nuances that make a big difference to ensuring both the load and investment is secure.
PS: How important is the stretch wrap and its performance to the integrity of the wrapped product?
Weisensel: In many cases, stretch wrap is the only thing keeping the load stable in transit. It’s critical to ensuring products arrive as intended to its final destination. All efforts done upstream to manufacture and package the product can also be easily lost if not properly secured with stretch wrap. Stretch wrap is not the only product used to protect pallet loads-- it’s often used in conjunction with corner boards, slip sheets and other protective measures.
PS: Are there limitations to stretch wrapping?
Weisensel: In the traditional sense there are not many limitations. Equipment and film continues to evolve to meet varying needs; however, there are applications where other solutions are better suited. For example, when storing pallets outside, using stretch wrap with top sheets is an option but it would be better suited by incorporating a stretch hood application. Similarly, case unitization can also be better serviced using shrink wrap.
Here are a few new products that cover stretch wrapping. If you are considering adding a machine to your line, or are looking to update, one of these may be your answer.
Muller LCS (mullerlcs.com), provider of stretch equipment, stretch film and palletizing adhesives, introduces Octopus 1825 B, an automatic rotary ring stretch wrapper that is able to accommodate a wide range of pallet load sizes and a variety of applications. With an aluminum frame structure, the Octopus 1825 B requires minimal assembly, less maintenance and boasts a smaller footprint compared to most other styles of wrappers. The modular design of the machine allows for numerous innovative options to solve nearly any stretch wrapping challenge.
The machine has several available options including a load stabilizer that ensures unstable loads remain intact; No Touch No Tail (NT2) Seamer, which offers high quality, low maintenance seaming without touching the pallet; Muller’s popular Logo Wrap™ System to provide four-sided brand identification; The OctoMax™ performance monitoring system that reduces film costs and eliminates downtime, as well as many more possibilities.
The Octopus 1825 B also comes equipped with Muller’s patented Easy S Film Carriage, which enables simple film loading, maximizes pre-stretch performance and minimizes wear. Compared to traditional “W” wrap systems, the positive contact of the “S” wrap pattern improves pre-stretch levels, can better handle a variety of films and significantly lowers the overall cost of ownership.
Wulftec® (wulftec.com), part of M.J. Maillis Group, just launched WRING-250, a medium-duty ring stretch wrapping system. The WRING-250 combines proven and simple technology, good performance – 25 RPM, innovation: 30” carriage on a ring stretch wrapper – and affordability. WRING-250 works with applications including one-way wrap, to wrap individually stacked loads and cut the film between them, for banding applications where you need to cut between each bands, and/or when floor space is limited and requires a smaller footprint.
Performance is mighty for Wulftec’s newest machine: wrapping a 72” high load, at 25 RPM, combined with 30” film and 60 FPM conveyor speed will see a range of 65+ loads per hour with 2 top / 2 bottom wraps (regular two-way wrap). The company claims the one-way wrap configuration allows 75+ loads per hour.
If you don’t want to do something, get a machine to do it. The new AG360 by Orion Packaging (orionpackaging.com), a ProMach Company, is an automatically guided, portable stretch wrapper. This machine offers greater flexibility securing larger and pallet sized loads, improved load protection and material savings. Just bring the AG360 to the load rather than the load to the stretch wrapper, and it will automatically guide itself around the pallet or product, wrapping as it goes and adapting to load size and shape. The AG360 is not confined to specific load or product dimensions either. It moves like a pallet jack, is small in size, easy to store (the mast folds down), carries a long battery life, and conforms to the load and not the other way around.
The choice of 200% or 260% pre-stretch provides for variable load stability requirements while minimizing material use. The AG360 also includes a 7-inch IntelleVue HMI with intuitive graphical symbols that assists with operation and places maintenance documentation on the machine for quick access.
As an end-of-line necessity, stretch wrapping may not be the most glorious of machines but it can adapt to varying needs and budgets. There are many ways for manufacturers to incorporate stretch wrapping, and many solutions can evolve to meet growing demands.