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How Downgauging and SMART HMIs are Changing Shrink Sleeve Technology

Oct 01, 2021

Spurred by the sustainability movement and the rise of SMART technology, downgauging has become a popular trend in shrink sleeve films. This has created a significant impact on shrink sleeve equipment and technology, as equipment providers have been challenged to modify their shrink-sleeve cutting machines to cut thinner films and upgrade their software to increase end user accessibility. Companies like Accraply are making advancements to stay ahead of customer demands while maintaining OEE.

Richard Howlett, Accraply’s Global Product Line Leader, was recently interviewed by Packaging Digest, to share his insights on how shrink sleeve applicators are evolving to meet these challenges. The following is an excerpt from his interview.

What recent advancements have you seen in shrink-label applicators?

The shrink-sleeve film market is very dynamic with new and more advanced shrink films being developed continuously. These advancements are certainly having an impact on shrink-label application machines. The most significant trend that we see is the downgauging of shrink films. This has an impact on the design of shrink-sleeve application machine cutting system. The cutting systems are now required to cut thinner, softer films at higher speeds.

How do these advanced systems compare to the existing standard equipment?

With the trend to cut thinner, softer films at higher speeds, control of the shrink-sleeve during the cutting cycle is critical. These systems generally use the most advanced controls to allow maximum control of the sleeve during the cutting process. With the need for control being paramount, we see the need to monitor OEE in the form of advanced data-gathering and diagnostics. To achieve this, SMART human-machine interface (HMI) technology is used in many shrink-sleeve application machines, giving the end user full transparency and understanding of how their shrink-sleeve system is performing.

What are the benefits of these advancements for packaging machinery buyers/users?

The benefit for the buyers/users is that if the correct sleeve-application machinery is selected, then the machinery will be advanced enough to cope with the trend of cutting thinner, softer films at higher speeds, thus opening up the market for the user to use a wider range of shrink films and offering more options to brand owners, with thinner films reducing weight and volume for logistics, and reducing CO2 emissions.

What areas in shrink-label applicators still need work and why?

The areas of a shrink-label system that are being worked on are that part of the system that can be deemed the most challenging, which are the shrink tunnels. With the continued advancement in shrink film, shrink tunnels are equally important parts of the process and are being advanced in technology in the pursuit of providing the perfectly finished shrink-sleeve labels. Selecting the correct tunnel is critical to produce the best possible final appearance of the product.

What’s next and when might we see further improvements in shrink-label applicator machinery?

As the industry continues to keep a watchful eye on sustainability and the carbon footprint, the industry may make improvements in ways to shrink the sleeves using less energy and with more use of renewable energy.

For more information, contact Accraply to learn more about their shrink sleeve solutions. 

Richard HowlettAbout Richard Howlett:

Richard Howlett is the Product Line Leader for Shrink Sleeve Application Machinery for Accraply, the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of automated label application systems, as well as converting and finishing equipment for the shrink sleeve label and flexible packaging markets. Prior to its acquisition by Accraply, Richard had both Project and Sales experience with Graham Engineering – a brand with 26 years of experience manufacturing shrink sleeve application machinery. An Engineer by training, Richard holds a BSc in Business Management. During his 16-year tenure at Graham Engineering, and now Accraply, he has held several key positions and contributes regularly to industry educational workshops and seminars.