Sponsored By

June 1, 2003

3 Min Read
Form/Fill/Seal Machine  Targets Bottle Blow Molding

Form-fill-seal thermoforming machine manufacturer ERCA-Formseal, Courtaboeuf, France, part of the IWKA Group, has developed a machine for bottle processing, filling, and sealing at rates of up to 10,000 bottles/h. While a prototype of the machine was displayed at the Anuga food manufacturing technology exhibition in Cologne, Germany, in April, Vincent Altazin, areas sales manager, says the first EFB 200 machine should be available for sale by the end of summer.

Potential applications are packaging for fruit juices, yogurt drinks, milk, water, and other non-carbonated beverages, as well as cold creams and other beauty aids. At the Anuga fair, milk bottles of a polystyrene/high-density polyethylene blend were displayed. However, Altazin says ERCA-Formseal has run trials using BP Chemical’s acrylonitrile-based Barex material and with ps. He says processing of a multilayer bottle of white ps/black ps/white ps, with the middle layer offering uv barrier — an important criterion for dairy packaging — is an option.

Bottle thermoforming, while not new, has not gained broad success. At the Web site of well-known thermoforming consultant James Throne (www.foamandform.com), he notes that bottles were thermoformed in the 1930s, and that a number of projects had been pursued more recently without commercial success.

ERCA-Formseal officials say that integration of their filling and sealing expertise will make the machine viable. More importantly, they say, is the machine does not generate scrap.

Standard thermoforming machinery form and cut packaging from heated sheet, and much of the web is scrap that must be granulated for recycling. In contrast, the EFB 200 processes plastic chips of 4 cm dia and about 0.5 cm thick. According to Altazin, the chips are sourced from film extruders, which punch out the chips from extruded sheet (this step generates some scrap), and from injection machines. The chips are melted and formed within each cavity of the thermoforming tool.

During processing, Leroy says heating of the chips provides the necessary sterilization for dairy and other sensitive beverages. The firm does not plan to build machines for outputs over 10,000 bph, but expects that for higher production levels, customers will use multiple machines feeding into a packaging and palletizing line. ERCA-Formseal parent firm IWKA can supply downstream equipment, says Altazin, so controls can be easily synchronized for production and packaging. In-mold labeling is an option.

The thermoformed bottles have less structural stability than blow molded bottles, Altazin admits. However, he points out that material savings of about 50% are realized with the process. Dominique Leroy, sales director, adds that the bottles, even with much thinner walls than blow molded bottles, are stable in shipping because they leave the machine filled, sealed, and labeled.

Bottles are generally shorter and have a greater waist diameter than blow molded single-serve bottles. Sizes range from 150 mL to 1 L. Altazin says different types of sealing material, including aluminum, coated paper, and plastics, can be used, and that snap-on caps can be added in the machine.

Officials did not reveal pricing, but Leroy says that processors, when calculating system costs, should focus on material savings and note that the machine replaces a blow molding machine, buffer storage, a filler, a machine to apply stickers, and other equipment required for blow molding and filling.

Stretch blow molding machine manufacturers have had success marketing combination blowing, filling, and sealing machinery (Mar mp, 35; mpi, 28), but thermoforming still would yield a large advantage in material savings.

[email protected]

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like