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Pat's Picks Podcast: Sachets, CMMS, and a Paper Blister Pack

Editor Emeritus Pat Reynolds reports from Day One at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, where a print/form/fill/seal machine for liquid-filled sachets, a cloud-based Computerized Maintenance Management System, and a unique all-paper blister pack caught his eye.

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Hello. This is Pat Reynolds of Packaging World Magazine, with a look at a few things that caught my eye here on day one at PACK EXPO Las Vegas.

How about a print, form, fill, seal machine for sachets containing liquid products. That's what was on display at the booth of a company called V-Shapes, which was making its first appearance as a PACK EXPO exhibitor. You can find them at booth C-4703. An innovative supplier of convenient, hygienic and sustainable single-dose packaging equipment, V-Shapes took advantage of PACK EXPO to introduce its unique AlphaFlex print, form, fill, and seal solution. This compact professional grade dosing and delivery system features high quality synchronized digital printing on both sides of the sachets.

Notable is that AlphaFlex, which becomes commercially available later this year, is powered by Memjet's Duraflex digital printing technology, as well as ColorGATE packaging production server, which is a modular solution for managing color and data throughout the entire package production chain. The V-Shapes AlphaFlex dosing and delivery technology makes it possible for vertical integration of high volume production of the patented V-Shapes single-dose sachets. This vertical integration eliminates the need to outsource printing and gives complete manufacturing control back to the brand owners and co-packers.

V-Shapes says that this new filling and converting machine was made possible through a variety of important partnerships, including Memjet and Siemens, as well as the talented V-Shapes engineering team. It was no small challenge to develop synchronized feeds and professional quality printing of the patented single-dose sachets. The AlphaFlex features integrated inline printing into the V-Shapes six-lane Alpha machine, enabling packaging converters and fillers to accomplish the complete manufacturing process of V-Shapes unique single-dose sachets under one roof with a compact footprint and full color branding capabilities in line, on demand, and with the industry's highest quality. In the AlphaFlex configuration, the printing module prints a single side of the single-dose sachets in line, synchronized with each other and precisely married for die cutting, filling and sealing.

Another exhibitor making its first appearance at a PACK EXPO is Lumen, an established developer of software known as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems, or CMMS. Lumen introduced a new software called Lumen for OEMs. Now previously, offerings from Lumen, like its Lumen CMMS suite, were aimed more at consumer packaged goods companies and other manufacturers. Such cloud-based software interfaced with a machine's control system through OPC, MQTT, or Modbus captures machine usage data, for example, to create periodic preventive maintenance schedules. And these schedules are then automatically generated work orders in a streamlined process. According to Lumen CEO, Ed Garibian, Lumen for OEMs is built on the same core architecture. The firm used its years of experience in maintenance and predictive remediation to build a product for packaging machinery OEMs so they can monitor in a super effective way, the machinery operating in their customer's plants.

They can also set rules for automatic spare parts replenishment or automatic service calls, and they can do a better job of analyzing how their machine is performing throughout their customer ecosystem. Garibian adds that this new platform is a good fit for any packaging machinery OEMs who want to bring a machine-as-a-service, or MaaS, option to their offerings. This use-based finance model, similar to SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is a flexible way to install automation on the factory floor without having to invest capital upfront. Instead, the machine user pays for a successful outcome based on a predetermined agreement around productivity. Among the early adopters of Lumen for OEMs is , Sleeve Seal, a maker of equipment that applies shrink sleeve labels. At PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Sleeve Seal is demonstrating Lumen for OEMs at its booth C-5433. As for Lumen's booth, that would be number 6011.

A highlight of the Starview PACK EXPO booth C-3436, was the all-paper blister packaging machine, an initiative that has been developed jointly by Starview and paperboard converter Rohrer. According to Sarah Carson, Head of Marketing at Rohrer, the conversations between Rohrer and Starview have been going on for quite a while. But in the past year or two, the pressure on consumer packaged goods companies to deliver on ambitious sustainable packaging goals by 2025 was increasing considerably, to the point that customer demand started to really ramp up. That included one significant customer who was so serious about the idea that it provided a powerful business reason to invest in the R&D that it was going to take.

Fortunately, Rohrer had already established a great partnership with Starview on the machinery side. In fact, Starview Director of Sales and Marketing, Robert van Gilse, tells me that the two firms had intended to actually launch this concept last year at PACK EXPO in Chicago. Now as we all know, COVID-19 put the kibosh on that plan, but then when customer interest in the concept grew the way that it did, says van Gilse, they knew it was time to get really serious.

On the machinery side, a key goal throughout the development process was to come up with tooling that would make it possible for existing customers already running automated Starview blister machines to get in on the all-paper blister option by simply adding an auxiliary feeder to any one of Starview's fully automated blister series of machines. With this tooling in place, a flat paper blister is picked from a magazine feed, and thanks to precision scoring done by Rohrer, is erected and made ready to receive whatever product the customer happens to be packaging. Then it's just a matter of applying the blister card and heat sealing card to the blister.

As for the paper board components that come from Rohrer, at the PACK EXPO booth demo, the blister was a 20 point SBS and the blister card was 14 point SBS. The Virgin board is FSC-certified, notes Carson. She also said that Rohrer, a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, worked with that organization to make it possible for customers to easily get permission to use SPC's How2Recycle logo on their blister packages.

Printing, meanwhile, is done on an offset press and if customers so choose, a window can be die cut into the blister card to provide product visibility. Keep in mind of course, that the customers using this all-paper blister are producers of products like kitchen gadgets, or toothbrushes, or pens, as opposed to pharmaceutical or healthcare products where such a window would, of course, be out of the question. When asked what the all-paper blister will cost compared to comparable alternatives, both Carson and van Gilse said there are so many supply chain variables percolating right now that it would be difficult to say.

And that's all for day one at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, I'll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on day two.

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Explore innovative packaging and supply chain solutions for the life sciences at the largest PACK EXPO East in history, March 18–20. Get ideas from 400+ top exhibitors and connect with colleagues and industry experts—all in one convenient location!
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