The new Shawpak thermo-packaging machine developed by Riverside Medical Packaging allows manufacturers to replace a 20m long packing line with a single unit under 2m in length. A compact integrated control system developed by Mitsubishi Electric is key to optimising the machine's performance while keeping within a small target size envelope.
Based in Derby in the East Midlands, UK, Riverside Medical Packaging has been a leader in contract manufacturing and machine development for the healthcare industry for over 40 years. From facilities specifically tailored for the manufacture of medical packaging and products, the company develops intelligent and innovative solutions for producing, packaging and sterilising single use medical devices.
The reduced footprint of the new machine can release a large amount of valuable floor space in cleanroom production environments, offering significant cost and productivity advantages to operators. "The Shawpak helps customers reduce the cost of maintaining a cleanroom production environment and to maximise their return on investment," comments David Shaw, CEO at Riverside Medical Packaging. The Shawpak offering a compact size and flexible layout that enables it to be configured in many ways to suit customers' individual requirements. Thanks to a rotary format, Shawpak machines start at only 1.5m long and can occupy less than 2m2 of floorspace. In extreme cases they will occupy just a small percentage of the space required by an alternative traditional form fill sealing (FFS) line. Ivor Rowe confirms: "A comparable FFS machine can be anywhere from 7m to 20m in length depending on the packaging process requirements, occupying a working space of up to 40m2. As a result, a given cleanroom space can fit six times more packing machines with a Shawpak design, increasing both productivity and throughput."
The Shawpak models are compact thermoforming sealing machines that can be loaded manually, or for increased speed, by an integrated robot. The key innovation is the forming, packing and sealing process which is now carried out on a drum, rather than a linear conveyor system. The rotary motion of the drum and the precision indexing of the sealing film are synchronised using Mitsubishi Electric servo control, while the product and package manipulation uses suction. The product to be packed is loaded on top of the drum and the finished packet is ejected into a discharge conveyor underneath. The webs of packaging material (such as PET or polyethylene sheets) plus the forming, sealing and cutting stations are positioned around the drum.
The new rotary design of Shawpak increases versatility and flexibility during packaging operations. Different forming drums with cavities of various dimensions can be supplied. These can be easily removed and replaced to pack objects of different sizes and shapes on the same machine. In addition, the new concept ensures that every piece of packaging material is used, reducing the amount of waste from cut packaging material experienced using other designs.
While the Shawpak machine was initially developed for the packaging of medical products, other packaging industries can benefit from the solution, as Rowe explains: "We believe Shawpak could have a big impact on the food and beverage sector, electronic service components or anywhere else with stringent hygienic requirements."