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Stik Pak machines go mainstream

Ropak took stick pack machinery to a new level in time for the single serve packs to become the hottest trend in consumer packaging – and they’ve achieved some incredible throughputs -- up to 1,000 per minute.
FILED IN:  Controls  > Strategy

Ropak Manufacturing (PELV Booth S-5296), the leader in flexible packaging technology, is poised not only to supply the hottest trend in single-serve packaging – stik packs – they’re also making their industry-leading designs more flexible and compact with ELAU’s new Intelligent Servo Module technology.

Ropak’s 14-axis servo-driven Stik Pak machine combines aspects of converting with packaging and does it all in an amazing footprint. Dancer-controlled infeed to 10 in-line slitters is transferred by adjustable turning bars reminiscent of newspaper presses to the modular forming, filling and sealing station – where up to 1,000 stick packs per minute can be produced.

Rooted in innovation

Decatur, Alabama based Ropak Manufacturing is a company with a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship. Before focusing its energies on packaging, what is now known as Matthews Industries was a successful machine shop. Then, during the 1960’s, the company expanded
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into machinery building, using its inventiveness to assist several local and national corporations on major projects.

But the company’s future would lie in equipment with a broader customer base. Packaging activities began in the late 1960’s with helping maintain and repair 200 pouch per minute sugar pack f/f/s machines that used reciprocating, incremental motion. The company began experimenting with its own ideas for a continuous-motion rotary system, ultimately achieving speeds of over 2,000 sugar packs per minute. To the amazement of their new customers, they could replace ten old machines with just one from Matthews.

In 1985, two of the founders’ sons, Ernest and Ralph Matthews, started Ropak Manufacturing Company to pursue packaging full-time. The company was now firmly established in the packaging industry.

Meeting the new demand head-on

Today, Ropak is building its stick pack packaging machines, called the “Stik Pak,” for everything you could imagine putting in a single serve package. These are high-speed machines -- 600 to 1,000 packs per minute -- depending on product flow characteristics, packaging materials and fill temperatures. They are being used throughout food, beverage, cosmetics and OTC drug applications. Ropak makes stick pack and pouch systems not only for powdered and granular products, but is unique in its ability to package liquids in stick packs as well with its ExpressPak line of vertical f/f/s machines.

These stick packs are not only perfect for on-the-go lifestyle marketing, they do more for sustainability than one might imagine. First, they are flexibles that typically replace a rigid reclosable container. Second, they virtually eliminate waste or spoilage. And they provide an excellent marketing boost, causing customers to buy both the single serve format for use away from home in addition to multi-serving formats for use at home.

Ropak is prepared for the trend, with recently expanded in-house CNC and fabrication capabilities that will accommodate anticipated growth in the category. And with modular, purpose-built automation from ELAU, they are extending the efficiency and flexibility of their systems once again.

Fast, flexible, economical

The latest Stik Pak system is a multiple-lane, continuous motion vertical form/fill/seal solution that uses ELAU’s Intelligent Servo Modules to control dosing heads, sealing jaws and cut-off knives. A virtual (software) axis controls phasing of the system.

Technical Services Manager Richard Matthews reports that the Intelligent Servo Modules reduce component count, cabling and electrical cabinet space requirements, while ELAU’s PacDrive™ automation platform uses software modularity to support Ropak’s recipe-driven approach to operator interface. Recipes can be stored in the PacDrive automation controller’s Flash memory and accessed from the operator’s touch panel.

While some competitive machines require a factory technician on site for days and $70-80,000 in assemblies to accomplish each format change, the servo-driven Stik Pak system can be changed over in a few hours by plant personnel with minimal change parts and clear, easy to follow instructions.

Dosers can be run individually, not just for jogging or setup, but to adjust production rates and allow operation even if some dosers were to be disabled. Finished packs can be automatically collated onto optional lug conveyors for secondary packaging.

The machinery is compact, too, with an 83”L x 73” W footprint and 110” height. Options include date coding, pour spouts, tear notches and perforated seals.

About Ropak Manufacturing Company

Ropak has been a leader in the flexible packaging industry for more than two decades. They are known for their ability to manufacture quality machinery with the latest in technology, and for their skilled personnel to support the equipment.

For more information, visit www.ropak.com or email [email protected].

About ELAU

ELAU equips over $1 billion worth of the world’s best machines annually, with over 35,000 PacDrive systems already deployed in packaging machinery worldwide. PacDrive is the first truly integrated automation architecture, capable of performing the functions of PLC, motion control, robotics, temperature control, PLS, MES data interface and more in a single, standards-based software environment.

For more information, visit www.elau.com or email [email protected].

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