US20180312282A1 - Horizontal form-fill-seal packaging system - Google Patents

Horizontal form-fill-seal packaging system Download PDF

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Publication number
US20180312282A1
US20180312282A1 US15/963,607 US201815963607A US2018312282A1 US 20180312282 A1 US20180312282 A1 US 20180312282A1 US 201815963607 A US201815963607 A US 201815963607A US 2018312282 A1 US2018312282 A1 US 2018312282A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
film
pocket
forming
machine
package
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Pending
Application number
US15/963,607
Inventor
Todd Peterson
Mark Taylor
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Rollstock Inc
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Rollstock Inc
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Priority to US201762491585P priority Critical
Application filed by Rollstock Inc filed Critical Rollstock Inc
Priority to US15/963,607 priority patent/US20180312282A1/en
Publication of US20180312282A1 publication Critical patent/US20180312282A1/en
Pending legal-status Critical Current

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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B9/00Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material, e.g. liquids or semiliquids, in flat, folded, or tubular webs of flexible sheet material; Subdividing filled flexible tubes to form packages
    • B65B9/02Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material between opposed webs
    • B65B9/04Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material between opposed webs one or both webs being formed with pockets for the reception of the articles, or of the quantities of material
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B31/00Packaging articles or materials under special atmospheric or gaseous conditions; Adding propellants to aerosol containers
    • B65B31/02Filling, closing, or filling and closing, containers or wrappers in chambers maintained under vacuum or superatmospheric pressure or containing a special atmosphere, e.g. of inert gas
    • B65B31/021Filling, closing, or filling and closing, containers or wrappers in chambers maintained under vacuum or superatmospheric pressure or containing a special atmosphere, e.g. of inert gas the containers or wrappers being interconnected
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B41/00Supplying or feeding container-forming sheets or wrapping material
    • B65B41/12Feeding webs from rolls
    • B65B41/16Feeding webs from rolls by rollers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B43/00Forming, feeding, opening or setting-up containers or receptacles in association with packaging
    • B65B43/08Forming three-dimensional containers from sheet material
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B47/00Apparatus or devices for forming pockets or receptacles in or from sheets, blanks, or webs, comprising essentially a die into which the material is pressed or a folding die through which the material is moved
    • B65B47/02Apparatus or devices for forming pockets or receptacles in or from sheets, blanks, or webs, comprising essentially a die into which the material is pressed or a folding die through which the material is moved with means for heating the material prior to forming
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B47/00Apparatus or devices for forming pockets or receptacles in or from sheets, blanks, or webs, comprising essentially a die into which the material is pressed or a folding die through which the material is moved
    • B65B47/08Apparatus or devices for forming pockets or receptacles in or from sheets, blanks, or webs, comprising essentially a die into which the material is pressed or a folding die through which the material is moved by application of fluid pressure
    • B65B47/10Apparatus or devices for forming pockets or receptacles in or from sheets, blanks, or webs, comprising essentially a die into which the material is pressed or a folding die through which the material is moved by application of fluid pressure by vacuum
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B51/00Devices for, or methods of, sealing or securing package folds or closures; Devices for gathering or twisting wrappers, or necks of bags
    • B65B51/10Applying or generating heat or pressure or combinations thereof
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B57/00Automatic control, checking, warning, or safety devices
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B61/00Auxiliary devices, not otherwise provided for, for operating on sheets, blanks, webs, binding material, containers or packages
    • B65B61/04Auxiliary devices, not otherwise provided for, for operating on sheets, blanks, webs, binding material, containers or packages for severing webs, or for separating joined packages
    • B65B61/06Auxiliary devices, not otherwise provided for, for operating on sheets, blanks, webs, binding material, containers or packages for severing webs, or for separating joined packages by cutting
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B9/00Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material, e.g. liquids or semiliquids, in flat, folded, or tubular webs of flexible sheet material; Subdividing filled flexible tubes to form packages
    • B65B9/02Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material between opposed webs
    • B65B9/04Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material between opposed webs one or both webs being formed with pockets for the reception of the articles, or of the quantities of material
    • B65B9/045Enclosing successive articles, or quantities of material between opposed webs one or both webs being formed with pockets for the reception of the articles, or of the quantities of material for single articles, e.g. tablets

Abstract

A machine including a first film dispenser which dispenses a first film, a second film dispenser which dispenses a second film, a first form system configured to form a first shape in the first film, a second form system configured to form a second shape in the second film, and a seal system configured to join the first film to the second film after the first shape is formed in the first film and the second shape is formed in the second film, wherein the first form system includes a bucket configured to hold a forming plate and a form head configured to form a cavity between the form head and the bucket that receives the first film.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/491,585, filed on Apr. 28, 2017, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
  • BACKGROUND Technical Field
  • Embodiments relate to a system and method for forming a form-fill-seal package which can be filled with a product and then sealed.
  • Description of Related Art
  • A form-fill-seal packaging system of embodiments of this disclosure may be applicable to horizontal form-fill-seal machines used in the food processing industry for packaging a product, or for packaging medical supplies, and the like.
  • In a conventional horizontal form fill seal machine, a pouch is formed for packaging a product which consists of a top (lid) and a formable bottom. In such a conventional machine, a product is placed in the formable bottom, the product is covered with a flat top (lid), and then the pouch is sealed to close the package. The packaging acts as a moisture barrier to keep the contents of the package fresh and sterile. In some configurations, a vacuum may be drawn to vacuum-package the product. The package may be sealed by heat or by adhesive.
  • The materials forming the packaging may be a plastic film. For example in the case of ground beef, a deformable plastic film is used as the formable bottom so that the packaging conforms to the shape of the product. In some configurations, instead of a formable bottom, a tray having rigidity may be used, for example in the case of cheese slices. Still further, a paper film may be used as the lid while a plastic film is used for the bottom, as in the case of syringes for medical use.
  • Typical form-fill-seal packaging machines operate in a horizontal direction for maximal speed and reliability of packaging. For example, a formable bottom which forms a pouch advances along a horizontal direction with respect to a gravitational direction so that products can be dropped into the pouches and filled easily.
  • However, a limitation of conventional horizontal form-fill-seal packaging machines is that, among other things, a product must completely reside in the pouch formed by the bottom before the flat top can be applied to cover and close the package. That is, a product may not protrude above a web line of the pouch or else the machine cannot properly seal the package with the flat top. Furthermore, a seal formed by a conventional system is typically at least 0.25 inches wide and protrudes around the perimeter of the packaged product at the top edge. Such a seal is considered unsightly and contributes to an increased overall form factor. It is desired to improve upon these shortcomings and provide various other improvements in horizontal form-fill-seal packaging systems.
  • SUMMARY
  • The present disclosure addresses several matters such as those described above, and other matters not described above.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, a machine may comprise a first film dispenser which dispenses a first film; a second film dispenser which dispenses a second film; a first form system configured to form a first shape in the first film, a second form system configured to form a second shape in the second film; and a seal system configured to form a package by joining the first film to the second film after the first shape is formed in the first film and the second shape is formed in the second film. The first form system may comprise a bucket configured to hold a form plate, and a form head configured to form a cavity between the form head and the bucket, the cavity configured to receive the first film.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the first form system may press the first film in a first direction, the second form system may press the second film in a second direction, and the first direction may be perpendicular to the second direction. Also, the first film may advance in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the first direction, and the second film may advance in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the second direction.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the first form system may further comprise an air port configured to supply positive air pressure and to draw a vacuum within the cavity and a form bar configured to heat a portion of the first film inside the cavity when the air port supplies the positive air pressure within the cavity. Also, the first form system may be configured to form the first shape in the first film with the form plate when the air port draws a vacuum within the cavity after the form bar heats the portion of the first film. The second form system may function similar to the first form system to form the second shape in the second film.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the machine may further comprise a gripper chain system configured to draw the first film to the seal system, wherein the seal system is configured to join the first film to the second film such that the second film advances through the machine by being pulled by the first film.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the first shape of the first film may be a first pocket and the second shape of the second film may be a second pocket. Also, the seal system may comprise seal head that is configured to form the package by joining the first film to the second film such that the first pocket and the second pocket are directly opposing, the package comprising the first pocket and the second pocket with a cavity formed therebetween.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the first pocket of the first film may have a same shape of the second pocket of the second film, and the seal system may be configured to form a seam along a longitudinal axis of the package, the first pocket and the second pocket being symmetrical to each around the longitudinal axis.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, the first film may be welded to the second film to form the package.
  • According to an aspect of an embodiment, product may be inserted into the first pocket before forming the package such that a portion of the product rests above a top edge of the first pocket, and the package may be formed such that the portion of the product rests within the second pocket.
  • DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
  • A brief description of some representative drawings is provided as follows.
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a form-fill-seal packaging machine of an embodiment;
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a front view of the form-fill-seal packaging machine of the embodiment;
  • FIG. 3 illustrates a sealed package formed by an embodiment;
  • FIG. 4A illustrates a front view of a form-fill-seal packaging machine of an embodiment;
  • FIG. 4B illustrates a first partial view of the form-fill-seal packaging machine of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4A;
  • FIG. 4C illustrates a second partial view of the form-fill-seal packaging machine of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4A;
  • FIG. 5A illustrates a lower forming system of an embodiment in an open state;
  • FIG. 5B illustrates the lower forming system illustrated in FIG. 5A in a closed state during a heating step;
  • FIG. 5C illustrates the lower forming system illustrated in FIG. 5A in a closed state during a film shaping step; and
  • FIG. 6 illustrates a form-fill-seal packaging system of an embodiment.
  • DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS
  • Embodiments may provide an apparatus and a method to form a package. In particular, the embodiments may comprise a machine having a first form system, a second form system, and a seal system. Each of the first form system and the second form system may be configured to form a pouch out of a respective film. The two pouches are brought together in the seal system to form a package. A product may be inserted into the package at a loading system prior to sealing.
  • According to embodiments, it becomes possible to form a package having a narrow-width sealing seam which is centrally located around a loaded product. For example, a product may be inserted at the loading section into a first pouch formed by the first forming system. The product may protrude above the top edge of the pouch, which may be the web line. A second pouch formed by the second forming system is brought together with the first pouch and joined. At the seal system, the package is closed around the product, resulting in the first pouch and the second pouch, which each comprise a respective half of the package, being sealed around the product. The sealed package may thus be top-to-bottom symmetrical relative to the web line. The embodiments may generate a unique presentation of a sealed package which is, for example, clean and sleek. Additionally, embodiments may achieve greater uniformity.
  • In one embodiment, a process description is outlined as follows with reference to FIGS. 1-3. FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a machine 100 in which aspects of the machine 100 are omitted to provide greater clarity with respect to the outlined process description. For example, in FIG. 1, a section between a second roller 128 and an upper forming system 140 and a section between a first roller 48 and a lower forming system 80 are omitted. In FIG. 2, for example, a loading area 60 is omitted.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the machine 100 may comprise a first roller 48 and a second roller 128. A sheet of film 2 may be drawn off the first roller 48 and advance toward a lower forming system 80. At the lower forming system 80, a first pouch 3 may be formed in the film 2. A process of forming the pouch will be described later. At an upper forming system 140, in a similar manner, a second pouch 7 is formed in a sheet of film 6 drawn off the second roller 128. The upper forming system 140 may operate by actuating a form head 150 in a direction different from the actuating direction of the form head 90 of the lower forming system 80. For example, the film 2 may advance substantially in a horizontal direction with respect to gravity while the film 6 advances substantially in a vertical direction. The lower forming system 80 may actuate by pressing the form head 90 in a vertical direction, perpendicular to the film 2. The upper forming system 140 may actuate by pressing the form head in a horizontal direction, perpendicular to the upper forming system 140.
  • The film 2 may advance along the horizontal direction, for example, along the web line of the machine 100. The film 2 may advance intermittently, such that the sheet of film 2 is held stationary for a predetermined length of time while certain processing occurs at a particular system. Forming the first pouch 3 by the lower forming system 80 may occur simultaneously with forming the second pouch 7 by the upper forming system 140. Further, sealing by the seal system 160 may also occur simultaneously, so that the machine 100 operates on an indexed basis.
  • The film 2 used to form the first pouch 3 and the film 6 used to form the second pouch 7 may be the same type of material. The films 2, 6 may be a shrinkable film that is sensitive to heat, humidity, stress, strain, and the like, such that the films 2, 6 exhibit formability. Using such a shrinkable film presents a challenge in that once the film is formed into a particular shape, such as that of a pouch, the film tends to shrink back to its original state. Therefore, the conditions of forming the first pouch 3 at the lower forming system 80 and the second pouch 7 of the upper forming system 140 may be controlled, as discussed later.
  • Furthermore, although one type of die is shown in the lower forming system 80 and the upper forming system 140, various dies may be used to form a desired shape of a pouch.
  • At a loading area 60, as shown in FIG. 1, a product 10 may be placed into the first pouch 3. The product 10 may be any kind or states such as, for example, raw pork cuts, ground hamburger, frozen fish, beef jerky, and also nonfoods such as medical supplies, bug repellent, tools, etc.
  • Loading of the product 10 may be accomplished by hand or by dropping the product 10 into the pouch 3 formed by the bottom film 2. For example, a conveying machine may transport pre-formed products and guide them over an edge so that they fall into respective pouches by gravity. Also, the loading area 60 may be, for example, long enough so that three advances are present before the film 2 is pulled under the seal head 170 of the sealing system 160.
  • When the formed pockets 3 filled with the product 10 are advanced into the sealing system 160 of the machine 100, the top film 6 may also be pulled under the seal head 170 along with the product 10, so that the product 10 has a layer of formed film 2 below and a layer of formed film 6 above. At this time, the machine 100 may begin a sealing process. At the seal system 160, as shown in FIG. 2, the sealing process may occur where the upper film 6 and the lower film 2, with the product 10 in between, are sealed together. For example, the first pouch 3 and the second pouch 7 come together and are joined by the seal head 170. The sealing may be a vacuum-sealing process which results in an air- and liquid-tight seal. Upon sealing, the product 10 may be enclosed in the packaging comprising the first pouch 3 of the film 2 and the second pouch 7 of the film 6. As a result, a package 300 may be generated, as shown in FIG. 3. The seam 400 of the packaging may coincide with the web line 500 of the machine 100, which also coincides with a longitudinal axis of the product 10 so that the packaged product exhibits symmetry.
  • After the sealing process, where the first pouch 3 of the film 2 and the second pouch 7 of the film 6 have been sealed together, the sealed films with the product 10 in between, as a package 300, may then be pulled into a cutting area (not shown) of the machine 100. It is in the cutting area that a portion of the films 2,6 may be, for example, cut crosswise by guillotine knife system and during final discharge, cut lengthwise by a rotary knife system such that the package 300 is separated from the remainder of the films 2, 6 or other packages 300 formed and sealed by the machine 100. After both directions of the film are cut, the package 300 may be free from the machine 100 and may be grabbed by a retrieval system (not shown). Further post-processing steps may include adding a label, etc.
  • Explanation will now be given in greater detail to a form-fill-seal packaging system embodiment. Referring to FIGS. 4A-4C, the machine 600 may comprise a gripper chain system 20, a lower unwind system 40, a lower forming system 80, an upper unwind system 120, an upper forming system 140, and a sealing system 160. The machine 600 may also be provided with a programmable logic controller 180 (PLC) and a touch-screen display 220 as illustrated in FIG. 6. Further, the machine 600 may comprise a loading area 40 similar to the machine 100 illustrated in FIG. 1.
  • [Gripper Chain System 20]
  • With reference to FIG. 4B, a gripper chain system 20 may comprise a gripper chain 22 that may pull a film 2 along the machine 600 at intervals with a dwell time in between. The time it takes to advance the film 2 may be set by an input device such as touch-screen display 220. It is during this dwell in the film's advance that the machine may begin and complete a lower form process, an upper form process, a sealing process, and a cutting process
  • The gripper chain 22 may be pulled through the machine 600 via a drive motor (not shown) that may be, for example, a servo motor with a speed reducer that rotates a drive shaft with two drive sprockets, one sprocket 24 on each side of the machine 600. The drive sprockets may directly engage the gripper chain 22. The gripper chain 22 may be guided through the machine 600 along plastic guide blocks. The drive motor may be powered via a drive amplifier that is controlled by the programmable logic controller 180 (PLC).
  • [Lower Unwind System 40]
  • With reference to FIG. 4B, the lower unwind system 40 may comprise a motor 43 and a first roller 48, the first roller 48 including a spindle 44, driven by the motor 43, and a core 45 on the spindle that holds a roll 4 of the film 2. The motor 43 may be, for example, a servo motor. The core 45 may be made from, for example, cardboard, and include the film 2 wound thereon. The lower unwind system 40 may further comprise two fixed rollers 41 and a single traversing roller 42 that at all times applies constant pressure onto the film 2. The film 2 being tracked center and stretched tight by the two fixed rollers 41 and a single traversing roller 42. Further, with activation of the motor 43, the lower unwind system 40 may unwind the film 2 from the core 45. The lower unwind system 40 may also comprise a gas shock or a compression spring 46.
  • The lower unwind system 40 may function such that, when the machine 600 advances the gripper chain 22, the gripper chain 22 pulls along the film 2 through the machine 600, thereby moving the traversing roller 42 in a direction such as a vertical direction. The movement of the traversing roller 42 may activate a switch that sends a signal to the PLC 180. The PLC 180 may activate a drive amplifier, which turns on the motor 43 to rotate the spindle 44 and unroll the film 2. The unrolled portion of film 2 may then be pulled into the machine's gripper chains 22. When the film 2 is pulled along the machine 600 by the gripper chains 22, a portion of the film 6 within the lower unwind system 40 moves to the lower forming system 80. As the spindle 44 rotates and the film 2 unwinds from the core 45, the traversing roller 42 may return to a neutral position, and the switch may disengage. This may stop the spindle 44 from unrolling any more film.
  • [Lower Forming System 80]
  • With reference to FIG. 4B, the lower forming system 80 may comprise a form head 90, a form bucket 95, a form head lifting system framework 81, and a forming actuator 82. The actuator may be, for example, electric or fluid-based actuator. The lower forming system 80 may further comprise a form bucket lifting system that includes, for example, a lifting rail 85, lifting arms 86, lifting shaft & bearing 87, lifting system pulley & timing belt 88, and a motor 89. With reference to FIG. 5A, the lower forming system 80 may also comprise an attachment plate 92. Moreover, the form head may comprise a form bar 93, and the form bucket 95 may comprise a gasket 96, forming plate 97, port 98, and water porting section 99.
  • The form bar 93 may be, for example, an aluminum bar with a machined cavity into which a heating element and thermocouple are inserted. The heating element may be electrically connected to a solid state relay which is controlled by the PLC 180 and powered from the main cabinet's electric panel. The heating element may be controlled in such a way that a set value is entered on the touch screen display 220 and the heating element heats the bar until reaching the set value. After the set value is reached, the heating element may be powered on or off, or otherwise controlled, to maintain a constant set temperature.
  • The lower forming system 80 may function by, for example, “air over vacuum forming.” That is, with reference to FIG. 5B, the form head 90 may lower onto the film 2 at a position near a deck 900 of the machine 600, creating a sealed cavity between the form head 90, the film 2, and the form bucket 95, thereby the form head 90 with the form bucket 95 acts as a closed die. It is in this sealed-off cavity that positive air pressure may be introduced into the form bucket 95 through, for example, a port 96 of the form bucket 95. Positive air pressure may then push the film 2 against the form bar 93 of the form head 90, and the film 2 may be heated as a result of direct contact with the form bar 93. The form bar 93 may heat the film 2 to a set temperature for a set duration of time.
  • After positive air pressure is applied to heat the film 2, with reference to FIG. 5C, vacuum may be then introduced into the cavity by the port 96 at the floor of the form bucket 95 and positive air pressure may also be introduced above the film 2 by the form head 90 for a set duration of time. With air pressure above the film 2, vacuum below the film 2, and the film 2 being hot and formable, the film 2 is pushed or pulled into forms located in the form bucket 95. For example, a form may be form plate 97. The film takes shape to the forms as it cools and the vacuum and air pressure are turned off.
  • Water may then be run through the form bucket 95 by, for example, water porting section 99 so that the forms onto which the film 2 is pushed or pulled are chilled, which causes the film 2 to undergo a thermal shock from a formable heated state to a hardened cooled state so that the film 2 maintains the shape of the form. Accordingly, a first pouch 3 is formed in the film 2.
  • Following, neutral air pressure may be reintroduced back between the form head 90 and the form bucket 95 for ventilation and the form head 90 and the form bucket 95 may be separated. For example, the forming electrical actuator 82 may lift the form head 90, and the form bucket lifting system may lower the form bucket 95. When the machine 600 advances, the first pouch 3 of the film 2 may be moved to the load area 40 by the gripper chain system 20 to be supplied with product 10.
  • [Upper Unwind System 120]
  • With reference to FIG. 4C, the upper unwind system 40 may comprise a motor 123 and a second roller 128, the second roller 128 including a spindle 124, driven by the motor 123, and a core 125 on the spindle 124 that holds a roll 8 of film 6. The motor 123 may be, for example, a servo motor and the core 125, may be made from, for example, cardboard. The upper unwind system 120 may further comprise two fixed rollers 121 and a single traversing roller 122 that at all times applies constant pressure onto an upper film 6. The film 6 being tracked center and stretched tight by the two fixed rollers 121 and a single traversing roller 122. Further with activation of the motor 123, the upper unwind system 40 unwinds film 6 from the core 125. The upper unwind system 120 may also comprise a gas shock or a compression spring 126 and guide rollers 127.
  • The upper unwind system 120 may function in a substantially similar manner as described with respect to the lower unwind system 40. Yet, The top film 6 may be pulled along without the use of a gripper chain. For example, the top film 6 may be welded, either in conduction with sealing by the sealing system 160 or in an independent step, to the lower film 2 so that the lower film 2 pulls the top film 6 with it when the machine 600 advances one index. When the top film 6 is pulled along the machine 600, a portion of the film 6 within the upper unwind system 120 moves to the upper forming system 140. Further, the upper unwind system 120 may also comprise the guide rollers 127 for supporting the film 6 and guiding the film 6 from a horizontal direction to a vertical direction on the way of the film 6 to the upper forming system 140.
  • [Upper Forming System 140]
  • With reference to FIG. 4C, the upper forming system 140 may comprise a form bucket 155, a form bucket actuator 145, a form head 150, a form head actuator 142, a support framework 143, and a film guide roller 144. The actuators may be, for example, electric or fluid-based actuators. The upper forming system 140 may, form a pouch 7 in the upper film 6, via the form bucket 155 and the form head 150, before the pouch 7 is pulled through the upper film guide roller 144 and under the seal head 170 for a sealing process.
  • The upper forming system 140 may function with an internal process substantially similar to the internal process described with respect to the lower forming system 80. That is, both the upper forming system 140 and the lower forming system 80 may use the “air over vacuum forming” process. In other words, the internal structure of the form head 150 and the form bucket 155 may be substantially similar to the internal structure of the form head 90 and the form bucket 95, respectively.
  • However, the upper forming system 140 may be horizontally mounted, as opposed to being vertically mounted like the lower forming system 80. When the upper form system 140 is mounted horizontally, as shown in FIG. 4C, a different lift system for both the form head 150 and the form bucket 155 may be used, as compared to the lower forming system 80. In particular, the form head 150 may be a tilt-back form head and may be actuated by the form head actuator 142 to tilt towards and away from the film 6 and the form bucket 155. The form bucket 155 may be actuated by the form bucket actuator 145 to move towards and away from the film 6 and the tilt-back form head 150.
  • Further, the upper form system 140 may comprise the film guide roller 144 to guide the second pouches 7 of the film 6 from between the form head 150 and the form bucket 155 to the sealing system 160. The film guide roller 144 may also guide the second pouches 7 of the film 6 to be each placed on top of a respective first pouch 3 of the film 2.
  • [Sealing System 160]
  • With reference to FIG. 4C, the sealing system 160 may comprise a seal head 170, a seal bucket 175, a seal head lifting system framework 161, and a sealing actuator 162. The actuator may be, for example, electric or fluid-based actuator. The sealing system 160 may further comprise a seal bucket lifting system that includes, for example, a lifting rail 165, lifting arms 166, lifting shaft & bearing 167, lifting system pulley & timing belt 168, and a motor 169.
  • The seal head 170 may lower down to the film line where second pouches 7 of the film 6 are located on top of the first pouches 3 of the film 2, and the seal bucket 175 may lift up to the seal head 170, creating a sealed cavity with both a second pouch 7 of the film 6 and a first pouch 3 of the film 2 sandwiched in the middle. Sealing System 160 may then begin a seal process. That is, for example, a vacuum may introduced to both the seal head 170 and the seal bucket 175 for a determined amount of time based on a value set on the touch-screen display 220. After that set time and/or a vacuum level is reached, a heated seal bar (not shown) of the sealing system 160 may be energized (fired) for a predetermined amount of time. During this time both the second pouches 7 of the film 6 and the first pouch 3 of the film 2 are sealed together, only around the product placed within the first pouch 3 and the second pouch 7. This area in which the may be referred to as a seal area. Typical seal widths range between 3 mm wide up to 15 mm wide.
  • After both the second pouch 7 of the film 6 and the first pouch 3 of the film 2 are sealed, the vacuum may be turned off and neutral air pressure may be reintroduced back between the seal head 170 and the seal bucket 175 for ventilation and the seal head 170 and the seal bucket 175 may be separated. Accordingly, a package 300 may be formed.
  • [Programmable Logic Controller & Input Device]
  • With reference to FIG. 6, a form-fill-seal package system may comprise the machine 600, the PLC 180, and the touch screen display 220. All functions of the machine may be controlled via the PLC 180 which may be located in, for example, a water resistant stainless steel cabinet. All electrical components other than safety switches and servo motors may be located inside this cabinet. Attached to the cabinet may be a swing arm system that has a smaller stainless enclosure attached to it. Housed in this smaller enclosure may be an input device such as the touch-screen display 220. The touch-screen display 220 may be the primary interface for controlling all functions of the machine 600 and may communicate with the PLC 180.
  • The PLC 180 may control the machine 600 and comprise at least one processor and memory. For example, the PLC 180 may control all air manifolds, servo amplifiers, relays, and contactors of the machine 600. The air manifolds of the machine 600 may comprise valves that control air supplies to lifting systems, cutting systems, unwind systems of the machine 600. Accordingly, the PLC 180 may control air supply to the systems.
  • In the above embodiment, the seal head 170 may join the first pouch 3 of the film 2 and the second pouch 7 of the film 6 by heat, such that the shrinkable films are attached to each other. However, another means, such as an adhesive, may be used to join the films 2, 7. Because the films 2, 7 may be joined together at a later stage of the production line, only one of the films 2,7 may require driving in order to convey the films 2,7. For example, in the above embodiment, the film 2 may be pulled off the core 10 by the motor 43. The core 125 may not be driven, yet the film 6 may still be pulled off the core 125 by being pulled by the film 2 because the film 2 and the film 6 become joined. Nevertheless, one or more motors may be provided to drive both cores 45, 125 and either, or both could be operated.
  • Furthermore, the sealing occurring at the sealing system 160 may serve to join the films 2, 6 together. However, a separate joining step may be provided before the sealing system 160 to independently join the films 2, 6 together. For example, a step of tacking the films 2, 6 together by welding may be performed prior to the sealing step in order to maintain proper timing between the top and bottom forming steps. Such tacking may occur at a location in the films 2, 6 spaced apart from the forming systems 80, 140 where the pouches 3, 7 are formed.
  • The package 300 may be sealed such that it can be opened by peeling. Therefore, a cutting step may be employed where peel tabs are formed at appropriate locations around the sealed package 300. Furthermore, additional sealing techniques may be added, such as using re-sealable adhesive, adding a zipper, and double sealing, for example.
  • It should be noted that although a few embodiments have been described, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible to the embodiments without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the embodiments. For example, heat may be applied to the film in the form process by directly contacting the film with a heating element, or may be applied by injecting heated air or steam into the form bucket. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the embodiments as discussed herein.

Claims (20)

1. A machine comprising:
a first film dispenser which dispenses a first film;
a second film dispenser which dispenses a second film;
a first form system configured to form a first shape in the first film, the first form system comprising:
a bucket configured to hold a form plate, and
a form head configured to form a cavity between the form head and the bucket, the cavity configured to receive the first film;
a second form system configured to form a second shape in the second film; and
a seal system configured to form a package by joining the first film to the second film after the first shape is formed in the first film and the second shape is formed in the second film.
2. The machine according to claim 1, wherein
the first form system presses the first film in a first direction,
the second form system presses the second film in a second direction, and
the first direction is perpendicular to the second direction.
3. The machine according to claim 2, wherein
the first film advances in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the first direction, and
the second film advances in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the second direction.
4. The machine according to claim 1, wherein
the first form system further comprises an air port configured to supply positive air pressure and to draw a vacuum within the cavity.
5. The machine according to claim 4, wherein
the first form system further comprises a form bar configured to heat a portion of the first film inside the cavity when the air port supplies the positive air pressure within the cavity.
6. The machine according to claim 5, wherein the first form system is configured to form the first shape in the first film with the form plate when the air port draws a vacuum within the cavity after the form bar heats the portion of the first film.
7. The machine according to claim 1, further comprising
a gripper chain system configured to draw the first film to the seal system, wherein the seal system is configured to join the first film to the second film such that the second film advances through the machine by being pulled by the first film.
8. The machine according to claim 1, wherein
the first shape of the first film is a first pocket and the second shape of the second film is a second pocket, and
the seal system comprises seal head that is configured to form the package by joining the first film to the second film such that the first pocket and the second pocket are directly opposing, the package comprising the first pocket and the second pocket with a cavity formed therebetween.
9. The machine according to claim 8, wherein
the first pocket of the first film has a same shape of the second pocket of the second film, and
the seal system is configured to form a seam along a longitudinal axis of the package, the first pocket and the second pocket being symmetrical to each other around the longitudinal axis.
10. A method of forming a package with a machine, the method comprising:
dispensing a first film;
dispensing a second film;
forming a first pocket in the first film by pressing the first film with a first form head;
forming a second pocket in the second film by pressing the second film with a second form head; and
forming a package comprising the first pocket and the second pocket by joining the first film with the second film such that the first pocket aligns with the second pocket.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein
the forming the first pocket includes pressing the first film with the first form head in a first direction,
the forming the second pocket includes pressing the second film with the second form head in a second direction, and
the first direction is perpendicular to the second direction.
12. The method of claim 11, further comprising:
advancing the first film in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the first direction, and
advancing the second film in the machine along a direction perpendicular to the second direction.
13. The method of claim 10, wherein
the forming the first pocket includes performing an air-over-vacuum process comprising supplying positive air pressure and drawing a vacuum within a cavity that receives the first film, the cavity formed between the first form head and a first bucket.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein
the air-over-vacuum process further comprises heating a portion of the first film inside the cavity when the positive air pressure is supplied within the cavity.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein
the air-over-vacuum process further comprises forming the first shape in the first film with a form plate when drawing a vacuum within the cavity after heating the portion of the first film.
16. The method of claim 10, wherein
the forming the package includes joining the first film with the second film such that first pocket and the second pocket are directly opposing.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein
the forming the package includes forming a seam along a longitudinal axis of the package, the first pocket and the second pocket being symmetrical to each other around the longitudinal axis.
18. The method of claim 10, wherein
the forming the package includes welding the first film to the second film.
19. The method of claim 10, further comprising
inserting a product into the first pocket before forming the package.
20. The method of claim 10, further comprising
inserting the product into the first pocket before forming the package such that a portion of the product rests above a top edge of the first pocket, wherein
the forming the package includes forming such that the portion of the product rests within the second pocket.
US15/963,607 2017-04-28 2018-04-26 Horizontal form-fill-seal packaging system Pending US20180312282A1 (en)

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PCT/US2018/029725 WO2018200915A1 (en) 2017-04-28 2018-04-27 Horizontal form-fill-seal packaging system

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