Greater process reliability and reduced resource consumption during the packaging of fresh products – both are guaranteed with the latest generation of GEA thermoforming packaging technology, the GEA PowerPak PLUS. The machine was presented for the first time during, the GEA Packaging Days customer event at the production site in Wallau, Germany, at the end of last year. In May, the technology group will use the international trade fair IFFA in Frankfurt (Hall 8/Stand D06) to showcase the system on a larger scale.

Groundbreaking advances in film handling and hygiene
"Before developing the machine further, we undertook a customer survey. By doing so, we were able to incorporate our customers’ wishes to further improve process reliability and packaging quality as well as machine running times of our already proven thermoforming machines in the PowerPak product range," explains Volker Sassmannshausen, Product Manager Thermoforming. Based on their feedback, we chose to focus on film unwinding and feeding, hygiene and overall handling. Consequently, the sealing station and bottom film infeed of the PowerPak PLUS thermoformer were completely redesigned to facilitate process transparency and traceability – contributing to the greater sustainability of packaging processes in the food industry.

Optimized film handling reduces film consumption
The unwinding systems for both the top and bottom films have been optimized and are now motor-driven and synchronized with the machine’s advancing cycle. In combination with the innovative web tension system, they facilitate a controlled unwinding and a simplified and secure film path. Controlled unwinding in the bottom film infeed module prevents the bottom film from curling. As a result of the innovations in film unwinding and film run, the sealing station design has also been updated. The entire top film unwinding system is located in the area of the sealing station and easily accessed. Typical tolerances of the film reels like mis-alignment or curvature can be automatically adjusted. In addition, the sealing station structure has also been fundamentally improved and is now protected by vertically adjustable and transparent safety doors, which can be lowered quickly and easily when required, eliminating the need for loose, protective hoods.

Other significant innovations in the sealing station include the motor-driven evacuation and gasification valves in combination with pressure sensors. They enable individual, reproducible as well as product- and packaging-dependent processes. And, for example, under-, upper- and product vacuum are able to be controlled and monitored, ensuring the necessary process transparency.

Customer convinced by test results
The PowerPak PLUS thermoforming packaging machine has been in use at Handl Tyrol GmbH since the summer of 2018 for packaging bacon products. "It has proven itself from day one," confirms Dieter Roos, Head of Production at the Schönwies site in Austria. Working primarily with printed films, packing weights and sizes are constantly changing at Handl Tyrol. 

“The new machine model sets a benchmark in terms of film unwinding," reports Roos. "The top and bottom film are threaded quickly and easily. No more adjustments are required, and film is no longer wasted." As a result of the technical innovations in the PowerPak PLUS: Handl Tyrol has seen real economic benefits as a result of shorter set-up times, which are now70 percent quicker and has also halved its film changeover times, with 75 percent less film being lost during changeovers and virtually zero packaging errors.

Maintenance and documentation
With GEA PerformancePlus, modular service and maintenance packages are available which increases equipment availability and produces transparency regarding the actual condition of the equipment. Additional equipment options and software solutions are available from GEA, such as automatic recording of process data as well as the monitoring and logging of customer specific changes in real time. The overriding goal is to integrate the packaging machines into the company’s respective organizational and data structures without any complications and thereby guarantee that documentation obligations are met.

"Our thermoformers are user-friendly and process-reliable, delivering resource-savings while meeting the diverse and demanding requirements of the food packaging industry. We’re proud that we’re able to offer our customers the highest solution competence and assurance they need with our packaging process technology," concludes Sassmannshausen.

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