Packaging aerosol products has long been a challenge for companies. Due to their highly flammable nature, they must be handled carefully at all times. This makes it particularly challenging to package them as traditional shrink wrap machines rely on heat, which could lead to the aerosol cans exploding.
To tackle this issue, the team here at TrakRap designed a wrapping packaging machine which would do away with explosion risks by eliminating the need for heat usage in the shrink wrapping secondary packaging process. In addition to this, it also uses a 100% recyclable polymer stretch film, making the packaging process more environmentally friendly by reducing the use of plastic by over 60%.
The TrakRap Aerosol Machine Concept
With the support of Siemens, we have created the TrakRap Aerosol Machine using the very latest digital technology to deliver step-change improvements in productivity, flexibility, safety and sustainability in packaging aerosols for transit for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) manufacturers supplying the major supermarkets.
The original concept behind this machine was that it would significantly improve industry safety by eliminating the use of heat tunnels from the packaging process, while also using around 90% less energy and 70% less packaging material than traditional aerosol packaging systems, thereby delivering significant cost reductions.
Our primary consideration when designing the aerosol machine was to eliminate the need to use heat-intensive shrink wrap ovens, which melt plastic film around the aerosols to stabilise and secure them for transit. However, the use of heat around pressurised and highly inflammable aerosols carries significant explosion risks, putting workers at risk.
Shrink-wrapping systems are relatively environmentally unfriendly as they consume large amounts of energy and plastic and are expensive to use, so the TrakRap machine needed to reduce energy and materials usage. Future-proofing the machine was another key consideration, so it also needed to be designed to be Industry 4.0 ready. This would enable it to take advantage of the packaging industry’s digital supply chain and allow it to eliminate unplanned downtime and reduce the likelihood of the machine breaking down. Because many aerosols are tall with a narrow diameter, they are difficult to stabilise during the packaging process, so TrakRap also needed to establish the best way to package them securely.
Leading the Way with Our Innovation
True to our original concept, the TrakRap Aerosol Machine goes above and beyond current best practice by doing away with the use of shrink tunnels to package aerosols, using innovative ‘cold wrap’ technology instead and significantly improving industry safety standards by eliminating the use of heat.
By eliminating the need for heat, we hope to reduce energy usage by as much as 90% (compared to shrink-wrapping) and eradicate the risk of an explosion which is present in traditional shrink-wrapping. The super-thin film was hoped to reduce plastic usage by as much as 70%, delivering significant cost savings. TrakRap’s ultra-recyclable ‘green film’ also ensures that all packs deliver the lowest carbon footprint versus any corrugate box or shrink-wrap option, enabling us to lead the way in tackling the issue of climate change.
We used the latest technology available to design and develop the aerosol machine. Through the use of a digital twin – a virtual replica of the physical machine – TrakRap was able to run the machine virtually and eliminate any potential issues before any physical building work began, ensuring the final design would be fit for purpose.
Using cutting edge techniques, TrakRap digitally modelled the forces being applied to the aerosols at speed, allowing it to establish the best way to overcome the problem of aerosols’ instability by simulating the stretch wrapping process. The digital simulation revealed that controlling the initial contact of the film on the aerosols, along with the precise direction and film tension, was critical in preventing the aerosols from falling over.
Using this crucial information, members of our design team were then able to precisely control and limit the force of the first wrap to achieve a stable wrapping process.
Thanks to the use of digital twin technology, the digital version of the machine still exists in the Internet of Things where it monitors the performance of the physical machine, enabling predictive maintenance to be carried out and allowing TrakRap’s engineers to fix any problems remotely before they occur, increasing efficiency and productivity, and reducing operating costs and downtime. This also allows TrakRap’s customers to guarantee uptime, which is extremely important in modern manufacturing environments where profit margins are under extreme pressure.
By using a digital twin to develop the aerosol machine, our team also reduced the time spent designing it by 40% and reduced typical design costs by 30% by eliminating the need to build it physically, and by digitally modelling and testing it. In-depth testing and ‘pack force analysis’ were also able to be carried out to determine the most suitable kind of stretch film to use in the machine.
The aerosol machine’s smart production systems are also able to learn, develop and improve continually through increased connectivity and the use of data analysis, enabling them to take advantage of future developments that could improve sustainability further still.
We achieved our vision thanks to our partnership with Siemens, using their SIMATIC and SINAMICS platforms to progress packs through our orbital aerosol wrapping machines and control the film tension as this, along with speed and angle are integral to the packaging process.
TrakRap Aerosol Machine Fast Facts
We have achieved several different impressive results when you compare the use of our Aerosol Machine against traditional shrink-wrap techniques. These include:
- Reduces energy usage by 90%
- Increases safety by eliminating heat from the production process
- Reduces plastic usage by as much as 70%
- Reduces CO2e emissions by as much as 70%
- Reduces operating costs by as much as 20%
- The green film is perforated to enable faster unwrapping in store, increasing productivity
- Reduces film changeover times to less than five minutes
- One film size fits all pack sizes, increasing flexibility
- Increases line speeds by as much as 100%, improving productivity
- Reduces development costs by as much as 30%
- Reduces development cycle time by as much as 40%
- Remote monitoring and the use of a digital twin reduces the number of callouts by 53% and incidents of downtime by 72%, improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness and Total Cost of Ownership