Contract Packaging

Spring 2014

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Four steps to innovation Pocket Shot Spirits M A R C H | A P R I L 2 0 1 4 • C O N T R A C T PA C K A G I N G • 11 pack" that includes 10 boxes of 12 pouches. Premade Pocket Shot pouches are a layer structure providing strength, sheen, and attractive graphics. Bachmann has sourced the pouches from different vendors over the years, but the primary supplier is Amcor Flexibles Europe & America (www.amcor.com). Pouches have been printed via both flexo and gravure printing methods over the years. e pack earned a Silver Award for Sustainability in the 2012 Flexible Packaging Assn.'s (www. flexpack.org) Annual Achievement Awards (pwgo.to/447). e pouch is an adhesive lamination of 48-ga (12 microns) oriented polyester/48-ga polyester coated with aluminum oxide/2.8- mil low-density polyethylene sealant layer that's U.S. Food and Drug Administration- approved for contact with alcohol. Challenging pouch geometry Each pack has an opening along the top edge that must be sealed once the package has been filled with product. e top con- tour of the Pocket Shot package simulates a bottle top with a shoulder and cap—pre- senting a complicated geometry to seal. To avoid potential leaks, the sealing process needs to seal through alcohol caused by splash back on the sealing surfaces that occurs during filling. Adding complexity is that the seal process is temperature-sensitive, requiring Pocket Shot to avoid temperatures that might trigger the flash point of alcohol. Pocket Shot initially used a heat-seal pro- cess that first melted the plastic for joining, followed by a cold seal to prevent excess temperatures and smooth out voids and wrinkles created by the heat seal. e sealing method was adequate to launch the product. But once production volume reached the necessary high-speed levels of 30+ packs/min, the hot-seal/cold- seal process resulted in frequent leaks, and lost productivity, which caused product recovery costs that threatened the viability of the product. Fortunately, few leakers actually made it to the retail level. rough a personal relationship, Bachmann learned of Branson's reputation in ultrasonic plastics joining and asked for a recommendation. Ultimately, Branson Ultrasonics (www.BransonUltrasonics. com), part of Emerson Industrial Automation, conducted a thorough analysis of Pocket Shot's existing materials, package design and production requirements, and determined the proper pressures and ultrasonic specifications to create the necessary seal. Branson designed a unique horn (through finite element analysis software) and anvil that perfectly matched the con- toured sealing surfaces of the package top. When tested, prototype samples showed the ability of the ultrasonic sealing process to seal through the alcohol, producing a 100%-clean, clear, contaminant-free seal. e ultrasonic action of the horn dis- perses the alcohol out of the seal area and allows the plastic to melt without the risk of triggering the flashpoint of alcohol. e prototypes also demonstrated the process could maintain the integrity of the seal under the high-volume cycle time of one seal every 2 seconds. A bit of background Since introducing the Pocket Shot, Bachmann has had the products filled by Frank-Lin Distillers Products, Ltd. (www. frank-lin.com). e contract filler initially did not have the equipment for the pouch. Bachmann used personal connections and found equipment from Laudenberg—ma- chinery, he says, that's no longer made. [Entering Laudenberg.com redirects to SN] German Pouch-Pack Technology [www. sn-maschinenbau.de], whose website men- tions the Laudenberg name.] Pocket Shot Spirits owns the eight-sta- tion rotary filler and purchases the premade pouches and paperboard cartons. Frank-Lin handles filling, warehousing, and shipping. "ey have been wonderful to work with because they took us on as a new project," says Bachmann of Frank-Lin. "When they first started, we weren't sure how well this was going to work. Since then, they have taken this kind of under their [wing], and have worked out any bumps in the road, including the high reject [rate] that we had from the previous sealing method." Premade, preprinted pouches arrive at Frank-Lin and are conveyed into the small- footprint Laudenberg machine. A thermal- transfer coder prints filling date, batch, and date-code information on the pouches. Suction cups help pull open the pouch from the shoulder area, assisted by a puff of air. Grippers hold the pouch while a plunger descends into the top of the pouch to open the gusset on the bottom. e next two stations fill the spirit into the pouch before the pouch rotates to the sealing station. After filling and sealing, the pouches are discharged for manual packing. Turning to ultrasonic sealing In reviewing the path he took to remedy the previous hot/cold-seal difficulties, Bachmann says he discussed the leakage problem with Branson, as well as another ultrasonic sealing company, with Frank-Lin, a group in Germany, and industry experts he respected. "We didn't have much leakage," he says, "but that was the problem. We wanted something that was absolutely fool-proof and leak-proof. at's why I talked to the Branson people. I have a very good friend who lives in Evergreen and has worked for continued on page 12 ULTRASONIC SEALING. A unique horn and anvil that perfectly matches the contoured sealing surfaces of the Pocket Shot produces clear, contaminant-free seals. 04d_PWrepurp_PocketShots.indd 11 3/18/14 1:42 PM

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