Capping Machine Processes in Changing Times

Capping Machine Processes in Changing Times

It can be argued that we are in the midst of a period of change for the packaging industry.  Packaging itself has gotten more recognition in the recent past as a legitimate and important industry, as evidenced by new packaging degrees and programs at a number of institutions of higher education.  In addition, we are seemingly at a turning point for the package of choice, as the plastic bottle battles to retain its spot as the overwhelming container of choice.  As consumer preference changes and the focus on sustainable packaging and recycling continue to grow, the plastic bottle is giving way to new and innovative packaging options, such as the - albeit still plastic - pouch.  Packages changes from rigid containers to more flexible options also requires the packaging machinery used to process products to change to meet current needs.  The question is how much change is necessary to keep processes efficient while switching over to more sustainable methods and materials.  

In focusing on capping machines, a surprising low number of capper types handles a wide range of caps for plastic bottles.  Both spindle capping machines and chuck cappers are used for screw on caps.  However, within the screw on cap category, there are a large number of different cap types.  Screw on caps can include the simple flat caps that can be found on most bottled beverages and sports caps found on a number of sports drinks.  Some flip top caps, often seen on shampoos or shower gels, are also screw on caps.  Even trigger sprayers found on window cleaners and other household items are screwed on to the bottles.  Spindle cappers and chuck capping machines can tighten all of these different screw-type caps.  Other capping machines include snap cappers for lids and closures that are simply pushed or "snapped" into place and ROPP cappers for wine bottles and other items.  Specialty capping machines can also be manufactured for unique closing and sealing projects.  So how does this change when the package itself moves from a bottle to a pouch?

As far as the cap itself goes, not all that much.  The majority of caps used on pouches will probably remain screw type caps, snap caps or some type of plug.  So the principle behind the capping machines will remain mostly unchanged.  There are, however, other considerations to take into account.  For example, the rigid plastic bottle is fairly simple to move down a power conveyor and stabilize during the capping process.  The power conveyors use guide rails to stabilize bottles while the capping machine will employ gripper belts and stabilizer bars to hold the bottle and cap in place throughout the process.  Stabilizing pouches may take a little more effort, or at least new methods of conveying and stabilizing for capping on inline packaging systems.  The increasing popularity of pouches may also start a trend toward form, fill and seal machines or monoblock type filling and capping systems.    

Pouches can also be generally categorized as single use pouches or those that can be resealed and used on multiple occasions.  Multiple use pouches will often include a fitment in the pouch itself to allow for resealing the container.  The fitment may be a part of the pouch as it is manufactured, allowing pouches to be conveyed using a conveyor that grabs the fitment and transports the pouches via this fitment, one solution for the stabilizing issue that may be seen with flexible packaging.  However, some packagers may also purchase the package, the fitment and the cap separately, creating another task for the packaging line - namely, placing the fitment in addition to tightening the cap.

However, as noted above, the cap tightening itself remains mostly the same at this time.  Pouch caps may screw on to the pouch fitment.  The cap may simply snap into the fitment opening.  The spindle capper, chuck capper or snap capper may still be the guiding principle behind the actual efficient, reliable and consistent closing of the package.  This is not to say that new, innovative capping machinery is not on the horizon.  Though pouches are not new to the packaging world, their recent increase in popularity is likely to lead to more R&D and increased scrutiny of the packaging process, and the push for sustainability has already reached the packaging process as well as the package and product itself.