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PACK EXPO International 2018 Innovations Report

Covering 1.2 million net sq ft of exhibit space and drawing 2,500 exhibitors, PACK EXPO International brought 50,000 attendees to the biggest packaging event of the year.

Each year, the editors at PMMI Media Group roam the aisles of PACK EXPO looking for the next big thing in the packaging sector. Of course, with a show this size, it’s never one big thing we find, but rather a multitude of things big, medium and small, all of them innovative and meaningful to show attendees.

This report sums up what we found in four main categories. We present them here for your review knowing full well that, inevitably, we missed a few. That’s where you come in. Let us know what we missed, and we’ll look into it. Or at the very least, we’ll know to be on the lookout for it at the next PACK EXPO. This report was edited for ProFood World readers. Please see the January 2019 edition of Packaging World for even more innovations from PACK EXPO International 2018.

Our report begins below. It comes to you from the following:

Matt Reynolds, Editor, Packaging World

Pat Reynolds, VP Editor Emeritus, Packaging World

Anne Marie Mohan, Senior Editor, Packaging World; Editor, Contract Packaging

Stephanie Neil, Senior Editor, Automation World; Editor-in-Chief, OEM

Joyce Fassl, Editor-in-Chief, ProFood World

Maya Norris, Managing Editor, ProFood World

Natalie Craig, Managing Editor, OEM


Servo Drive

Beckhoff Automation demonstrated its new AMP8000 distributed servo drive system (picture 1 in gallery) alongside its lineup of automation hardware, software and networking solutions at PACK EXPO 2018. The AMP8000 distributed servo drive system promotes advanced motion control architectures that are cost-effective, highly efficient, and easily adjustable through dramatic reductions in electronics, mechanical hardware and cabling.

“There are a lot of opportunities to reduce machine footprint, clean up cabling, and reduce the size of or eliminate the electrical cabinet and enclosures,” says Shane Novacek, marketing communications manager, Beckhoff Automation. “We are attaching a servo drive to the back of a servo motor, which has been done before. But we are doing it in a way where the size of the motor is drastically reduced. The dimension of the motor only changes in length. There are no other changes to the housing shape or flange, which can eliminate any mechanical design changes on the machine.” 

The AMP8000 has power ranges from 0.61 to 1.23 kW and standstill torque rating from 2.00 to 4.8 Nm at an F4 flange size or power rating from 1.02 to 1.78 kW and standstill torque rating from 4.10 to 9.7 Nm with an F5 flange. The servo drive system also represents Beckhoff’s commitment to promoting safety technology in all areas via integrated STO and SS1 safety functions.

Motion Control

In an effort to make the design and assembly of packaging machines faster — and easier — Festo showcased multiple technologies at PACK EXPO International, including a brand new motion controller. 

The CPX-E is a modular control platform providing plug-and-play connectivity to sensors and cameras, as well as human machine interface (HMI) and electric and pneumatic servo systems, including actuators. As an integrated system, the CPX-E features software functionality that is tailored to many products and systems from Festo, from parts handling to palletizing and assembly systems. 

To illustrate the advantages of CPX-E, Festo displayed a flow wrapper demonstration, where sensors and image processing systems, including a camera, electric servos and actuators, handle 100 percent of the motion functions consisting of CAM control, tension control, temperature control, and printing mark control for the conveyor belt, foil transport, pusher, sealer and cutter. A Festo HMI is utilized for recipe and alarm handling. 

The controller includes an EtherCat master interface, as well as ProfiNet and EtherNet/IP bus slave interface, standardized Codesys v3 programming interface as of SP10, and integrated motion functions, such as SoftMotion. In addition to comprehensive PLC functions and multiaxis applications with interpolation, the CPX-E can be the heart of an EtherCat system or be easily integrated into existing host systems using the integrated ProfiNet device interface or EtherNet/IP slave interface. The OPC UA client and server functions ensure easy integration and interoperability in Industry 4.0 host environments with cloud and digitalization concepts. 

Festo estimates that with an all-servo electric packaging machine utilizing the connectivity advantages of the CPX-E controller and broad portfolio of electric motion components, it can be a single-source component and custom-assembly supplier for more than 25 percent of the motion handling solution. 

Flexible Factory 

As manufacturers struggle with how to deliver mass customization to consumers with varying tastes and on-demand attitudes, control system vendors are delivering technologies that allow original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to build flexible — and intelligent — machines that can scale up from batch size one. 

At PACK EXPO International, officials from Bosch Rexroth were on hand to explain how the company’s products can add flexibility, individuality and scalability to production lines. In a demonstration of its products at work in a production flow — from an HMI on one side of the machine to the motion control and logic in a cabinet on the other side of the machine — the setup showed how distributed intelligence can collect data and transfer it to the cloud. 

Once data is in the cloud, analytics can be applied to help operators with decision-making. Bosch also provides software at the local level, on an edge server, that provides rules management around overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) data, providing thresholds that alert an operator when an adjustment should be made to the machine, for example. The company’s Improvidus software is an OEE tool that provides a detailed description of equipment availability, production output and deviation information. In addition, a multimetric Pareto tool improves visualization, filtering and drill down for deviation data sets. It also provides insight into correlating events and time between events, enabling users to pinpoint the root cause of an issue. 

To learn more about how the technology works, see the Bosch Rexroth video ( from the PACK EXPO show. 


Nine new PFC200 controllers are the latest additions to the WAGO line of Performance Class PLCs (picture 2 in gallery). With increased processor speed and more onboard memory, these new controllers offer gateways between multiple industrial fieldbuses and enable data transfer with cloud services and SCADA via the MQTT protocol. An onboard web server enables dynamic HTML5 visualizations that can be used by operators and maintenance personnel for system operation. In addition, a built-in Firewall and VPN helps users deploy Defense-in-Depth strategies without the need for additional components.

The new controllers are programmed with WAGO’s advanced e!COCKPIT software tool, providing ease of use and advanced functions. The new controllers are ideal for OEM-based applications where control, data collection, security or Cloud/SCADA interfaces are required.

Automation Middleware

AMK Automation unveiled a new family of automation middleware packages for its AMKASMART family of servo modules. 

The company says the new MAKe automation packages provide a new platform to simplify machine motion control programming in the form of middleware that’s based on common, standard machine concepts (like robots or conveyors) that eliminate much of the extra functionality often included in other programming environments.

“We believe that 70 percent of our customers’ machines can be programmed with our middleware that requires no editor,” says Tom Jensen, general manager and technology evangelist. “For the other 30 percent, we focus on open-concept IEC61131 programming modules so that engineers can innovate outside of the confines of a template.”

AMK is offering two automation packages. MAKe AA works with the AMKASMART family of decentralized, machine-mountable servo. The MAKe CC is designed for the AMKASMART iDT5 servo motor module and the KES Series regenerative servo modules.

Supply Chain Software

Nulogy has long been a primary supplier of agile supply chain solutions for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and their external supplier networks. At PACK EXPO, the software company launched its Enhanced Quality Solution (picture 3 in gallery), which Nulogy’s Marketing Coordinator Wendy Phu explains can help brand owners and contract packaging service providers protect consumer safety with the quality control and conformance capabilities needed to uphold standards for regulated and quality-centric industries.

Nulogy’s Enhanced Quality Solution includes:

• Traceability: Audit trails ensure that businesses have full traceability over the modification of regulated electronic records and other high-risk activities that may affect product quality, consumer safety or data integrity.

• Evidence of safe product handling: Electronic batch records enable businesses to provide evidence that a batch of product was produced according to specification and is safe for release to market. It helps businesses fulfill one of the most critical requirements under good manufacturing practices (GMP) regulation. Unlike other solutions on the market that can require substantial amounts of manual entry, says Nulogy, the automation of electronic batch recording within the Nulogy platform serves to improve data integrity and streamline processes within the production environment.

• Seamless digital sign-offs: Electronic signatures make it easy for the right user to sign off on critical activities. This capability effectively controls the approval and review of regulated events through user identity verification.

• Digitized and integrated quality processes: The quality inspection process is streamlined through the auto-population of production data into quality inspection forms, and the process is enforced through mandatory inspection checkpoints that eliminate shortcuts and workarounds.

Connected Distribution Center

In a special presentation in the Honeywell Intelligrated booth, company President Pieter Krynauw and Vice President of Product Development Matt Wicks provided an overview of Honeywell Intelligrated’s new Connected Distribution Center platform (picture 4 in gallery). The components of the system, they explained, were designed to increase reliability and asset utilization for material handling automation systems throughout manufacturing facilities and distribution centers.

“The evolving demands of modern commerce put immense pressure on manufacturing operations," says Krynauw. "Finding a competitive edge requires leveraging automation systems to their maximum potential, and that means embracing digital transformation and unlocking value from equipment level data.”

At the center of the booth was the new Alvey 890i palletizer, engineered to deal with a range of stacking patterns, small and difficult-to-handle products, and a range of packaging types. According to Krynauw, as automated palletizing has become more essential in end-of-line manufacturing environments, facility managers are continually seeking ways to leverage it for increased productivity. The Connected Distribution Center, he says, can increase equipment reliability via machine-level sensors, can gather data and provide cloud-based insights to enable true predictive maintenance, can focus on the actual health of the palletizer and its trending performance data, and can provide user-defined, remote alerts in real time to operators, who can then access detailed information to fix critical issues. 

Digital Twin

During PACK EXPO, Siemens exhibited a digital twin simulation that aligned with the company’s key message at the show: “Your Digital Story Starts Here.” The digital twin is the precise virtual model of a product or a piece of equipment. It displays a machine builder’s development throughout the entire life cycle and allows operators to predict behavior, optimize performance, and implement insights from previous design and production experiences.

Siemens’ concept of the digital twin consists of three forms: the digital twin of the product, the digital twin of production, and the digital twin of the performance of both product and production.

There is tremendous value gained from performing “what if” scenarios and predicting future performance with the digital twin, according to Ajay Rana, industry business development for packaging at Siemens. The ultimate goal of the digital twin is in the closed-loop connection between the virtual world of product development and production planning with the physical world of the production system and product performance. Through this connection, actionable insight is gained from the physical world for informed decisions throughout the life cycle of products and production operations.


Coding & Marking

ID Technology, a ProMach company, announced at PACK EXPO the launch of a digital thermal inkjet technology called ClearMark (picture 5 in gallery). HP Indigo cartridges are used to print high-resolution text, graphics or codes on nonporous as well as porous substrates. Suitable for primary, secondary or tertiary packaging applications and purpose-built from the ground up, it uses a 10-in. HMI with large buttons and typeface fonts. Additional information is displayed clearly along the bottom of the HMI screen to update the operator on key indicators like production rates, how much ink is left, how soon before a new ink cartridge is needed, etc.

In addition to the HMI, the complete standalone system comes with a print head as well as an easily adjusted tubular bracket system for mounting to a conveyor or to permit use as a floor-standing unit. The print head is described as a “smart” print head, so it can be disconnected from the HMI and the HMI can be shared among multiple print heads. It will continue to run and print on its own with no need for the HMI to be connected. Within the cartridge itself, ID Technology is using the HP 45 SI cartridge, which encompasses the Smart Card. That makes it possible to put ink parameters and such into the system and lets the system read that without the need for an operator to go in and program anything. So if the colors or cartridges change, there is nothing other than simply changing the cartridge that the operator needs do. The Smart Card also records the amount of ink that’s been used. 

Laser Coding

Over a decade ago, Domino Printing invented Blue Tube technology to safely print onto PET bottles with CO2 lasers. At PACK EXPO, the company introduced to North America its solution for aluminum can CO2 laser coding with the Domino F720i fiber laser portfolio (picture 6 in gallery), which it says is a reliable and consistent alternative to conventional inkjet printers.

According to Domino, fluids consumption, downtime for cleaning procedures, and long changeovers due to packaging variations are creating efficiency challenges for beverage manufacturers. This presents problems in many areas, including the date and lot coding for traceability purposes. To address these challenges, Domino developed a turnkey system for the beverage production environment, The Beverage Can Coding System. Central to the system is the F720i fiber laser printer with an IP65 rating and robust design, capable of maintaining continuous output in extremely harsh, humid and temperature-challenging production environments up to 45°C/113°F. 

Thermoforming From Sheet

Material input reduction and sustainability were major trends this year at PACK EXPO, as brand owners look for ways to simultaneously improve their sustainability profile and cut costs.

An in-line thermoforming machine from Harpak-Ulma all but eliminates scrap and reduces material input by nearly 40 percent, the company says. The new Mondini Platformer in-line tray thermoformer (picture 7 in gallery) cuts rollstock film into rectangular sheets and then forms the trays using proprietary technology. The machine can produce both rectangular and square formats of varying depths up to 2.36 in. at speeds of 200 trays per min, depending on the film thickness and tray design, using 98 percent of the forming material.

The current approved film range is from 12 to 28 mil for PET and barrier PET as well as HIPS. A #3 case-ready tray can run up to 120 trays per min. The machine can easily and quickly change formats — typically, in less than 10 min. Cutting-edge tool design reduces changeover cost and complexity, taking a bite out of the time and costs that can burden new product introductions. This process produces a high-quality finished tray with turned-down flanges that give the tray remarkable rigidity for a thermoformed part. Most impressive is that the process produces only 2 percent scrap loss versus the 15 percent waste typical of both preformed tray production and conventional thermoform fill/seal systems that produce a matrix of scrap. 

A significant benefit of forming your own trays is the opportunity to emboss trays with a company’s logo or insert seasonal or other marketing messages. This can be achieved at a substantially lower cost as compared to current market options.

Of course, even the most innovative solutions must pass the ROI sniff test. Simple calculations point to an estimated annual operational savings of $770,000 to $1 million with paybacks that range between 10 and 13 months (ROI will change based on the size of tray and output).

Kevin Roach, president of Harpak-ULMA, says, “Our customers can realize up to 38 percent in material savings, reduce labor as well as their warehouse space requirements, all while improving their carbon footprint.”


Another well-known maker of thermoforming equipment showcased its new X-Line thermoformer (picture 8 in gallery) at its PACK EXPO booth. To ensure maximum flexibility and uptime, the X-Line lets operators change package configurations in less than 10 minutes. 

Connectivity for data collection is also a feature of the X-Line, which as Multivac Vice President of Sales & Marketing Pat Hughes explains has been engineered to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0. To fully implement the technology, Hughes says the company is looking for “partners that want to use a common platform to gather data and use the cloud.”

Features of the X-Line touted by Multivac include maximum packaging reliability, more consistent pack quality, and a higher level of process speed, as well as easy and reliable operation. Among its features are seamless digitalization, a comprehensive sensor system, and networking with the Multivac Cloud and Smart Services.

Additionally, the X-Line’s connection to the Multivac Cloud gives users access to Pack Pilot and Smart Services, which provide a constant connection and up-to-date information on software, film availability, machine settings and other pertinent data that enables the machine to be used even without special operator knowledge.

Filling, Labeling

Sidel/Gebo Cermex made a filling and labeling splash at PACK EXPO with their EvoFILL Can filling system (picture 9 in gallery) and EvoDECO labeling line (picture 10 in gallery). 

EvoFILL Can’s accessible “no base” design provides easy cleaning and eliminates residual product from the filling environment. The filler’s improved CO2 pre-flushing system reduces O2 pick-up for beer producers down to 30 ppb, while reducing inputs since less CO2 in total is used.

Features include carefully considered ergonomics, an external tank for cleanability, high-efficiency servo motors and quick changeover. It also offers both single and double can infeed options for flexibility and speed. Overall, the company says the machine can hit 98.5 percent efficiency with an output of more than 130,00 cans per hour. 

Not to be outdone, the EvoDECO labeler line spans flexibility and volume with four models. The EvoDECO Multi allows manufacturers to apply several label types to PET, HDPE or glass in varying formats and dimensions (from 0.1 L to 5 L) on a single machine at speeds from 6,000 up to 81,000 containers per hour. 

Liquid filling

How about a can filling system for craft brewers who want to get serious about their throughput? That’s what was shown by Pneumatic Scale Angelus, a Berry-Wehmiller company, which demonstrated its variable speed CB 50 and CB 100 (indicating speeds of 50 or 100 cans per min) fully integrated filler and seamer brewing systems for entry-level brewers (picture  11 in gallery).

The systems’ six (CB 50) to 12 (CB 100) individual filling heads use precise Hinkle X2 flow meter technology without any moving parts. The CO2 flushing system achieves low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. Controlled fills mean less wasted beer, and low DO levels mean beer that will stay fresh longer. All direct product contact parts are either 316L stainless steel or hygienic grade materials allowing for CIP (clean-in-place) up to 180˚F, including caustic.

Carrier application

At least one exhibitor was busy showing new takes on carriers or handles that consumers use to carry four- or six-packs from the local store (picture 12 in gallery). Roberts PolyPro, a ProMach brand, offers injection-molded can handles for the growing craft beer, pre-mixed alcohol, canned wine and general mobile canning markets. Extruded handles offer exceptional cube utilization for transportation savings, according to the company.

The company used PACK EXPO to introduce a plastic consumption-limiting prototype with an all-new clip — currently called the slim and sleek model — to its line of four- and six-pack can handles. On the other end of the spectrum, the company also demonstrated its ability to add material via custom molds, allowing larger brand owners extra marketing and messaging space on the can handles. 

A new labeling era

On the labeling front, Krones says it is ushering in “the beginning of a new labeling era” with the introduction of its ErgoModul (EM) Series Labeling system, which made its debut at the show. The system, which can be configured for virtually any application, comprises three main machines, six table diameters and seven labeling station types, and it offers a number of options for combining individual elements. 

The three main machines are 1.) a columnless machine with exchangeable labeling stations; 2.) a columnless machine with fixed labeling stations; and 3.) a tabletop machine. Labeling methods and speeds include pre-cut labels with cold glue or hot melt at 72,000 containers per hr, reel-fed labels with hot melt at speeds to 81,000 per hr, and self-adhesive reel-fed labels up to 60,000 per hr. 

Metal Detection

A wide assortment of new and innovative equipment on the testing and inspection side of things was at PACK EXPO. One example, the Interceptor DF (picture 13 in gallery) from Fortress Technology, was designed to maximize the detection of metal contaminants in high-value food, particularly confectionery and low side-profile products. This new metal detector features multi-orientation technology that is able to multiscan food.

“The Interceptor DF (divergent field) is sensitive to very thin contaminants that are difficult to detect and can be missed by other technologies,” according to Marketing Coordinator Christina Ducey. The new metal detector uses multiple field patterns to simultaneously inspect products horizontally and vertically. Low-profile food applications include chocolate, nutrition bars, cookies, and biscuits, for example. In addition to dry products, the metal detector can be used for cheese and deli meats.

X-ray inspection

From A&D Inspection comes the ProteX X-ray series — AD-4991-2510 and AD-4991-2515 — designed with a compact footprint to help manufacturers incorporate advanced aspects of product inspection into almost any point of their production processes. According to Terry Duesterhoeft, president and CEO of A&D Americas, “With this new addition, we now have the ability to not only detect contaminants such as metal or glass, but have additional algorithms to measure the overall mass of a package, detect the shape of products, and even perform piece counting to ensure there are no missing components.” 

The new series provides high detection sensitivity for a broad range of applications in food production. It can detect the smallest contaminants, while also conducting product integrity checks, from mass detection to missing component and shape detection, including the capability to measure the overall mass of a packaged product, detect missing components, or discern if a blister pack of pills or package of muffins is missing a product in one of its compartments. In addition to inspecting for contaminants that include metal, glass, stone and bone, the shape-detection feature can also discern if the correct product is in the package.

Inspection for metal and more

Anritsu Infivis, a Japan-based manufacturer of inspection and detection equipment, debuted its second-generation XR75 DualX X-ray inspection system (picture 14 in gallery) at PACK EXPO International 2018. It is designed to go beyond just detection of metal. The upgraded X-ray equipment can detect other dangerous foreign materials in a high-speed production environment, enhancing quality control and HACCP programs, according to Anritsu.

The second-generation XR75 DualX X-ray is equipped with a newly developed dual-energy sensor that detects contaminants as small as 0.4 mm and significantly improves detection of low-density or soft contaminants while minimizing false rejects. The system analyzes two X-ray signals — both high and low energy — for a higher detection of low-density items as well as foreign materials not previously detectable by standard X-ray systems. It analyzes material differences between organic and inorganic items to effectively detect soft contaminants, such as stone, glass, rubber and metal. 

The upgraded X-ray system also provides a higher-quality image, allowing detection of contaminants such as bones in poultry, pork or beef. In addition, it can find contaminants within products with overlapping pieces, such as fries, frozen vegetables and chicken nuggets. 

The dual-energy system offers all the other detection capabilities of an Anritsu X-ray inspection system, including missing-product detection, shape detection, virtual weight, count and package check as standard features.

X-ray inspection

Eagle Product Inspection unveiled the EPX100 (picture 15 in gallery), its next-generation X-ray system that helps CPGs improve product safety and compliance for a variety of packaged goods while streamlining operations.

“The EPX100 is designed to be safe, simple and smart for today’s manufacturers,” says Norbert Hartwig, director of research and development at Eagle. “From its sturdy design to the dynamics of the software, the EPX100 has the flexibility to perform in a host of different manufacturing environments.”

With generous beam coverage and a large aperture size with 300 mm and 400 mm detection, the new EPX100 machine can detect a range of hard-to-find contaminants across an array of small to medium-sized packaged products. It is suitable for items such as baked goods, confectioneries, produce, ready meals, snack foods and personal care products. 

Food sorting

TOMRA Sorting Solutions showcased the TOMRA 5B food-sorting machine at PACK EXPO International 2018, highlighting the machine’s ability to improve yields and product quality with minimal product waste and maximum uptime. 

Intended for sorting vegetables such as green beans, leafy greens and corn as well potato products, such as French fries and potato chips, the TOMRA 5B combines TOMRA’s smart surround view technology with 360-deg inspection. The technology features high-resolution cameras and high-intensity LEDs for optimal product appearance. These features reduce false rejection rates and improve product quality by identifying each object, which in turn improves detection of color, shape and foreign materials. 

The TOMRA 5B’s customized high-speed, small-pitch TOMRA ejector valves allow for precise removal of defective products with minimal final product waste at a rate three times faster than TOMRA’s previous valves. The ejector valves are designed for both wet and dry conditions. In addition, the sorter has a belt speed rate of up to 5 m per sec, responding to increased capacity demands. 

TOMRA designed the TOMRA 5B with enhanced sanitation features that are in accordance with the latest food hygiene standards and specifications. It has a fast and efficient cleaning process, which results in fewer unreachable areas and a lower risk of waste material buildup, maximizing the machine’s uptime. 

Shrink Wrapping

The patent-pending Stronghold System (picture 16 in gallery) from Polypack, for tray-less shrink-wrapped beverages, strengthens bullseyes using minimal material.

“This packaging technology folds the film to the side of the bundle to make the bullseyes much stronger,” says Emmanuel Cerf of Polypack. “It allows film suppliers to reduce the thickness of the film while retaining a very strong bullseye for the consumer.” Reinforced bullseyes provide increased tensile strength for carrying heavy loads. Historically, thicker films were used in an attempt to reinforce bullseyes, or ink was layered (called “double bumping” ink) to reinforce the material. Both significantly added to the material cost per pack. Stronghold packs consist of shrink film that is folded over on the outside ends and wrapped around the products in an overwrap style machine. 

The end result is a double thickness of shrink film on the bullseyes, strengthening them so consumers can easily carry the weight of a tray-less pack by handling the bullseyes. Ultimately, this allows end users to downgauge the film thickness of the stock material while maintaining film thickness on the ends of the pack for handling.  

Intelligent drum motor

Van der Graaf demonstrated its upgraded intelligent drum motor named IntelliDrive at PACK EXPO. The new drum motor design has all the benefits of the previous drum motor with added efficiency, control and monitoring. 

“What you are going to gain from this product is condition monitoring, failure prevention, as well as control: start, stop, reverse,” explains Jason Kanaris, special projects engineering assistant.

The self-contained drum motor unit includes control features, such as manipulating speed and an e-stop option that provides a safe torque off. The IntelliDrive has a new electric motor design that makes it more efficient — up to 72 percent efficiency gains over conventional conveyor drive solutions, according to Kanaris. View a video about the IntelliDrive at

Bar wrapping

Bosch demonstrated its new Sigpack DHGDE, a gentle, flexible, hygienic distribution station and bar line. Products, usually bars, enter the machine in horizontal rows and are gently in-lined and aligned from a hygienic distribution station that accommodates up to 45 rows per min. The products are grouped via a flexible, non-contact infeed. Linear motors allow for increased flexibility for stalls and grouping as bars enter a high-speed flow-wrapper (up to 1,500 products per min).

After sealing, flow-wrapped bars are packed into paperboard or corrugated cartons, traditional or retail-ready, and either on-edge or flat depending on the end user’s requirements. Changeover from flat to on-edge is fast and tool-less, which the company says is a unique value proposition in the market. Watch a video of the machine at

Packer to palletizer

For the back end of the plant between the packaging line to the palletizer, Intralox’s Packer to Palletizer platform can typically save end users between15 to 20 percent in floor space and reduced cost of ownership through a reduction of maintenance costs up to 90 percent on radius belting and unscheduled downtime.

With its Activated Roller Belt (ARB) technology, Intralox provides functionality and reliability while reducing total system costs. It increases throughput, gently handles challenging products, and reduces footprint. Applications include sorter, switch, turner divider, 90-deg transfer, merge, perpetual merge and virtual pocket merge.

Intralox’s belt solutions also eliminate common problems with transfers and product handling such as: simpler, smoother transfers for products as small as 3.9 in. (100 mm); no need for transfer plates; reducing jams and product impact/damage; and same nosebar used for multiple belt types and series, including radius belts.

The company’s radius solutions enhance belt performance and belt life, enable small-product handling in flexible layouts, and improve total cost of ownership. They provide a smaller footprint, smooth conveyance and transfer of packages smaller than 6 in., and higher line speeds.

The Series 2300 Flush Grid Nose-Roller Tight Turning uni-directional belt meets complex radius challenges, such as smaller packages, more compact footprints and heavier loads. 

“Our vision is to deliver world-class packer to palletizer solutions from layout optimization through life cycle management, by utilizing our technology, service and expertise,” says Intralox’s Packer to Palletizer Global Team Leader Joe Brisson.


Precision Food Innovations’ (PFI) new horizontal motion conveyor, the PURmotion, is designed with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) guidelines in mind. The horizontal conveyor features an open design, solid structural framing and no hollow tubing, so there is virtually no place for bacteria to hide. Every part of the equipment has easy accessibility for sanitation cleaning.

“The industry wants higher sanitary design with open access for cleaning,” says Greg Stravers, PFI senior vice president.

PURmotion’s components are IP69K rated, which means PFI’s new horizontal motion conveyor is able to withstand the close-range, high-pressure, high-temperature spraydowns necessary to completely sanitize equipment, as well as completely preventing dust ingress.

“Customers in the food industry frequently purchase several types of conveyors depending on what product they want to convey,” states Stravers. “While there are many types of conveyors, four main types are common in the food industry depending on their application: belt, vibratory, bucket elevator and horizontal motion. We created PURmotion to round out our product offerings for each of the four major types.”

PURmotion offers a highly sanitary product that is easy to clean and efficient in operation, with immediate reversing motion to wash down without removal of side panels.


Sustainable mono-materials

In its quest to create recycle-ready yet cost-effective and functional packaging solutions, Constantia Flexibles created a mono-material line of packaging called Ecolutions (picture 17 in gallery) that can be completely and easily recycled to help create a circular economy. 

Constantia spent five years developing Ecolutions to ensure its packaging could be recycled entirely without wreaking havoc in the recycling process. “The target was to develop a mono-material structure that has the potential to be fully recyclable. I say potential because it depends on the recycling facility,” says Tim Revell, business development and global product manager for Constantia. “And we have developed a whole family of fully recyclable packaging, which we describe as Ecolutions.

“These materials are easier to recycle, but they also create value,” he adds. “So to fund the recycling stream, the waste that we generate needs to have a value to pay for the recycling, the collection and reprocessing. And if it’s made of one material, then it has value.”

With a mono-material structure, Ecolutions meets sustainability requirements, reduces Constantia’s carbon footprint, offers recyclable solutions and decreases the impact on the environment. In addition to the sustainable characteristics, the Ecolutions packaging has all the properties required to protect the products in them. 


Also busy tackling the recycling challenges presented by multi-material films — especially in high-barrier or retort applications — is Amcor. After three years of research and development, the firm has developed a film platform (picture 18 in gallery) that can be recycled while being able to handle ambient medium-barrier, ambient high-barrier and retort high-barrier applications.

 “What we have done is create a film that can be used in many different applications,” says Luca Zerbini, vice president of marketing, innovation and sustainability for Amcor Flexibles EMEA. “It has the potential to convert a big chunk of the packaging out there into a structure that is compatible with existing and emerging recycling schemes.”

The new film platform is an evolution of Amcor’s AmLite metal-free flexible packaging technology. “First we removed the metal from the structure, and now we are also taking out the PET so that the entire structure is a polyolefin-based material,” says Zerbini. At Amcor’s silicon oxide vacuum facility in Switzerland — the only one of its kind in Europe — a layer of silicon oxide is deposited on a polyolefin film, along with whatever coating is required to meet the functional needs of the application. 

According to Zerbini, the film will be polypropylene-based; future developments are aiming to target polyethylene as well. 

Handled PET

Krones, Husky and Silgan announced at PACK EXPO that they have joined forces with Practically Impossible (PI) Labs to manufacture its patented new BottleOne 1-gal injection stretch blow-molded bottle with integrated handle (picture 19 in gallery). Dairy, particularly milk, is the primary target market, and the PET bottle will be able to carry the PET1 resin identification designation for easy recycling. 

The bottle uses the same technology as the existing SureHandle that debuted in late 2017. The 64-oz SureHandle PET bottle is distributed by converter Pretium. This newly announced collaboration of PI Labs as the BottleOne patent holder, Husky as the technology’s licensed preform injection molder, Krones Kosme as the licensed stretch blow-molder, and Silgan as the licensed closure manufacturer, represents a play toward larger companies seeking to self-manufacture. Pretium remains an active licensee of the technology, as it will continue converting, blow molding and selling the SureHandle stock bottle in the 2-L and 64-oz sizes largely to private label and independent brands. 

The new PI Labs dairy gallon will enter the market at 82 g with another dairy half gallon at about 67 g, though there is plenty of room for optimization of bottle weights in the future.

A unique preform, whose dimensions would be proprietary to the brand owner’s unique needs, is longer than is typically seen at about 6 to 7 in. The preform cylinder is roughly an inch in diameter, and the entire preform is 2 in. in width, including the handle. The blow molding process works similarly to normal blow molding. 

“The preform with handle goes into the mold, the mold closes on it, and then using mechanical moving parts within the mold, the handle is relocated as part of the blow process,” says Bill Duelge, president of PI Labs. “The preform starts with the vertical walls of the test tube and the handle on it. As it’s inflated, that entire handle pocket and handle move out from the center line of the bottle to where it will reside near the neck of the bottle.” 

Handle position and geometry contribute to ease of opening and the smoothness of the first pour. By holding onto the handle, the consumer can easily open the container without squeezing out the contents. As for the first pour, when a consumer grabs a BottleOne container by the handle and lifts it straight up, the bottle is naturally oriented and positioned in a way that even though the bottle is full, a spill-free pouring experience is the outcome.

Bottles from 1 L to 3 L will use a 3-finger handle, and that handle will need to be in the upper third of the bottle for the appropriate balance.  On a 3-L to 5-L container, a 4-finger handle is necessary, and that handle will need to cover the upper half of the bottle in order to achieve the right balance.

The partnership standardizes around the 38-mm DBJ HDPE closure from Silgan. Silgan was selected partially due to its dominant market share in dairy. “Silgan also has a world-class testing lab in Chicago that has done some of the strength testing and burst testing on the bottles,” Duelge says. “They’re offering both technical support and field support to help people run the bottles efficiently on their current lines.”

Secondary packaging, usually corrugated, is employed to assist existing HDPE dairy containers in surviving the distribution, supply chain and merchandising stresses necessary to put the package in the hands of the user. The strength of BottleOne containers obviates the need for any structural support from secondary packaging. 

BottleOne containers can be over-wrapped in a retail-ready tray or simply bundled together and stacked on a pallet. Preliminary testing on the BottleOne dairy gallon showed a 225-lb top load at .342-in. deflection. That is the equivalent of stacking 27 full gallons on top of a 28th bottle without causing any leaking.

In practical terms, a brand owner could double stack five-high pallets of filled dairy gallons without crates or boxes and have a safety factor of 3 — that is, the bottom layer of that two-pallet stack would be able to carry three times the weight of the bottles above. That safety factor is critical considering the dynamic forces exerted during distribution.  

The procurement savings on boxes/crates, the operational savings from the production floor elimination (and at retail, disposal) of corrugated, the sanitation and recovery of crates, and the sustainability benefits from package elimination create the triple bottom line benefits for people-planet-profit.“I manufactured milk crates for 30 different years,” says Brian Lynch, vice president of PI Labs. “Dairies were always asking me how to control their milk crate loss. And I always said the only way to control it is to eliminate it, and the only way to eliminate it is through a PET bottle with a hermetic seal. That’s what we have created here.” 


TC Transcontinental entered PACK EXPO International with a certain amount of buzz gained from recent acquisitions of Coveris and Multifilm. Two new products this year included an award-winning compostable peanut bag (picture 20 in gallery) and a unique new shrink wrap. 

As consumer preferences continue to shift toward cost-effective sustainable packaging solutions, arenas and stadiums are looking for ways both big and small to reduce their environmental footprints and streamline their waste operations. TC Transcontinental Packaging’s latest innovation in two-layer adhesive lamination has yielded a certified, compostable flexible packaging solution designed specifically for a stadium classic: peanuts. This award-winning compostable peanut bag (Flexible Packaging Association’s Gold Award for Sustainability) reduces the amount of labor previously devoted to the manual sorting of materials collected during clean-up and lowers overall waste-management costs for the venue.

In addition, the compostable peanut bag provides an easy way for arenas and stadiums to support sustainable initiatives by eliminating their food scrap contaminant-polypropylene bags, increasing use of renewable resources, and enhancing venue-managed commercial composting programs. Packaging World covered an application of this material technology in the Kansas City Chiefs’ stadium. Read more about that application here: 

Sustainable labels

Featured in the South Hall at the UPM Raflatac booth were two new developments aimed at bringing a new element of sustainability to the labeling space. The first of these is a range of wash-off film labeling solutions (picture 21 in gallery) that make it easier during the caustic washing process that is central to the recycling of PET, and to separate polypropylene labels from clean PET flake. The key to this concept is UPM Raflatac’s RW85C wash-off adhesive. The clear, white or metalized film label stocks score additional sustainability points because their release liners are made from 90 percent post-consumer recycled content. According to UPM Raflatac, the labels have been recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) as exceeding APR’s strict standards for recyclable label products.

The other highlight of the UPM Raflatac booth was Vanish PCR ultra-thin clear film labels available with 90 percent recycled content face and liners. These clear, no-label-look labels are said to be a global first for sustainable packaging.

Sous vide

Who knew that a very popular breakfast item served at Starbucks would show up at one of the booths occupied by an exhibitor at PACK EXPO International 2018?

Wildly popular at Starbucks these days is what’s called sous vide egg bites (picture 22 in gallery), which were among the innovative packages shown at the booth of Teinnovations LLC. It might be described as a packaged-then-cooked mini-omelette that is reheated in the Starbucks store for a minute or two before being served to convenience-hungry consumers. Behind the scenes is a pretty sophisticated packaging system, some of which is considered proprietary, including the name of the contract manufacturer, where the packaging and sous vide cooking is done.

Individual cups are thermoformed from an 11-layer cast coextrusion, including nylon and EVOH. Liquid egg is deposited into the formed cups and an 11-layer lidding material also including nylon and EVOH is heat sealed to the cups. Next is sous vide cooking, then freezing. Once in the store, the cups are slacked off and kept refrigerated until it’s time to reheat them for a minute or two, a process which gives them a nice warm and toasty appearance. For one food critic’s take on sous vide egg bites, go here:


If PACK EXPO is any indicator, collaborative robots, or cobots, are increasing their impact on packaging systems. It used to be that robots on the show floor had to be given a wide berth. It’s still a little surprising to see these cobots free of any enclosure, where attendees are free to interact with them. Ongoing shortages in skilled labor maintain the drumbeat toward not only automation but automation designed to work seamlessly with existing operators. 

Piab used PACK EXPO to introduce its piCOBOT (picture 23 in gallery) end-of-arm (EOAT) vacuum tool designed specifically for the cobot market. The piCOBOT offers Universal Robots certified plug-and-play extensions to the latest collaborative robots.

“piCOBOT weighs only 18 oz, and the gripper only adds another 7.40 oz. This provides maximum payload capacity for the cobot,” says Josef Karbassi, vice president of Piab’s Automation Division. “Strong for its size, piCOBOT is able to lift objects weighing up to 15.5 lb. We have selected features that enable energy-optimized and safe operation to make piCOBOT a genuinely flexible and user-friendly cobot end-of-arm tool.” 

New alliance

In an effort to expand its offerings in innovative automation, Omron robot is the result of an alliance between Omron and Techman Robot Inc., in which Omron will globally market and sell the robot through Omron’s worldwide distribution network. The co-branded cobot (picture 24 in gallery) has been added to the Omron portfolio to aid in the creation of an intelligent manufacturing environment where humans and machines work in harmony. The biggest advantage of the TM cobot is that it is simple to program and has built-in vision, which allows for quick start-ups and rapid changeovers, company officials say.

The cobot can be set up without using software, but there is software available that provides a flowchart-based intuitive programming interface that requires little to no robot programming experience. The TM series also conforms to safety requirements for industrial robots ISO10218-1 as well as safety requirements for collaborative industrial robots ISO/TS15066.

See the Omron TM series in action in a video here:

Cobot for map bread

Traveling to Australia not long ago, JLS Automation President and CEO Craig Souser noted that MAP packaging for fresh bread was nearly ubiquitous there. Considering the growing consumer trend in the United States toward fresh, high-quality artisan bread as well as the push to reduce food waste, he envisioned a robotic system that could help create such packaging here.

Introduced at the show, JLS’ new system combines custom end-of-arm tooling with the company’s Talon hygienic pick-and-place robot to load sliced, fresh bread into a thermoformer. MAP packaging, says Souser, can extend the product’s shelf life up to six months, with the bread remaining as fresh as the day it was packed. “Because of the desire for extended shelf life with no preservatives associated with the product and increased demand in the U.S., this new tool and capability now fills a need for higher-end product producers,” he says.

As Souser explains, the real innovation is in the way the bread is handled. A conveyor with special guides ensures the sliced loaves are transported gently and presented to the Talon efficiently and intact.

The Talon is designed with the highest level of sanitation for food packaging and features four levels of sanitary construction, pick belts with a motorized roller, conveyor stand-offs that help prevent product buildup, a tool-less belt-lifting mechanism, and nonexistent welds for easy, washdown cleaning. An IP69K-rated stainless-steel construction, sloped surfaces and control box for run-off as well as a standard open-frame design allow for easy cleaning, access, inspection and maintenance.


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