Jodie Commercial, product marketing manager - Components at Omron, explains the importance of accurate temperature control in sealing applications on Form, Fill and Seal machines
Whether it is the product manufacturer, machine builder or automation supplier, they are all working towards one goal: finding the best way to move vulnerable goods from producer to consumer. Ultimately as consumers, we all want to receive product in perfect condition, so the focus during the packaging process must be on how to guarantee product integrity through packaging quality.
Temperature control plays a vital role in sealing applications as it influences the productivity of the process and ultimately the quality of the end product. Manufacturers need to protect their brand at all costs, and if the seal integrity is at fault, damage to the brand can be catastrophic.
With key drivers including consumer demand and cost reduction, the need for greater output is obvious. Form, Fill and Seal (FFS) machines are often used to pack large quantities of goods including food items such as nuts, savoury snacks, chocolate bars and confectionery, at high speed. Output growth can be achieved not only from the introduction of faster machines, but also by producing packs with accurate and repeatable seals from the very first pack off the line.
In sealing applications, it’s imperative that temperature control is as accurate as possible. Substantial variation can cause bad seals – too cold and the seal won’t be made correctly, which means that goods could fall out of the pack and perishable items could spoil, too hot and the seal could become a weld which would affect pack presentation due to burn or scorch marks, or it could melt, causing holes in the packaging.
To create the best quality seal, FFS machine builders should be looking to use a temperature controller with the highest precision performance, such as Omron’s E5CC standalone system. When sourcing a stand-alone temperature controller, one of the primary considerations is ease of use, so that operators, engineers and maintenance staff can easily manage the product during its production cycle.
Easy set-up, either using the dedicated menu structure, or CX-Thermo software for configuration from a PC, plus the system’s large bright display which shows process value, set point, output and alarm status, virtually eliminates the possibility of human error. The controller has a 50ms sampling rate for fast and precise regulation, plus it provides the control required when handling disturbance-sensitive applications commonly caused by complex product, packaging or environment traits. For machine builders looking to restrict their equipment footprint, the compact E5CC (only 48x48mm) requires a maximum panel depth of 60mm, so can be used in cramped conditions. Its IP66 certified front cover protection can withstand humid environments, so it is suited to the food industry. To configure the temperature controller during production, the menu structure groups together machine elements to minimise the number of finger presses required to complete the tasks.
Another consideration is control quality, ensuring that the temperature controller is able to accurately reach the pre-determined application set point and then maintain that temperature during the course of the production run. Should there be any disturbance in the process, it’s imperative that the controller can return to the set point quickly and maintain it. During the FFS process, which is a fast-disturbance application, the packaging film absorbs heat from the equipment’s sealing jaws causing it to drop in temperature; therefore before the next seal can be started the sealing jaws need to be at the right temperature again. The E5CC technology includes a patented 2-PID algorithm to aid fast recovery when temperature reduces after each seal. In addition, the auto-tuning (AT) functions make system set-up both quick and easy. Ultimately, improved temperature control enables manufacturers to create a robust production process guaranteeing product quality for retailers.
As well as stand-alone single-loop temperature controllers, Omron also offer single and multi-loop in-panel controllers and PLCs with temperature option cards, suited to packaging processes that require greater functionality. These products enable you to scale-up your temperature application achieving more packs at higher speeds. Omron’s range of temperature controllers instils confidence in the sealing process, delivering accurate seals consistently to safeguard the end product and protect brand integrity.
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