Cartons are one of the most visible and important forms of packaging. They are prominent on the shelves of supermarkets and other retailers, and are a key element in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) logistics, handling and product presentation.
Cartoners which erect, fill and seal on one machine are sometimes called Carton Form, Fill, Seal machines.
What is a Carton Packing Machine?
Cartoning machines or cartoners are packaging systems which erect, close and fill sealed cartons. In essence, they pick up a flat carton (known as a blank), erect it into a rectangular shape, push the product into the carton (or fill it through a vertical flow), and close the carton via end flaps or a fold-over lid. Machines can be semi-automatic or fully automatic.
There are multiple types of cartons including open sleeves and many different types of tuck, overlap and seal. Many use a simple fold to close, others use pre-cut tabs and slots or glue. Some cartoning machines and systems are patented (e.g. Tetra Brik) and can only be used on specific machines, while other patented designs like ‘crashlock’ cartons can be installed on a wide range of machinery.
Cartons also come in a wide variety of shapes including hinged lids, triangular, hexagonal, octagonal, double-wall, frame-wall, wave-shaped cartons and tapered trays.
What are cartons made of?
The key material is cartonboard, a semi-flexible paper material made up of layers of wood-based fibre. They should not be confused with Cases which are made from rigid corrugated board and are larger, often containing a number of cartons for transit. It is heavier and more robust than paper, but lighter than rigid, heavyweight board for packing and cases. For drinks cartons an impervious laminate is added. If the product is to be visible, the cartonboard can feature a pre-cut window over which a see-through laminate is applied.
What products are cartoning machines used for?
Cartoning machines are used in all fast moving consumer goods sectors but especially food, confectionery, tobacco, tea and coffee, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, cosmetics, household products and DIY.
Cartoning machines are particularly important in the non-carbonated beverages industry but it is important to recognise that while the Combibloc carton is produced on a variant of a mandrel cartoning machine the apparently similar Tetra Brik cartons are produced on special vertical form fill and seal machines.
Key considerations in deciding on which type of cartoning machine to use include budget, the materials you use (including your approach to sustainability), size of carton, throughput capacity, transport and your target market.