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Mifa AG is Switzerland's largest producer of washing agents and detergents and part of the country's retail group Migros. At the Frenkendorf site, the company produces 224 tonnes of home-care products on 16 production systems and 14 filling lines. Also part of the production portfolio are coarse detergents, mild detergents, automatic and hand dish-washing detergents and other cleaning agents and fabric softeners. For the primary packaging of its dishwasher tabs in flow packs, the Swiss manufacturer once again turns with confidence to the technology of Theegarten-Pactec. The company has supplied Mifa with its second FPC5 packaging machine. And the special feature is that the FPC5 combines both hot and cold seal technology with hot-wire welding in a single machine.
Annual sales of Mifa AG dishwasher tabs are around 83 million, which corresponds to 1,412 tonnes per year. Among the brands under which they are known on the market are Handy Matic, M-Budget and M-Classic. To pack the 'raw' tabs in flow pack foil for the end consumer, the company has already been using a Theegarten-Pactec FPC5 tab packaging machine since 2014. Because of its positive experience with the system and the aftersales service, Mifa once again opted for the machinery of the Dresden-based packaging machine producer.
Dishwasher tabs made by compressing powder are extremely sensitive and so require especially careful handling during the manufacturing and packaging stages. The requirements that Mifa presented to Theegarten-Pactec were clearly defined. The packaging machine should be able to process tabs in water-soluble and non-water-soluble foil at high throughput rates. Because the machine packs a wide variety of products in different kinds of foil, the system needed to switch rapidly and reliably between sealing and hot-wire welding.
High performance solution
Theegarten-Pactec integrated its FPC5 packaging machine completely into the existing production system. For this, the company made certain that the interfaces between the feed and processing systems are ideally suited to each other in order to guarantee an efficient production and packaging process. A particular feature of this was integration of the FPC5 into the customer's own extraction system, which prevents tab dust from penetrating into the production environment. As a result, machine operatives never need to physically touch unpackaged products. At the same time, air-borne contamination is kept to an absolute minimum.
The system packs the current classic rectangular tabs as well as round tabs in flow packs made of water-soluble and non-water-soluble foil. It is true that end consumers benefit from using water-soluble foils because they do not need to touch the aggressive tab material. However, that generally makes them all the more difficult to handle in the processing stage. The foils are very thin and tear easily and so, as a rule, they can only be processed with difficulty at high throughput rates. And yet Theegarten-Pactec guarantees a maximum throughput rate of 1,500 cycles per minute with its FPC5 machine - and this is true for both cold sealing non water-soluble foils and hot-wire welding with water-soluble foils. When hot sealing, the packaging machine at Mifa currently runs at 800 cycles per minute. Essentially, with this machine, up to 1,500 cycles per minute are possible. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is around 97%.
Controlled maximum performance
The FPC5 is directly coupled to the delivery point of the press. The accumulating conveyor belt deposits the products individually on to a belt running into the packaging machine. To maintain a continuous feed, the FPC5 is equipped with sensors which detect and automatically regulate the product flow - if product accumulation grows, the packaging machine's delivery rate grows as well. If product accumulation diminishes, the delivery rate is cut back in response. Faulty products are removed before the packaging process.
For packaging in flow packs, products are fed into the system in such a way that a tube composed of packaging material is formed around each tab. This type of product feed creates the longitudinal seam or weld. Next, the transverse seam is formed and at the same time the packaging is separated from the rest - either by the sealing process or hot-wire welding. Finally, the packaged tabs are conveyed to a counting unit from where they go to be packed as multipacks into cardboard boxes.
In cold sealing, the flow packs packaging is sealed by means of pressure on a coat of adhesive whereas in hot sealing the same effect is produced with heat. For water-soluble foils, hot-wire welding is used. In this way, the two ends of the packaging material are sealed by a narrow dividing seam without production of the otherwise typical seal 'fins' projecting from the sides. Next, the packaged products are processed in a shrink tunnel, which compresses the foil very tightly on to the products.
Because neither of the two transverse seal 'fins' is created, this process is very sparing in the use of packaging material and also secondary packaging needs less space. Furthermore, the Theegarten-Pactec machine guarantees that all foils are spliced exactly like the printed image, which at the same time ensures a low waste rate when packaging materials are switched.
Easy switch between sealing methods
Switching between sealing types is easy and quick – all that is need is to replace the whole transverse seal unit as an assembly. This takes only 20 minutes. The transverse sealing mechanism is available as a complete assembly, including integrated servo motor. When making the switch, only a few screws need to be removed in order to remove the transverse sealing station and replace it with a different unit. Electronic cables are fitted with plugs for plug-and-play connection. The individual parameters of the different transverse sealing stations - and of the servo motors - are stored in the recipe management system and are easily retrieved by using the intuitive operating panel with touch screen. By way of support for the rapid conversion process, Theegarten-Pactec also provides their customers with a tooling trolley as a safe and secure place to put the transverse seal units.
The whole packaging system has easy access for servicing and cleaning work. Product residues are collected in pivot-mounted collection flaps under the feed belts. These are emptied by vacuum extraction while the machinery is fully operational. The components of the FPC5 coming into contact with the product are made completely of corrosion-resistant materials, which effectively protects the machinery against the aggressive cleaning materials in the tabs. If necessary, the FPC5 can also be combined with other, different units. Complete retooling at a later date is also possible.
"The quality and performance of the packaging machine and its integrated parts have impressed us just as much as the machinery's simple, intuitive operation," states Julien Streun, assembly manager at Mifa. "In Theegarten-Pactec, we have a skilled and capable partner who have already provided us in the past with reliable service. The company's very committed staff have always addressed our needs as customers. Especially when looked at from a 'total cost of ownership' standpoint, we know that we can be sure of Theegarten-Pactec's reliable spare parts management system."
Experienced partner for dishwasher tabs – once around the globe
For over 20 years, Theegarten-Pactec has been operating in the cleaning agent sector with packaging machinery for products consisting of compressed powders such as washing machine and dishwasher tabs. Over 40 machines are already in use by customers throughout Europe, with the majority in France, the Netherlands and Germany. "Major own label brands and small and medium-sized companies in this branch have been placing their trust in us for years," says Markus Rustler, CEO of Theegarten-Pactec.
"Here's a simple calculation illustrating our many years of experience in this sector. Taking a product with an average length of 36 mm and our machine with its average throughput rate of 1,300 products per minute, and assuming 40 machines working for three weeks, this produces a chain of packaged products with a total length 40,435 kilometres. The packaged tabs laid end to end would reach all around the globe at the equator," claims Markus Rustler. "Our many years of producer-customer relationships with companies such as Mifa, which again and again opts for our technologies, confirm that we have got it right with our high quality machine standards and service. We shall be happy to see the chain of products packed with our machines getting longer and longer."
Reliability as system provider
Theegarten-Pactec is an innovative partner for its customers, providing holistic process solutions drawn from many years of experience and collaboration with acknowledged market leaders. The company bundles the skills of selected specialists in the various fields of process technology and secondary packaging. Customers benefit from a total single-source solution which integrates all the processes of a product line.
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