As the cost of corrugated climbed steadily last year, this producer of EPS sheets used in the building industry found an orbital stretch wrapper that was made to order.
Confronted with a dramatic price increase in corrugated containers Insulation Corp. of America South Allentown PA looked for alternative packaging solutions for its expanded polystyrene products. After a thorough search the company selected a high-speed orbital wrapping system from Ciratec (Phillipsburg NJ). The system is a big hit with Bill Dean chief executive officer at ICA. In the first day of use says Dean material cost savings amounted to $327 per truck load on 17 trucks sent that day. ICA is a major polystyrene block molder in the Northeast. The company's products include a wide range of construction and insulation applications including sheet products and finished ceiling products as well as custom cut packaging material used for cushioning. In recent years ICA has experienced an average growth rate of 40% compared to an industry-wide rate of about 7%. "Our vacuum molding system gives us a competitive edge in production" says Liam Dent ICA plant engineer. "It allows consistent quality and has cut energy costs by close to 50%." When it came to finding a new packaging system to replace corrugated shippers any system ICA selected had to be capable of wrapping a wide range of product sizes. The products themselves presented unique problems because they're light and fragile. Stacks of thin EPS sheets needed to be held in place as they were wrapped but pressure throughout the process needed to be carefully regulated to avoid damage. Dean considered both shrink wrap systems and hand stretch wrapping. But the first was too expensive and the second unable to easily handle the largest sized products. After considering all alternatives Dean selected a Ciratec orbital wrap system for ICA. The Ciratec system chosen by Dean solves all the problems he anticipated. ICA runs it at about one wrap per minute though its rated speed is twice that. It also accommodates bundles of random sizes without requiring an operator to make new settings. "We liked the rugged design of the system and the smoothness and speed of the gearing" says Dent. "Since the Ciratec installation was completed we've had zero downtime with the system." Tank-like gearing The gearing used on the Ciratec system resembles that used on the gun turret of an armored tank so ruggedness and long life are naturally key characteristics of the machine. The ICA model is supplied with a conveyor that takes the stacks of EPS sheets through the wrapping area. When a stack is ready to be wrapped an operator places it on a flat table in front of the Ciratec conveyor. He squares up the stack and then gives it a little shove so that the infeed of the belt conveyor picks it up and takes it through the wrapping ring. Once the stack is in the ring the conveyor stops and the film carriage makes two revolutions around the leading edge of the stack. The conveyor then resumes and as the stack moves through the film carriage revolves around it wrapping it in film. ICA uses a 70-ga linear low-density polyethylene film from Deerfield Plastics (South Deerfield MA). The machine senses when the stack is nearly through at which point the conveyor halts again and the film carriage makes two revolutions around the trailing edge just as it did for the leading edge. Finally a cut/clamp tool cuts the film and holds it for the next stack. Leading and trailing faces of the stacks are not wrapped. "They don't really need to be" says Dent. "We ship the product ourselves and it's only loaded once and taken off once so protecting them with wrap would be overkill." The machine can handle anything that will fit through its 5' dia opening. ICA takes advantage of this versatility to securely wrap a range of products including 4' x 8' sheets stacked 30" high and 12-packs of "panel packs" that are 28" wide and 20" high. "Though corrugated prices have backed off" Dean says "we continue to save money with the Ciratec system. But most important the system helps ensure the quality product we produce reaches the customer in the best possible condition." Customers are pleased too. "In addition to the improved product protection most of our customers also appreciate the reduction of waste packaging material created by orbital wrapping compared to corrugated boxes" Dean says. "The Ciratec system has been an ideal solution for us."