A cartoning machine picks up a single piece from a stack of folding carton and then gets it to stand up straight. It then folds and side-seams the carton and fills it with a product or a number of products through an end that is open, and then closes it by tucking an end flap of the carton, or applying glue or adhesive to seal it.

It seems pretty simple, but for those who aren’t involved in the cartoning field, it can be a little tricky. As packaging structures evolve and change sizes and forms, so must the machines that fold them.

All in one

Recently at interpack 2017, Bosch Packaging Technology (boschpackaging.com) – in partnership with recently acquired Kliklok Corporation – introduced the Kliklok integrated top load cartoner (ITC). This solution targets producers of confectionery, cereal bars, bakery products, biscuits and cookies.

The ITC forms top load-style cartons or trays and automatically loads wrapped products into them before closing. Comprised of a single integrated solution with three functions – carton forming, loading and closing – the machine helps to reduce customer footprint with an ergonomic design, avoiding the need to source three separate pieces of equipment, to interlink and integrate them. Another benefit of the ITC is the need for only one operator and one Human Machine Interface (HMI), which allows increased productivity.

The cartoner offers flexibility to change formats and run a variety of carton styles, and is designed for flow wraps, roll wraps, compartment trays or multi-packs. Either lock or glue cartons can be formed on the ITC, and four possible carton styles can be incorporated within a single or twin infeed model: three-flap carton with full flaps, three-flap carton with economy flaps, a single-flap carton or a tray.

Once the carton is formed, an intelligent transport system is used to carry it independently through the machine loading and closing module. The next step is the automatic loading of products, integrated into the machine using Bosch’s well proven Delta robot.

After the product is loaded, it’s closing time. The ITC uses a simplified lugless design that eliminates carton carrying lugs, driven chains, mechanical transfers and timing flaps. Instead, the closing section uses easily replaceable high-friction belts to quietly convey cartons out of the machine, reducing any carton marking and product damage.

Small but mighty

Douglas Machine (douglas-machine.com) has released a compact cartoner designed to deliver the maximized performance of 300 cartons per minute with a 40% floorplan width reduction. The Vectra™ cartoner’s flexible platform offers a 9- and 12-inch pitch (with future options available). A removable carton forming guide ensures consistent carton picking, resulting in quick and predictable changeovers.

The Vectra platform offers a continuous motion servo-controlled machine capable of efficient operation in a variety of applications. The open tube-free frame design allows for generous accessibility to setup and load areas while providing easy and efficient cleaning for sanitary applications. The servo driven technology ensures absolute product control in all machine phases from infeed to discharge. Each motion is precisely designed for the application, resulting in greater throughput, less waste and higher production efficiency.

The cartoner is capable of efficient carton sealing using glue, tucked tab or a combination of both. The compact cartoner’s sanitary design is ideal for varied size ranges and pack patterns for frozen goods in bags or trays, chilled and dry goods food applications.

Designed for craft beer

The new FZ Right Angle Gluer, by WSI Global (wsiglobal.com), is designed to manufacture bottle carrier cartons at speeds up to 12,000 cartons per hour – which is ideal for short-run, microbrewery use. The FZ Right Angle is remanufactured on the cast iron frames of existing right angle gluer equipment, lowering the cost compared to new equipment while running at comparable speeds.

The machine’s carton-specific denickers shear instead of tearing nicks, ensuring that the carton’s print is not disrupted. Denicker changeover between different dies is fast and easy, replacing the entire shaft mounted denicking wheels already set to the die. Additionally, WSI Global’s CS-1000 Compression Section generates equal compression over all of the cartons’ different board thicknesses, ensuring proper glue set.

Though most FZ Right Angle gluers feature advanced, automatic glue extrusion systems, the product is also available with traditional glue pots.

Technology is ever-changing, with newer, better and more economical ways to do the same job. To choose the proper cartoning machine, look into the future. Will your product line stay as-is, or do you plan to grow – therefore needing greater flexibility with equipment that offers sizing variety? Knowing what you may be boxing and what those cartons are being filled with, will allow for a more informed decision.

Coding & marking for cartoning

When the folded carton has gone through the cartoning process, there are likely additional steps to the finalized package. One of those steps may be coding and marking. Arthur Smith, vertical marketing manager for Videojet Technologies (videojet.com), shares a few technologies used on cartons.

In-line coding and marking can do more than just add a batch, lot or date to a package. It can also simplify operations and help reduce manufacturing costs. Customized packaging can be achieved at the product or batch level by adding color names or numbers, ingredients, bar codes or icons to the outside of cartons. This helps enable standard cartons to be used throughout a line or plant, reducing pre-printed package inventory.

Three of the coding and marking technologies that can be integrated with cartoning machines can print either before or after product packaging. Each technology prints in-line variable content for quick job changeovers:

  • Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printing offers high-quality, high-resolution printing of DataMatrix codes and other codes, text and graphics – even after prolonged times between prints. With cartons being one of the most commonly used packaging options across industries, leveraging TIJ solutions means manufacturers can easily integrate into packaging lines for superior print quality from above or laterally with a clean, no-mess operation.
  • Line integration in certain cartoner applications in pharmaceutical, beverage and food industries can be challenging due to space restrictions. Lasers provide a simple, flexible and clean method of marking text, barcodes and images while utilizing virtually no consumables and matching up to the physical integration needs of the packaging line. CO2 lasers can remove the top layer of a pre-printed ink to expose the layer underneath, resulting in high-quality, high-contrast marks.
  • Frequent changeover, SKU variation and promotional packaging are common challenges facing manufacturers today. Integrating continuous inkjet (CIJ) technology can help address these challenges and others unique to a manufacturer’s business. CIJ codes adhere to virtually all common carton materials, including those with aqueous overcoats and varnishes. This reliable and cost-effective coding method also offers colored and pigmented inks for creating high-contrast codes on dark boxes. Invisible UV inks can produce covert codes to fight counterfeiting.