Improving Production and Efficiency with Ultrasonic Sealing
By: Joan Mantini
Triangle Package Machinery Company (Triangle) is a third-generation, Chicago-based manufacturer of vertical form fill seal (vffs) baggers, combination weighers, tray loaders and horizontal cartoning/bag in box systems. In business for 95 years, the company has built its reputation in building durable, rugged solutions that not only stand the test of time but are continuously evolving with new technologies to help make its customers more efficient and more productive. This is done by offering state of the art sanitation, quick and easy changeover features and constantly improving technology such as Ultrasonic sealing.
With most of Triangle’s customers being in the food industry, sanitation is a critical concern. The company’s baggers are designed for easy cleaning and maintenance and can even meet 3A and USDA sanitation standards. Its clean, accessible machine designs not only offer peace of mind, they also save customers hours of cleaning time.
Kim Magon-Haller, marketing manager at Triangle, recently took some time to answer a few questions on how the company has evolved over time with new technologies and how Ultrasonic sealing is proving beneficial to customers. What follows are her responses.
What technology do you offer to help your customers improve production?
Magon-Haller: We are always looking for ways to help customers improve production. For example, we offer various quick changeover features that allow packagers to run multiple bag styles or film structures quickly and easily. Our bagging machines also offer several different sealing options for both laminated and poly film structures. With traditional heat sealing, we’ve improved our sealing jaws so that they can be easily interchanged in less than two minutes, to accommodate different bag sizes or film structures. For customers who run poly film, we are able to seal, cool and cut the film faster than any other option on the market, which translates to higher bagging speeds. This technology has helped customers in the rice industry, for instance, run 1-lb bags at 100 bags per minute when previously they could not surpass 85 bags per minute.
Another technology we offer to help our customers improve production and efficiency is Ultrasonic sealing. Also known as Ultrasonic welding, this cold sealing technology uses sound waves rather than heat to seal a bag, creating a seal from the inside out as opposed to heat seal systems, which create a seal from the outside in. There’s less cycle time because you’re not waiting for heat to seal film from the outside to the inside. Perhaps more important, with Ultrasonic welding, product is pushed completely out of the seal area, resulting in 100 percent seal integrity and other benefits, such as reduced rejects, improved production and OEE, and labor, material and energy savings.
How have your various sealing solutions evolved over time and what innovations have helped make it possible? What role did your customers feedback and suggestions play in its evolution?
Magon-Haller: After working closely with Herrmann Ultrasonics, Triangle became an early innovator of Ultrasonic welding in vffs machines and added the technology as an option on our X-Series vffs baggers in 2012. The technology is ideal for companies in the produce, confectionery and cheese industries, and some of our most successful installations have been in the produce industry, where we are now a market leader.
With traditional heat sealing, packaging bagged leafy greens, such as lettuce or spinach, is a very labor-intensive process. Workers must visually inspect bags for leaks. Bags that contain leaks or that have product in the seal (PIS) are rejected, which also means more time and labor is required to repackage the product. When a major produce company was looking to improve product quality and reduce rejects, Triangle suggested our Model XYM11U baggers equipped with Ultrasonic technology. With its ability to seal right through certain products, such as lettuce or spinach, package rejects due to poor seals were virtually eliminated. This meant considerable savings in labor and time, as bags with poor seals or product in the seal no longer needed to be taken out of production and reworked. In fact, the amount of rework required on their lines is now less than 1 percent. In addition, the company saw significant savings in film, not only as a result of less rejected bags and scrap but because Ultrasonic welding provides a much narrower seal and requires less headspace than traditional heat seals. (On average, traditional heat seals measure 3/8″, while Ultrasonic seals can be as narrow as 2 mm – a potential savings of 50-80 percent in the sealing area alone.)
This achievement led to similar installations at another produce company, which experienced similar success. By eliminating the need to visually inspect bags for leakers and rework any rejects, the company was able to save even more by automating the case packing phase with robotic case loading.
Feedback from our customers and other partners is always helpful, whether we’re designing cleaner machines, new technology to speed up changeover time, or ways to improve our customers’ success with Ultrasonic sealing. In one case, one of our produce customers asked if there was a way to reduce the top skirt (the area just above the seal) on their bagged salads for aesthetic reasons. Our engineers were able to tackle this challenge and reduce the top skirt to 1 mm or less.
We’ve also worked closely with Aurizon Ultrasonics to add a rotary Ultrasonic back seal, so customers have the option of a completely Ultrasonically sealed package. This is especially beneficial to companies in such industries as cheese, confectionery or liquids.
How has Ultrasonic sealing improved product quality?
Magon-Haller: Because Ultrasonics offers 100 percent seal integrity, the packages are airtight, and the product is better able to retain freshness. Virtually all of our customers who purchased an Ultrasonic bagger have seen improvements in product quality and a significant drop in customer complaints. One customer, a spice manufacturer, had such positive results they purchased a second system a year later to keep up with increase in production!
Another customer in the beef jerky industry turned to Ultrasonics when they were having an issue of particulates getting caught in the seal area, thus causing leakers and rejects. More workers were needed to inspect the bags, which slowed down production speed. The new system, a Model XYS08 vffs bagger with Ultrasonic sealing, was able to seal through fines of beef jerky and eliminate leakers. The fact that the ultrasonic seal is hermetic significantly improved product freshness. Added benefits including doubling production and reducing the amount of packaging material needed, as the seal surface went from 1.25” to less than 0.25”. Bagging speeds went from 35-40 bags per minute to 75 bags per minute.
What types of packages or markets can benefit most from your sealing solutions?
Magon-Haller: In many cases, the film a company uses also plays a big role in the success of Ultrasonics. Laminated film structures work much better than poly film, although we are continuing to test various film structures and make adjustments where possible. We’ve also done a lot of testing in the shrimp market, where Ultrasonics can seal right through brine.
Ultrasonic sealing offers benefits for certain industries, but it’s not the best option for all. In our experience, companies that have seen the most success are those in the produce industry – particularly leafy greens, as well as liquids such as soups and baking mixes. Because it doesn’t use heat, it’s also a viable option for companies in the cheese and confectionery markets.
If you’re looking for ways to improve production and OEE on your bagging line, we invite you to visit our website at www.trianglepackage.com to learn how we can help you meet your goals.