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Candy maker sweetens shrink-wrapping efficiencies

New system integrates seamlessly, increases productivity, and reduces film costs.

Melster Candies, Cambridge, WI, specializes in the production and packaging of seasonal (Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.) chocolate-covered marshmallow candies for distribution to retail markets nationwide and in Canada.

Some candy pieces are individually wrapped in metallized polypropylene supplied by Printpack Inc. and cold-sealed using two Doboy horizontal wrappers from Bosch prior to cartoning. Some other candies, such as marshmallow eggs, are deposited directly into cartons without individual wrappers. But all the candies are cartoned in 18-pt SBS board material, which has been flexo-printed in six colors and supplied by Sheboygan Paper Box Co. The folding carton blanks are automatically erected by equipment from Kliklok, loaded, closed, and then coded using equipment from Videojet Technologies, Inc. The cartons then proceed to the shrink-wrap station.

One of the candy maker’s existing carton shrink-wrapping machines was aging. The company was encountering difficulties in obtaining replacement/repair parts for the equipment, and the wrapper was not keeping up with increased production demands. Melster also was operating a newer shrink-wrap system, a Servo Flex reciprocating-head horizontal form/fill/lap-seal wrapper from Conflex.

The candy maker had a good relationship with Cryovac/Sealed Air, which had been supplying shrink films through their distributor Packaging Specialties. In the past, Packaging Specialties had installed Melster’s existing Conflex Servo Flex packaging machine.

Conflex proposed to add another servo motor-driven Servo Flex hf/f/s unit that would be capable of accommodating Melster’s rising production requirements. The new shrink-wrap system incorporates an automated indexing infeed for the fully closed cartons and a Conflex Intellitouch PC-based control platform that allows Melster to easily and seamlessly integrate their existing custom equipment controls with the added packaging recipe formats.

The Intellitouch controls platform has a 12-in color touchscreen that will play training videos with Windows Media Player and allows the training manual and other training documents to be viewed in PDF format on the screen.

The three-axis servo wrapper incorporates an easy-load film cradle; fast-changeover with hand-wheel adjustable controls; simple operator interface; heavy-duty steel construction for long-term durability; and precision lap sealing at speeds up to 100 ft of film per minute. The reciprocating hot knife seal system also is servo-controlled. In the shrink tunnel portion of the process, digital sealing temperature controls monitor and avert heat-induced harm to the candy products.

Twice as nice

The new Servo Flex was installed at Melster Candies in December 2009. Melster’s vice president of operations Leo Halpin says that the decision to install a second Servo Flex was a no-brainer. “The first one worked so well that there was no reason to look at anything else. Conflex worked with us on the installation and operator training. Everything went fine, and the Intellitouch PC-based control is really user-friendly,” Halpin reports.

The shrink wrapper runs up to 100 ft of 60-ga shrink film/min—about one carton per second—and is meeting Melster’s increased production requirements.

Melster also is pleased that the new lap-seal wrapper requires about 4% less shrink film and generates less scrap than the system it replaced. Halpin notes, “We have a film usage deal with Packaging Specialties, and they provide the wrapping system under lease until, at some point, the machine becomes our property.”

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