Automated packaging lines need carton sealers (also known as case sealers) to complete the process of prepping a product for shipping to a customer. Choosing the right carton sealer to use in an packaging automation operation might seem like a pretty straightforward process, but like most things at Invata, we look beyond the obvious objective of sealing a carton.
When thinking about the purchase of a carton sealer, the best place to start is at the very end of the packaging automation process, with the customer who receives the carton. This raises a couple of questions: What kind of opening experience do you want your customer to have? And how do you want your product to be presented upon opening?
A regular slotted carton offers a different opening experience than say a clamshell and, of course, requires a different sealing method, which will affect your choice of case sealer.
It’s also important, while considering the customer experience, to determine if the parcel must be totally sealed or just closed.
Glue is a very cost effective means of holding carton flaps in place, but it leaves a slight gap between the primary flaps. This would be unacceptable if you were shipping white linens to someone as dust could infiltrate the carton, seriously degrading the opening experience. In that case, tape would be a much better solution, albeit at a slightly higher per unit cost.
When you determine the style of carton and closure media to be used, you can focus on whether a semi-automatic carton sealer will be sufficient, or if an automatic case sealer is best for your operation.
A semi-automatic case sealer requires an operator to escort the carton through the machine while holding the secondary flaps in place. An automatic carton sealer machine seals without the need for worker intervention. In most automated packaging lines, an automatic case sealer is the best choice, unless a semi-automatic carton sealer can be integrated with a void fill operation where worker intervention would be required anyway.
Another important factor to consider is the range of carton sizes to be run, as well as the need for running those sizes at the same time. Not only does this impact the size of the machine you’ll need, but it can determine the type of machine as well:
- A fixed carton sealer (also known as an adjustable case sealer) is set up for sealing one size of carton at a time. It can be adjusted at any time to begin sealing another size carton, but this process can take a minute or two between carton runs. It also requires batching orders by case size.
- A random carton sealer adjusts itself on a carton-by-carton basis without the need for operator intervention.
Normally, a fixed case sealer is much faster and costs less than a random carton sealer, but the random carton sealer can be cost effective where mixed cartons are being run and it replaces multiple fixed machines. If you need to intermingle varying carton sizes at the same time, you’ll need a random case sealer rather than a fixed case sealer.
So far you’ve determined the style, size, and sealing method of your carton sealer as well as the type and functionality you’ll need, but you’re still not quite done yet. The key question that remains is the level to which you want your carton sealer to be integrated into your automated packaging line.
Selecting a carton sealer with an appropriate interface enables it to function via a programmable controller. This is critical to making the case sealer an integral part of a automated packaging line. To operate properly, a case sealer has to communicate with the system as a whole, signaling when it is ready to accept the next carton, and waiting to discharge a carton until it knows the downstream conveyor has space available. With the proper interfaces, it will also enable you to know things like supplies status and operating condition.
Without these capabilities, it may seal your cartons, but it will ultimately be just another disparate piece of equipment.
If you would like some help with any or all of these decisions, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help.