The term "packaging equipment" refers to the various types of machinery used in the process of enclosing or protecting products and materials for the purposes of storage, sale, distribution and use. Also known as packaging machinery, packaging equipment is used to automate the packaging process, reducing labor time and cost as well as increasing process efficiency.
Quick links to Packaging Equipment Information
The History of Packaging Equipment
- Early History of Packaging Equipment
- Packaging has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. However, in those early days, packaging was done manually. The earliest packaging was likely made from materials such as nuts, gourds, leaves, animal skins and wood. Later, in villages, they also wove pouches and baskets and formed other containers from ceramics. With the establishment of cities like Rome, people began forming packaging from blown glass. This is also about the time that the wooden barrel was invented. Many historians believe that craftsmen bent the wood using heat.
- Packaging machinery made its appearance during the 19th and 20th centuries, as the Industrial Revolution brought the demand for more and new packaging types. These packaging types include things like: bags, food packaging, storage bins, primary packaging materials and retail packaging. Many of these items were first made with paper, and to speed things up, manufacturers began using new printing and assembly methods. For example, in 1861, two men named German Otto Geiger and Friedrich Hesser produced the first envelope folding machines. Three decades later, in 1894, Hesser innovated the market again by developing the first pouch machine for packaging goods such as detergent. Also, in 1890, in North America, Michael Owens invented the first automatic rotary bottle-making machine, which made glass container packaging extremely popular from then on until the 1960s.
- Packaging in the 1900s
- In the early 1900s, the packaging industry really got a boost with the introduction of plastics. To accommodate this new material, engineers and inventors sought better ways to package goods. One of the first packaging machines was invented in 1906, by an early manufacturing company called The Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft (SIG).
- After World War I, consumers began using packaging, including cardboard boxes and metal cans, quite heavily. This pushed packaging equipment manufacturers even harder to establish means of automation, such as that offered by the assembly line. In the late 1920s, inventors came up with aniline printing. This type of printing used rubber blocks dipped in aniline dye to print images of any kind onto substrates including: milk cartons, paper bags, metallic films, folding cartons and corrugated boards. This technique, now known as flexography, allowed manufacturers to more accurately and more quickly print visual information on their packaging.
- In 1936, Walter Zwoyer patented the vertical form/fill/seal (VFFS). Zwoyer, who had been an engineer with the Henry Heide Candy Company in New York City, then formed his own company, the Transparent Wrap Machine Co., to build and sell Transwrap vffs machines. After WWII, he branched out and allowed Stokes & Smith of Philadelphia to build vffs machines under license from TWMC.
- By the 1950s, packaging technology had become so popular that, in 1952, Michigan State University became the first university in the world to offer a degree in Packaging Engineering. In 1951, a German company called Höfliger & Karg introduced a machine for packaging penicillin and other antibiotics, and in 1958, they invented an automatic capsule filling machine. Throughout the late 1900s, engineers and manufacturers continued to find new and more efficient ways to package products and materials.
- Modern Packaging Equipment
- Today, packaging equipment is largely automated. Because they’re controlled by CAD and CNC systems, these packaging machines are able to package products quicker, more accurately and in greater volumes than ever before. The next step in the packaging industry is to find more sustainable forms of packaging and the equipment to accompany them.
Benefits of Packaging Equipment
Packaging equipment offers many benefits. First, it is efficient. Using packaging equipment, manufacturers can package products and goods much more quickly, uniformly and precisely. Likewise, using CAD systems and CNC machining, packaging equipment allows for increased control. Packaging machinery is an effective means by which manufacturers and distributors can ensure the correct allotment of product portions. In packages of small fasteners, for example, machines can be used to correctly count and distribute the appropriate number of fasteners per shipping or sale package. This prevents accidental loss of products due to miscounting, and it also reduces the chances of delivering packages with too few products to customers. In addition, packaging equipment takes away risk of injury from workers.
Packaging Equipment Design
When designing a new or selecting a used packaging system for a customer, manufacturers consider a few key elements. They think about: required technical capabilities, labor requirements, integration into any existing systems, available floor space, energy requirements and restrictions, required packaging quality (for pharmaceuticals, food, overseas, etc.), efficiency, run-times, etc.
Manufacturers can design systems that use just a single piece of equipment, systems that use multiple different pieces of packaging equipment or systems that use multiple pieces of the same type of machinery. Most often, manufacturers will create a system with primary packaging machines, secondary packaging machines and tertiary packaging machines. Primary machines perform the initial packaging of the product; secondary packaging machines are used to group all the single packages into one larger package, and tertiary packaging machines are used to load a bulk amount of packages for distribution purposes.
While your manufacturer can and will customize a system just for your application, you can also purchase from them a standard, off-the-shelf model or a used/modified in-house model.
Types of Packaging Equipment
In order to address the variety of packaging needs, there is a wide variety of packaging equipment types. Categorized by the method used to package products, the main types include filling machines, sealing machines and vacuum packaging machines.
- Filling Machine
- Used to take previously manufactured packaging and fill that packaging with a certain number of parts, whether it is one large part or a hundred small parts. A bagging machine is a type of filling machine in which the packaging is specifically limited to bags; bags are defined as containers made from flexible materials such as paper or plastic that have a single opening. Flexible packaging systems like bagging machines work well for liquid packaging. They’re often used for storing various chemicals, like solvents and acids, as well as beverages like soda.
- Sealing Machine
- Packaging machines used to close and make airtight packaging after a product has been put inside it. One of the most common types of sealing machine is the heat sealer, which seals thermoplastics like shrink wrap using the direct application of heat and pressure. Sealing machines are common as food packaging equipment, for packaging bakery goods and fresh produce. Sealers are also commonly employed as pharmaceutical packaging equipment for over-the-counter and prescription drug packaging. Variations on the seal machine include the bag sealer.
- Vacuum Packaging Machine
- This is perhaps the most common type of packaging machinery for industrial and food handling applications. Vacuum packing machines provide air-tight packaging by first removing the atmospheric oxygen in the package and then sealing the package. Vacuum packaging is also a popular way to seal electronics like cameras into waterproof packaging.
- Strapping Machine
- Do not quite fit within the main categories of package processing equipment. Straps are long, narrow strips of flexible material, often a durable plastic, that are affixed to an item for the purposes of bundling, containing or securing. Strapping machines are used to address the same type of packaging needs as the more conventional types of packaging equipment.
- Laminating Machine
- Apply a thin laminating film to items like credit cards, work badges, papers, pamphlets and presentation documents. They are used to provide protection and a more professional look. Typically, they consist of a heating element that heats lamination on both sides. You can purchase this packaging equipment bulk work or personal work.
- Labeling Equipment
- An important aspect of any complete packaging operation is labeling. Labeling equipment provides the finishing touch to packaging by adhering labels for purposes like: product identification, pricing, usage guidance, barcoding, shipping instructions and indication of tampering. Labeling equipment can be large enough to tackle high industrial loads, or it can be as small enough for small business purposes, as is the case with a handheld label applicator.
- Fill Machine
- Or fillers, are designed to fill containers with a predetermined amount of material. This material can be a finished product, like glass bottles, or it can be liquid that goes into those bottles, or it can be industrial materials, such as palletized plastic. Fillers are typically components of conveyors, and their design varies based on whether they are meant to liquid fill or solid fill.
- A popular filler process is "form fill seal" (FFS), a process during which the machine takes v-fold or flat material, forms it into a container or bag, and then fills it and seals it. Similar is filling capping sealing, during which bottles are filled, capped and sealed.
- Case Packing
- Packaging machinery designed specially to work with cases of all sizes and volumes. They help manufacturers pack cases of product more quickly, efficiently and uniformly. To finish the operation, responsible manufacturers also send their cases through a case sealer, which ensures that all the contents are securely inside, and nothing can get in or get out. Common case packing equipment varieties include: top load case packers, side load case packers and robotic case packers. As high traffic industrial packing equipment, case packers can be designed to work in conjunction with palletizers.
- Shrink Packaging Machinery
- Also known as shrink wrap, is a type of plastic used during packaging. When heated, it shrinks and takes the form of the item it surrounds. Shrink packaging can be used to wrap a wide range of products, and so, shrink wrapping jobs can be done with large machines or heat guns.
- Air Packers
- Use air pressure to blow materials into a bag through a fill spout. Air packers are often used for efficient and quick filling of fine powders like sand, cement, charcoal powder and laser toner.
- Auger Packers
- Use augers to "screw-feed" material into a bag through a fill spout. Auger packers are used for fine and nonabrasive powders, including flour, powdered sugar and dried milk products.
- Bagging Machines
- Any of various devices that place an object inside a bag. The bag is then sealed and readied for shipping.
- Food Packaging Equipment
- Refers to various types of packaging machinery that are characterized by the product that they package (namely, food materials) rather than the method of packaging they perform.
- Form, Fill and Sealers (FFS)
- Take a v-fold or flat material, form it into a container or bag and then fill and seal it.
- Heat Sealers
- Machines that use heat to seal packaging.
- Hot Air Sealers
- A type of continual motion bag sealer that use hot air to heat a container for sealing.
- Impulse Sealers
- Devices that seal using heat. They are frequently small and manually operated and have a heating element that warms various materials to create a seal when pressed against the heat source.
- Packaging Machinery
- Refers to the equipment that is used to wrap, seal and box goods for transport.
- Packaging Systems
- Two or more separate packaging machines that have been integrated together to provide a cohesive system.
- Pharmaceutical Packaging
- Equipment refers to a broad range of machines designed to fulfill packaging and filling functions for the pharmaceutical industry.
- Rotary Sealers
- Packaging machines that use continual motion to seal packages.
- Used Packaging Equipment
- Refers to machinery that has been previously owned or operated for the purposes of enclosing or protecting products and materials.
Packaging Equipment Applications
There are many different reasons that a product or part may require packaging. Some of the most common reasons are physical protection, containment, ease of handling and portion control. Packaging serves as an effective method of physical protection against extreme temperatures, vibrations and compression for fragile products such as glass or porcelain. The same is true for products such as food items, which require a barrier between possible contaminants such as dust or water vapor.
Packaging for the purposes of containment is typically done as a method of storage or for increased efficiency when handling products for retail purposes. For instance, when sugar is sold, it must be packaged with food packaging machinery designed to allow it to contain those granules that would otherwise be unmanageable. Sugar is also a great example of a product that is packaged for ease of handling purposes.
In addition to the traditional enclosing and protecting of products, packaging machinery enables certain packaging types that would be impossible to accomplish through human labor, such as tamper-evident bottlenecks. Through the installation of packaging systems, companies in many industries are able to streamline their small and bulk packaging processes. Industries like these include: pharmaceuticals, food packaging technology, electronics, chemical processing, manufacturing and agriculture.
Packaging Equipment Safety and Compliance Standards
Depending on your region, industry and shipping intentions, there are a variety of different safety and compliance standards to which your machinery and packaging must adhere. First, ISO puts out international standards for packing machinery (ISO 55.200) including: labelling, branding, filling, marking, sealing machines and more. In addition, ANSI, or the American National Standards Institute, puts out a list of voluntary standard requirements for non-retail packaging equipment. If you plan on working in or trading with the EU, you need to make sure that your equipment is up to their standards, such as EN standards. For more information on what standards you may require, talk to your supplier or industry leader.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Packaging Equipment
- Used Equipment
- Since packaging systems and machinery can be expensive, there are companies that provide used packaging equipment in order to provide consumers with an alternative to more expensive, new equipment. One disadvantage of used packaging equipment is that it is often fitted to the previous owner's application and may not perform quite as well as a new, custom-fitted packaging machine. However, used equipment from a good source will be in just-like-new condition and ready to work. They can also work with you to tweak the equipment.
- Choosing the Right Supplier
- These days, everything is one Google search away. However, while Google offers quick and fast results, it doesn’t really discern quality. That’s what directories, like this one, are for. Here at IQS, we’ve taken the time to vet those with whom we work; we only advertise those contract packaging equipment companies that you can trust. So, to get started, we recommend you scroll near to the top of this page, where you’ll find a list of our top company picks. Browse their information and visit their websites. Once you’ve gotten a feel for each of them, pick out three or four with whom you’d like to speak directly. Then, reach out to each of them with your questions and concerns. Pay special attention the way they treat you. You want to make sure that any company with whom you partner is going to do their best to satisfy your requirements to the best of their ability, not the best of their ledger. Also note key considerations like: price, lead times and standard certifications. From among them, choose the one you like best, and then get to work on your packaging solution.
Packaging Equipment Terms
- Automatic (Fully-Automatic)
- Packaging equipment that is capable of functioning without the intervention of an operator. Operators usually only involve themselves with the replenishment of packaging components or containers.
- Bags Per Minute (BPM)
- The number of units (bags, cartons, boxes etc.) a machine can deliver within a one minute period.
- Bead Seal
- Two edges of material welded together without overlapping to create a seal along a narrow strip.
- Wheels that are available for most conveyors and sealers. They allow machinery to be easily portable in times of cleanup and changeover.
- Used in packaging to close a container or package.
- Consumable/Wear Parts
- Parts of packaging equipment that, because of wear and tear, need to be replaced frequently.
- The mechanical deformation of a material. This is typically used on metals.
- Critical Sealing Parameters
- Three critical sealing parameters that directly contribute to the seal quality when using a heat seal. These are temperature, pressure and dwell time.
- Dwell Time
- The time that a bag being sealed shut is exposed to pressure and heat.
- Emboss Coder
- A mechanism that encodes a date or lot code on a container or bag by pressing metal characters upon it. Emboss coders deform the bags or containers rather than apply ink to them.
- The floor space that a piece of equipment occupies.
- Gross Weight
- The weight of a product and the container it occupies.
- Gross Weight Scale
- An industrial scale that is used to weigh a product in its final package before being shipped.
- Group Package
- A group of products that are ready to be processed by packaging machinery into bundles and multi-packs.
- Ink Coder
- A mechanism that codes bags or containers by pressing ink-coated characters against the material.
- Load Cell
- A device that responds to pressure and provides a reading to describe the source of the pressure.
- Part of the packaging process that holds cartons, carton blanks, leaflets, labels, lids and stackable containers.
- A mechanical assembly that is used to form a bag or carton.
- Net Weight
- The gross weight of a packaged product minus the tare weight.
- Process that provides a 5-sided protection and unitization by forming a bag from a tubular roll of thermoplastic, placing it loosely over the load and applying heat, either using gas or electric, to shrink the film to the form of the load.
- A process, more prevalent than stretchwrapping, that provides 5-sided protection and unitization by forming a bag from a tubular roll of thermoplastic, and stretches it over the entire load. The under pallet stretch function provides more load stability by unitizing the load with the pallet.
- Process that involves wrapping thermoplastic film tightly around a product.
- Supported Materials
- Materials that cannot be melted but are heat-sealable.
- Tare Weight
- The weight of the bag or container alone.
- Used to cut off excess amounts of material after a packaging process has been completed.