The food industry is increasingly relying on laser technology for product labeling. In order to apply complex product information in a high-resolution and reliable manner, GEA has integrated corresponding laser marking systems into the GEA thermoforming machines of the PowerPak series in cooperation with various suppliers on a customer-specific basis.
“Demand for laser marking systems is rising sharply,” said Volker Sassmannshausen, senior product manager of Thermoforming at GEA in Wallau, Germany. “While packaging has to provide growing volumes of product information for end customers, it also has to ensure that products are fully traceable at all times. Applying a QR code with a laser is a solution with plenty of advantages.”
The GEA technology experts take an end-to-end approach to designing individual solutions. That includes overseeing everything from selecting the laser supplier and initial film test to optimally positioning the laser in the packaging line.
Lasers: the swift, sustainable solution
The complex codes can encode large amounts of data on a very small area. They can be applied to the packaging by laser at high printing speeds. The bundled light creates long-lasting markings on the top film that are impervious to external influences, including heat, abrasion and water. As lasers don’t require consumables such as labels and ink, they have impressive sustainability credentials. Lasers are ideal as marking systems in the food and beverage packaging industry since they work just as well in dusty and moist operating environments.
Flexible laser placement
Different packaging processes require different approaches. Depending on production batch sizes, it’s possible to either mark the top film feed in advance or once it has passed through the thermoformer’s sealing station, but before the finished packaging units are cut apart.
For instance, a food industry customer opted for a laser marking system from Videojet to accompany its GEA thermoforming packaging machine. The chosen CO2 laser solution was integrated at the GEA PowerPak system’s sealing station to print the top film before it is joined to the bottom tray. Despite the additional processing step, there is no increase in production time because labelling is accommodated within the integrated production process cycle.
Increased efficiency thanks to fewer film changes
When packaging similar products, using a laser can significantly boost machine efficiency since the only changes necessary are the ingredient lists, which can be accessed in the database. Thus, there is no need to switch to previously marked films in each case. Thanks to the reduced number of film changes, setup times are cut down. Moreover, the cost of consumables also decreases because they can be ordered in large quantities.
“Seamless interaction between components is the source of packaging machine efficiency. Given that the laser marking system and our thermoformer are engineered to be a perfect fit, they meet high throughput, quality and product safety requirements,” saids Volker Sassmannshausen in conclusion.