As flexible pouches are getting more and more popular and their attack on the position of the glass jar, the beverage can and even the beverage carton, is significant, it is time to look at two recent developments in Form-Fill-and-Seal (FFS) machines as they are the basic processing units for flexibles.
Bossar Packaging from Spain introduces its modular “mirror” HFFS machine range, while Huhtamaki of Finland introduced in Thailand the “pouch that’s a can or the can that’s a pouch”, using a FFS machine designed and manufactured by Bulgarian company Mechatronica.
The modular “mirror” HFFS machine
At the Interpack 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany, Bossar Packaging, a manufacturer of horizontal Form, Fill and Seal machines in Barcelona, Spain, showed its BMK 2600 L STU 2 CV horizontal pouch machine with a new feature for producing small and narrow “snack size” pouches with spouts, as well as the larger pouch sizes. The new design applies the spout at a 35-deg angle (rather than standard 45-deg angle), increasing the available pouch opening for easier product filling.
The system is able to produce small-size (3- to 3.5-oz), single-serve pouches with a side fitment for better cube efficiency. Today this pouch size is commonly with a top centre fitment, which requires wasted headspace in the secondary packaging. The pouches can be designed with a variety of “canoe-style” fitments, including screw-on/off and push-pull.
The Bossar BMK series of HFFS machines are designed with a modular concept, versus the traditional mono-frame machines. The logical next step was the design of the modular ¨mirror¨ machines range that performs the same process of forming, filling and sealing the bag but in the reverse direction.
The forming, filling and sealing processes of the bags are carried out in the opposite direction (from right to left) to that of traditional packaging machines. This enables clients to place one packaging machine in front of another with just a single operator to control them, as machine parts will be facing one another.
The range is made up of BMK-model machines and can include full shape, top valve application and laminar flows for application of hydrogen peroxide for cap sterilisation.
The pouch that’s a can or the can that’s a pouch
In May consumers in Thailand saw the launch of Maxx Drink’s range of fruit-flavoured products in 200ml Cyclero pouches – or DrinkBags, as Huhtamaki likes to call them. This is the first time that the all-flexibles version of the Cyclero design has gone into full commercial production.
Huhtamaki, the inventor of the Cyclero design, claims that the packaging is similar to the packs for products such as Capri Sun, but it is not a stand-up pouch. There is a peel-off lid, and the consumer can drink direct from the aperture, as with a can. There’s no need for a straw or spout.
The company characterises the format as “the world’s only round flow pack”, and stated that the combination of an 8-micron aluminium foil layer in the laminate and a 90°C pasteurisation process gives these products a year’s shelf life. Laminates and barrier can be customised to meet the needs of any non-carbonated beverage.
The form-fill-seal (FFS) machine installed in Thailand was designed and manufactured by Bulgarian company Mechatronica with a speed up to 170ppm, achieved on a four-station machine.
The fact that the empty pack weighs less than 4g, handled must have made the design challenging. In the video you can see that Mechatronica cleverly solved this problem.
Although the lightweight package might be an attractive option for many first world markets for reducing packaging and lowering carbon footprints, Finland-based Huhtamaki is looking to developing markets for growth. Huhtamaki has doubts whether this pack is appropriate for Europe and other first world markets, as it may look rather cheap. And indeed when you look at the packaging (in detail see below), you must agree it looks a bit amateurish. Not quite of the 21st century for a sophisticated market.
The DrinksBag for Thailand is the latest and most simple addition to the Cyclero system, which always have been basically a logical optimisation of conventional stand-up pouches with the aim of avoiding the sealed seams on the sides that determine the appearance and haptic properties to a very crucial extent, while at the same time maintaining the advantages of flexible packaging over conventional can, jar and paperboard formats. As many different combinations are possible, the system is very much modular enabling the creation of tailor-made packaging solutions.
For the base element, there is a choice between round and oval, flexible or rigid. The body itself is made from a multilayer laminate, which can have a transparent, opaque or metallic finish and can be produced with or without aluminium. For the top section there is a choice, between screw closures with various diameters, reclosable lids or simple film/foil peel solutions. The top section also can have tamper-evident features. Barrier properties of the material for all elements can be varied according to the product.
At the present time, the diameter range is 25 to 100 mm, while the height range is 50 to 350 mm and the volume range is 80 to 2,000 ml.
Because Cyclero packaging is produced from a laminate just before it is filled, it can be produced on-site, since the material is supplied in reels.
Basically the Cyclero process is a simple VFFS process as a section of film with the appropriate dimensions is cut off the reel to produce the body and is shaped into a sleeve on a forming mandrel before being sealed. The base is then cut out of a second reel of material and is sealed to the body ultrasonically. After this, the rigid or flexible, reclosable lid is sealed to the laminate can.
Those were the two recent developments in FFS machines. There are quite some technological developments in flexible pouches at this moment and I will describe them in my next article.