More Editor’s Picks from PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Day Two

Watch Packaging World’s Emeritus Editor Pat Reynolds and Content Director Jim Chrzan as they rattle off a handful of interesting, innovative, or trending findings from the floor of PACK EXPO Las Vegas last month.


Quick hits:

  • Automation is creeping into all levels of production, and not just the highest speed, lights out operations. Entry level and semi-automatic machines are making inroads too, exhibiting faster than pervious speeds with their usual small footprint.
  • Films’ march toward mono-material continues, with Zacros & P&G launching what they call the first ever mono-material, refillable pouch in a commercialized project. The system won a Dow Award last year, and will be rolling out in Japan this year.
  • Modularity continues to be a strong selling point for many OEMs, as format changes at CPGs may only require swap-outs of modular pieces of equipment, rather than entirely new lines (and the capital expenditure that requires). Many of these modular equipment pieces continue to have life long after they’re swapped out, as SKU proliferation indicates they might not be used on every production run, but they may continue to be on a few. Or, they can go into a CPG’s inventory and be swapped back when a format comes back into favor or fashion.
  • Trayless film packs of ground meat have been a hit in Europe. Will they stick in the U.S.? Suppliers like Omori and Harpak-Ulma think so. 

Related to this episode:    

Syntegon: How will the Future be Formed? Discover how Paper Trays will Replace Plastic. Visit their website for more information. →
Listen to the story here:

   Read the transcript below:

Matt Reynolds: Hi, I'm Matt Reynolds, Editor of Packaging World Magazine, back with another edition of Take Five. While we're only two weeks removed from what is to my knowledge, the largest trade show in North America, so far this year, and that's PACK EXPO Las Vegas. We're still sorting through all of our notes and coverage, video, articles and otherwise, but the best way to serve it up is in a snippet format. And nobody's better at that than Pat Reynolds. He is live at the show, again this is two weeks ago, but alive at day two, being interviewed by Jim Chrzan another colleague to go over what really caught his eye on day two of the show. So without further ado, here's Pat and Jim.

Jim Chrzan: Hi, this is Jim Chrzan and I'm the vice president of content for PMMI media group we're herd PACK EXPO Las Vegas, and another busy day two. And we're meeting with editor, Pat Reynolds, from Packaging World Magazine to see what were some of the highlights of today's show, Pat?

Pat Reynolds: Well, one of the cool things I saw was at a company called Butler that makes splicing systems. So picture a vertical form fill, seal machine where you have one roll that's petering out. You need to bring in a new one. Normally those are joined by way of tape, but sometimes that tape can cause problems of jamming problems at the forming collar. So what they've come up with is a way to eliminate the tape and just use a heat seal to join one web to another web. The real trick to it is finding a way to make sure that the sealant side and the other sealant side are touching each other. And it's pretty clever. It's hard to describe in words, but I was really impressed and it's going to bring a lot of efficiencies, I think to vertical form fill seal.

Jim Chrzan: So this is rather than take another spool, a roll of film and reset the machine. They've always been spliced together, but this is a more efficient, effective way to do that.

Pat Reynolds: Yeah. Removing the tape and removing the chance of jams.

Jim Chrzan: Jams and downtime.

Pat Reynolds: Very clever. Downtime was always bad. Yeah, right?

Jim Chrzan: A simple little change that could make a big difference to efficiency.

Pat Reynolds: Totally. And then there's a company called WJ Packaging that has a pouch filling system. Now there's pre-made pouch filling systems galore, but I've never seen one this compact. I mean, it was remarkably small and these are pre-made pouches and they put them on what they call a rail. And then you stick the rail into the machine. And the machine picks pouches individually from a rail, not super high speed, but like 25 a minute maybe. And then when that rail is empty, you put in another one and it starts on that one. You take out the empty rail and you put in another rail. So for footprint, it was remarkable in how small it was and yet still pretty decent speeds.

Jim Chrzan: Well I hear a lot on the show floor that everything's for big customers and high speeds. And if you're an emerging brand or let's say a cannabis company, you do not need 350 a minute, but you need some automation. So maybe that's the way some of this can be accomplished.

Pat Reynolds: You do actually, and you're right. Some of these companies do need high speeds. And if there's any company that's geared for that, it's Syntegon and they showed a liquid filling system, their LFS and the key to it is, it's very modular. And this modularity is a theme we've heard quite a bit in recent years. And certainly at this show, but in this particular machine, you never know what an end user is going to ask this machine to do. So this is a cup filler. So picture the end user is putting lids on these cups from a roll of foil. And then one day he decides, "You know what, I need to use pre-cut lids and put pre-cut lids on," they roll out the module, roll in a new one and they're ready to go. And the distributed electronic system from Bosch Rexroth is one of the things that allows this, because it sort of allows them to treat, it's almost like they're separate pieces of equipment, but they all behave as one piece of equipment, thanks to this distributed system.

Jim Chrzan: When you roll it into place, then the circuitry is hooked up in some form or fashion.

Pat Reynolds: And those modules, they might keep the module. You never know when the customer might, it's like he said to me, "It's like ties, ties always, styles of ties," they always come back. While these modules, you can keep them, and if that style of cup comes back, you roll it back in.

Jim Chrzan: And it's fascinating, rather than having a big graveyard filled with equipment, you don't use anymore, keep changing it and be more flexible in modular.

Pat Reynolds: It's true. It's true. And the other theme that's been seen here repeatedly, and I'm sure you've seen the same thing is that the sustainability thing is reaching a fever pitch.

Jim Chrzan: It is.

Pat Reynolds: And yesterday we talked about trayless meat and today I saw another example of that. So that's always a sign that is a trend that people are going to be looking for. And in this case, it was a company called Omori. And once again, it's a flowpack with a backflush and they don't need to have any trays. So there's a sustainability advantage and certainly a cost advantage. Again, will the American consumer adjust to that format? I think the answer is yes, but we shall see.

Jim Chrzan: If they truly are calling for more sustainable packaging solutions, they'll embrace it. But a lot of times as you know, the survey says they want to pay extra for sustainable goods, but their behavior doesn't necessarily mirror that.

Pat Reynolds: It's the say-do. They say, but will they do? We shall see. And then finally, one more thing I thought I mentioned is a company called ZACROS monomaterial. So this is another trend we've been seeing quite a bit at the show. And even before the show, and this is polyethylene, adhesive laminated to polyethylene. And then in the adhesive that joins the two layers, there are barrier properties. Now I had not heard that before, and maybe it's not that unusual, but I find it pretty interesting that the adhesive used in the lamination actually brings some barrier properties to these two polyethylene films, which normally don't have that much barrier to speak of.

Jim Chrzan: And does that make it easier for recyclability or do you still have to deal with the adhesive, or does that cook off or something?

Pat Reynolds: No, apparently not. Now of course there's probably limits to how much adhesive you can use, but with a PPE lamination, the last thing you want to do is put something in the middle that would prevent recycling. Apparently this does not. And the other thing about this that was real interesting is Procter & Gamble in Japan had just launched a pouch made of this amount of material and they are calling it Japan's first ever monomaterial, refill pouch. So I would expect to see that in America, before too terribly long.

Jim Chrzan: Very interesting. And Pat, we're looking forward to final day three. We'll see what you can figure out there and we'll talk to you again.

Pat Reynolds: It's been a great, great show and thanks, Jim.

Matt Reynolds: And there you have it straight from the horse's mouth, Pat Reynolds on day two at PACK EXPO.

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