High-performance packaging machines which are impressive above all in terms of speed and complexity are used in the confectionery industry.
Food packaging machines are becoming steadily more complex and more powerful. They have to face up to different demands depending on the type of food being packed. The confectionery industry is now concerned primarily with high performance. Some of these machines are very complex, ” in terms of both mechanics and software, since they have to perform many movements synchronously at high speeds,” explains Christoph Krombholz, Marketing Manager at Loesch Verpackungstechnik GmbH. As an example, Krombholz mentions a chewing gum packaging machine that packs the product in several ways. Here, for example, it boxes and cellophanes the product after wrapping it.
Speed is the trump card
This takes time, of course. The chewing gum packaging machine (wrapping, boxing, cellophane overwrapping) still delivers around 300 pieces of the product ready for sale per minute. If, on the other hand, products such as chewing gum tablets “only” have to be wrapped, then the high-performance GW05 fold wrapping machine from Loeschpack churns out up to 2,500 pieces per minute. Furthermore, the high-performance packaging machines for small confectionery products such as chewy sweets or hard caramels from Theegarten-Pactec GmbH & Co. KG work at impressive speeds. Theegarten quantifies their output at “up to 2300 individually packaged sweets per minute with a time availability of 95 to 97 percent”. According to Krombholz, manufacturers must put between EUR 350,000 and 800,000 on the table for such premium machines that can run at high performance rating in three-shift operation. These comprise individual machines, which can be combined into correspondingly costly systems for multiple packaging functions, for example.
Preferably paper, aluminium and plastic
Paper, aluminum and plastic are the main materials used to package confectionery. Machine manufacturers have been observing developments in the area of material-saving and recyclability for years, particularly in the case of plastics/plastic films. Theegarten mentions, for example, mono films, which usually have to be tested for functionality on their own machines.
Krombholz reports on a specific case: “We once packed classic 100-gram chocolate bars using sustainable, maize-starch-based biopolymer film and discovered that this film has different installation forces and behaves differently in terms of folding and sealing compared with standard films. In order to achieve the same high-grade sealing quality as with the usual film, we had to adjust the temperature, extend the sealing time and modify the folding tools.”
New materials need to be tested in practice
Loesch and Theegarten are in constant contact with their material suppliers and their customers with regard to optimized, sustainable, recyclable packaging materials. This approach is currently also driven by the increased demands of the new Packaging Law. According to Krombholz, the three major topics in this context are bioplastics, recyclability and material reduction. Loesch offers its customers solutions in these fields. The desired packaging material is tested with the customer’s product on the Loesch machines.
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As a rule, there will then be modifications to the packaging machine and/or the packaging material. Flexibility on the part of the manufacturers is then required in order to achieve a packaging quality corresponding to the customer’s wishes. However, Krombholz points out, “in the end, the drive has to come from the customers. They must to want this. Altering the packaging of a product is a profound change that needs to be carefully considered.”
So where does the journey with confectionery packaging take us? Theegarten observes that “In confectionery packaging in recent years, we have seen trends towards better product protection with attractive, appealing packaging. At the same time, attempts are being made to save on costs for packaging materials and to reduce the amount of packaging used. Furthermore, due to the shorter product life cycles in the confectionery industry, modularity and flexibility with high output are decisive factors for us. These are the trends we are following and on which we want to focus our development.”