Colonial revolutionizes its shrink wrapping operations

Aug 8, 2016

Leading-edge shrink wrap technology improves shrink wrapping and poly-bagging throughput of Colonial Press’s printed materials, such as brochures and catalogs, by more than 400% to 115 packages per minute.

Within the intensely competitive market of commercial printing, with its fast pace, hard deadlines and quick turnarounds, achieving a high level of production throughput is vital to keep clients onboard, realize profitability and maintain a competitive edge. Slow-downs and jam-ups, if even only for a few minutes at any point in the process, can impede production both upstream and downstream.  Throughout every step, from prepress and printing, to folding, stacking, binding, cutting and packaging, printing executives have relied on improvements in automation to minimize production interference, and achieve better throughput rates and system uptime. Such is the case with Colonial Press International (Colonial), which recently upgraded its shrink wrap and polybag packaging line to employ leading-edge orbital-head shrink wrapping technology. This effectively improved its packaging throughput capacity by more than 400% with no increase in labor hours.

A technologically savvy print shop 

 Colonial is no stranger to automation. Its 250,000 square-foot printing facility, located in Miami, FL, is one of the most technologically advanced operations in the printing industry. For example, Colonial took color control to a whole new level with advanced closed-loop technology that continuously micro-measures the pieces being printed in real-time, and automatically adjusts the printing presses to a degree beyond a pressman’s abilities, ensuring consistent quality throughout a press run. Its Prism WIN Management Information System – a closed IT system integrated with accounting, estimating, planning, real-time scheduling, direct machine interfaces on all printing equipment and inventory management, offers a web portal access for clients to view the progress of their projects in real-time. These innovative technologies, and in operation at Colonial, have enabled this family-owned shop to deliver a full range of printing solutions with flexible scheduling, just-in-time turnarounds, on-time completion and superior quality.

A need for increased shrink wrap/polybag throughput

In its latest technological advance, in 2014, Colonial moved forward to upgrade its shrink wrap/polybag packaging line to keep up with heightened client demand for shrink wrapped printed packages, such as brochures, booklets and catalogs. 

“More and more, our clients are having us prepare their orders for storage in warehouses,” says Dan Michels, COO of Colonial.  “Before, they would want their finished products individually carton packed in bulk.  Now, the majority want them shrink wrapped in specified amounts for easier picking by packs.” 

The company’s existing horizontal shrink wrap/polybag equipment was unable to sustain the increasing throughput requirements.  Although the system was rated to shrink or polybag 75 multi-sheet packages per minute, its maximum output was in the range of 25 to 30 packages per minute. 

“We made the switch for capacity,” explains Michels.  “We needed a machine that could handle more throughput.” 

Colonial brought in Worldwide Packaging Group, which specializes in the distribution of machinery and materials for industrial and retail packaging, to help Colonial evaluate equipment options that would meet their throughput requirements. 

“Most commercial printers send out their products to be shrink wrapped and polybagged, but Colonial has had this capability in-house for some time,” said Barry Kronhaus, President of Worldwide Packaging Group. “As the demand for shrink wrapping has been increasing, we had been putting more focus on evaluating options and isolating a system solution.  We knew we needed a system that could shrink or polybag at least 100 packs per minute to meet Colonial’s production requirements.” 

Switch to high-speed continuous-motion wrapping 

One of the systems that Worldwide Packaging Group and Colonial looked at was a high-speed horizontal wrapper equipped with a unique orbital sealing head, manufactured by Texwrap Packaging Systems, a manufacturer of fully-automatic shrink wrap systems for a broad range of industries. 

“The orbital sealing head technology fit our shrink wrapping and polybagging needs,” says Michels.  “It’s not your typical box sealer.” 

The system selected is a Texwrap Model e145SS high-speed, horizontal continuous-motion side-seal wrapper, with orbital head sealing technology.  In this type of wrapper, the incoming stream of product does not stop while the end seal is being made, thereby increasing throughput speed. 

The printed packs are inducted into the shrink wrapper via a high-speed Longford International Model C700 friction feeder, capable of running up to 4,000 inches of printed material per minute. 

“Orbital-head sealing is quite different from traditional box-motion sealers,” continued Kronhaus.  “Box-motion refers to the rectangular-shaped path of the sealing head, in which the device making the end seal moves horizontally with the product as the seal is being made. When the seal is complete, the head raises and the carriage returns to engage the next package and make the next seal. The box seal executes rapid movements back and forth, and requires a large and heavy carriage assembly to mount the sealer. This creates considerable inertia, requiring significant force to stop the carriage in its forward and backwards motions. Bumpers are typically used to provide hard stops for the sealer carriage, causing shaking that usually occurs on the fast returns, forcing the system to pause while the photo eyes and sensors settle out. Speed of cycle time is compromised with this type of reciprocating motion. Depending on the package size, there are times when the head sealer cannot get back into position in time for the next seal.”

Technical details 

 The throughput of the Texwrap wrapper is achieved by the sealing head, which is a patented servo orbital-motion technology. It eliminates the need for the head to move horizontally with the product while the seal is being made. The orbital sealing head moves in an ellipse, always in the same direction, eliminating any back and forth motion by the sealing carriage, thereby dramatically increasing the throughput speed of the wrapper. The orbital seal head does not have to come to a complete stop when cycling, which drastically reduces stress on the components. It uses inertia to its advantage instead of fighting against it with every cycle, like with a reciprocating box-motion seal head. 

 Servo control allows the motion of the orbital head to be electronically shaped to create the optimum path for each product, producing great seals, using the minimum amount of film, and cycling at the fastest rate possible. It allows for extremely fast motion while also gently ramping into both the closed and open position at the last moment. This eliminates any bounce during the sealing process. Seal time, temperature, and even seal pressure can be controlled from the touchscreen control panel. 

The entire system is built with Generation 3 servo technology, meaning that it was designed from the ground up to integrate servo technology, PLC control and the mechanical elements of the system.  The system’s 10-axis servo controls provide extremely accurate registration, minimizing the amount of film used for wrapping, and reducing the need for maintenance. 

“The orbital-motion wrapper is outfitted with a product protection system that ensures that the orbital head will not close down on any product,” says Kronhaus.  “A sensor maps the position of each pack as it enters the orbital head operating space, and knows when a pack is misplaced, skipping that seal cycle.” 

From the shrink wrapper, the printed packs are put through a Texwrap Model T-1322/2 dual-chamber forced air convection tunnel, which uses large volumes of high velocity air to provide a precisely-controlled shrink.  

The design of the shrink tunnel is critical to the quality and appearance of the final package.  The T1322/2 tunnel is equipped with digital temperature controls, high velocity fans, individual top and bottom controls for air direction, and variable-speed conveyors. These features control the right amount of heat to be put in the right places, over the correct amount of time to produce consistent shrink results. 

The finished packs are then conveyed into cartons for shipping.   

System performance 

“This was a stock shrink/polybag system that was customized to fit our requirements,” says Michels. “It is hard to describe how well the entire line turned out.” 

The new shrink wrap/polybag line is now rated to process up to 150 printed packs per minute, and is consistently running at 115 packs per minute – more than 400% more throughput than the prior shrink/polybag line at 25 – 30 packs per minute. 

“Colonial is a 24/7 operation, which now has a shrink/polybag line designed to run 24/7,” adds Kronhaus. “Sometimes they run the line three shifts per day.  This system comes with the support to ensure the line continues to run optimally.”  

The new line has enabled Colonial Press International to be more competitive in its markets, as well as to realize increased profit margins.   

About Colonial Press Internationa

Colonial Press International, Inc. is a totally integrated operation providing a full range of printing communication services to a diverse list of clients, including numerous Fortune 500 companies and some of the best design houses in the country. Its 250,000 square-foot printing facility is amongst the most technologically advanced operations within the printing industry.  

From its digital prepress printing integration into the press room and bindery, to its automated finishing and shrink wrap/polybag packaging line, to its real-time scheduling updates, the company’s workflows are fully automated, providing the highest level of throughput efficiency and printing quality.  Colonial’s comprehensive production capabilities and equipment mix offer a full range of printing choices, flexible scheduling and just-in-time turnarounds. 

About Worldwide Packaging Group 

Worldwide Packaging Group specializes in the distribution of machinery and materials for industrial and retail packaging.  The group provides equipment sales and support to companies in the United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, solving complex packaging problems that reduce labor requirements and improve profitability.    

About Texwrap Packaging Systems 

Texwrap is the leader in the design and manufacture of fully-automatic shrink wrap systems for many industries including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and printing.  An industry innovator, Texwrap holds patents on some of the most significant breakthrough technologies in the shrink wrapping industry. Its full line of standard wrappers include L-bar sealers, continuous-motion side-sealers, intermittent-motion side-sealers and lapsealers, as well as tunnels, conveyors and infeeds. 

The company delivers the latest technological advances in shrink wrapping, while maintaining its commitment to user-friendly machines that are efficient and easy to maintain.  Quality construction, flexibility, easy changeover and low maintenance features make Texwrap machinery the lowest cost-in-use systems available on the market.  

Texwrap also designs and builds custom systems to fit a wide variety of applications, and provides system integration services with upstream and downstream automation, like robotics, labeling and system controls.

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