A Brief History of Case & Tray Packers

Case & tray packing has evolved significantly over the past 50 years. While product continues to be placed into a corrugated case or tray as a method of protecting and containing product until it reaches its final destination, the technology and method of placing product into the case or tray has dramatically changed.

Initial case & tray packing automation started with cam-driven mechanical machines with supporting functions driven by pneumatic cylinders. These machines were heavily reliant on mechanical engineers laying out cam profiles and related linkage to achieve desired motions. The brains of the machine derived from relay logic, which was charged with determining if and when a function would be initiated. The cams were driven by a line shaft that typically ran the length of the machine with a clutch supporting the drive motions and brakes holding position. The components were protected by a torque limiting device that would stop the machine when a defined level of resistance was achieved. While these devices protected the components, it was usually at the sacrifice of the product.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, electromechanical automation started to gain acceptance in the packaging market and opened a significant opportunity for machine builders. The introduction of servo-driven functions stressed the importance of collaboration between mechanical and electrical engineers throughout the design process.

Packaging machines were becoming “smart”, providing a boost to their capability and flexibility. The introduction of servo motion allowed direct drive applications, eliminating the need for a physical line shaft to drive functions. Thanks to servo motion, machines could communicate through digital technology and timing through the digital line shaft. Today, cam profiles can be changed in minutes versus days. Servo driven motion allows improved timing of individual functions, resulting in maximizing overall machine performance and flexibility.

While servo driven functions and digital technology has significantly impacted the case & tray packing industry, technology continues to evolve. The digital era changes daily and will continue to drive case & tray packing technology to ever increasing capabilities.

Modern Product Packaging With Douglas Machine

With the increased flexibility that servo driven motion provides machine builders, there is an expanding opportunity for creativity in how product is placed into a case or tray. Through the design process, Douglas Machine engineers look to combine functions while increasing flexibility. The ultimate outcome of this process is a machine that exceeds our customer’s demands for safety, reliability, flexibility and ease of operation. With the ever-changing marketplace, machines need to be flexible enough to be modified for future product demands and run at the same reliability that the machine was originally purchased to run.

From mid to high-speed case packing, Douglas delivers innovative design, cutting edge technology and precise product control to create the most effective solution for your application. Below is a brief summary of Douglas case and tray packer solutions:

  • Axiom® IM – Intermittent motion case & tray packer that combines the ultimate in dependable high speed operation with gentle product handling, servo controlled precision and unparalleled flexibility. The open frame modular design platform, innovative infeed technologies and simple, menu-driven changeovers allow effortless adaptation to evolving and uncertain product life cycles. Offers industry leading performance in a compact, low maintenance package.
  • Axiom® ARC – The Axiom ARC manages large size ranges and flexible, odd-shaped packages while controlling product through the entire load cycle. Servo functions reliably and accurately pack cartons, bottles, cans, jars, jugs and more using innovative infeed technology and high speed case loading methods with precise product control.
  • Axiom® DL – Streamlined performance as dual paddle metering is used to directly load product onto the case or tray blank to minimize unnecessary components and increase production efficiency. Continuous motion case squaring and sealing produces squared cases at high speeds.
  • Invex® IM – Conveniently flexible and loaded with experience-based design, these case & tray packers bring a higher level of performance to mid-range applications. Its simplistic combination of design, positive drive technology and control avoids compromise and maximizes operation.
  • TriVex® RL & RLi – Packed with performance enhancing technology, this compact top load case packer offers automated robotic case & tray packing solutions to accommodate the unique demands associated with handling bags, pouches, cartons, trays, tubs, cups, cans, bottles and overwrapped products. Maximized flexibility provides efficient loading of products into almost any style of pre-erected top load case or tray. TriVex RLi offers the unique ability to seamlessly erect, load and seal top load cases with one compact machine. Optimum solution for the high demands associated with 3-shift production, frequent format changes and high efficiencies.
  • TriVex® SL & SLi – These versatile and innovative solutions are ideal for the demands of the growing retail ready market. This robotic top load case packer meets market needs for lines requiring products to be packed vertical in the case and lines requiring both vertical and flat pack product orientations. Vertical pack configurations produce retail ready display cases with 1 or 2 product facings. With a quick and simple changeover it packs pouches and flat bottom bags laying flat in the case with 2 or 3 products per layer. The TriVex SL & SLi use a dual SCARA robotic solution uniquely combining the functionality of a product infeed, pack pattern collation and case loading functions into one mechanism.
  • TriVex® CLi – The ideal case packer for Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) products such as non-free flowing frozen potatoes and vegetables, as well as pillow and gusseted bag product applications requiring flat and vertical bag orientations. The integrated case erector, upright and flat pack flexibility and large size range meet market demand for case packing both retail and food service bags. The convertible cassette pivots to easily reposition to horizontal or vertical mode which reduces parts and changeover time.
  • Ascend™ Bottom Loader – Compact, fully automated machine designed to load flexible and complex shaped products into cases. Best suited for tubs, cylindrical and heavy products, the Ascend will meet your specific packaging requirements and deliver the ideal solution for your low speed packaging needs.
  • Contour – Tray packers available as stand-alone units or fully integrated systems with a Contour™ shrink wrapper, for tray or pad applications. These versatile systems offer exceptional performance and the best finished package appearance and durability available. Productivity is further enhanced with the addition of our patented Smartrak® II infeed system which eliminates product bridging and removes the gaps that compromise pack pattern accuracy and continuous product flow.
Contact Douglas to discuss solutions or check out our Douglas Corporate Capabilities brochure to learn more about our products and services.