New sealing technology for the Flowmodul

“The Flowmodul packages products into flowpacks with unbeatable efficiency, providing high flexibility and quality control while saving space. This innovation has enabled us to fully integrate the flow-wrapping process into our modular machine concept as well. With the Flowmodul, small batch sizes, short product lifecycles and high-level product diversity can be handled more efficiently than ever before. This is what makes the application so attractive in many sectors.”

Johannes Schubert

Schubert Flowmodul Product Manager

For over 50 years, Schubert has been winning over customers with its capacity for innovation and its feel for the market. These strengths once again came into play when working on the Flowmodul. With this fully integrated flow-wrapping component, Schubert has identified a real market need and brought to life a highly efficient solution. The latest model of this machine offers an even more extensive selection of possible sealing technologies. In this interview, Johannes Schubert, who has been responsible for the Flowmodul as product manager since January 2017, shares his assessment of the innovative technology and talks about the advantages and ongoing development of Schubert’s eighth standard system component.

Mr Schubert, the Flowmodul is now being used by many of your customers. What is your assessment since its market launch?
To date, we have sold 38 Flowmodul components to both existing and new customers in a total of eight countries. Our objective for 2018 is to sell 30 Flowmodul systems. Sales in 2021 are expected to increase to 100 machines.

Our flow-wrap technology is currently being used to package a wide range of products such as chocolate, biscuits, cakes, chocolate figures, yoghurt cups and even ice cream – which demonstrates that the Flowmodul is already showing great success in many different industries. As planned, the Schubert Flowmodul has evolved into an important growth factor for our corporate group.

What makes the Flowmodul so unique?
The Flowmodul packages products into flowpacks with unbeatable efficiency, providing high flexibility and quality control while saving space. This innovation has enabled us to fully integrate the flow-wrapping process into our modular machine concept as well. With the Flowmodul, small batch sizes, short product lifecycles and high-level product diversity can be handled more efficiently than ever before. This is what makes the application so attractive in many sectors.

In combination with the TLM pick-and-place robots, the Flowmodul can respond quickly to new market requirements. This gives our customers decisive competitive advantages. Our customers also benefit from the many advantages of a combination of primary and secondary packaging processes. Uniform control, ease of use, highly flexible robot loading, and the fact that customers are given a solution from a single vendor are also important arguments. We can respond to customer wishes quickly and implement them on an individual basis.

With the Flowmodul, Schubert now offers a highly efficient primary packaging solution. Have you also been able to win over new customers?
During the initial launch period, we most often sold the flow-wrapping unit to customers who had already been working with us very successfully. These customers know that we always keep our promises and were confident that the new system component would also deliver all the benefits they have come to expect from Schubert technology.

We are very pleased that we have also been able to win over customers who had not worked with us previously with a primary packaging solution. For the first time ever, a flow-wrapping machine can be seamlessly integrated into the packaging process. And ultimately, this is what convinced existing as well as new customers.

What feedback have you received from customers who are already using the Flowmodul?
The feedback we are receiving clearly reflects satisfaction with the compact combination of primary and secondary packaging processes. Our customers appreciate the fact that Schubert packaging systems are operated with the high-level efficiency we promise. Additionally, they are very enthusiastic about the close contact we maintain with them, and they confirm again and again that the quality of collaboration with our family business is exceptionally positive. We take good care of our customers and their applications, and we work together with them to achieve an optimal solution.

What are the most recent developments relating to the Flowmodul?
With the latest model variants, we are even more closely oriented to the TLM concept, which has always made our modular machine approach so successful. With the focus on our users, we have significantly improved accessibility for maintenance and cleaning. We have also made suspension of the film rolls more ergonomic. This all makes the Flowmodul even easier and more efficient for technicians and machine operators. This means Schubert is in compliance with the stringent hygienic requirements for sensitive applications such as in the pharmaceutical or food processing industry. The machine also features easy-to-clean conveyor belts.

…and in terms of the sealing technology?
Regarding the sealing options, we now offer an even more extensive selection of possible technologies. This enables customers to choose the most suitable processes for their products. Our latest development is an unprecedented sealing method that allows the application of hot-seal film even for sensitive products.

Why did Schubert develop this new sealing method?
Nowadays, sensitive products, such as chocolate bars, are wrapped in cold-seal film to avoid melting of the chocolate. Cold-seal film, however, in addition to its higher cost, has the disadvantage that it cannot be stored for an extended period of time. The adhesive strip loses its strength over the storage period. Moreover, when the package is opened, the adhesive could contaminate the product, which of course is a significant consumer-related risk. We are anticipating great success with the new sealing technology and are confident that we will be starting series production in autumn 2018.

How does Schubert’s sealing technology differ from existing ones?
The Flowmodul can be equipped with four different sealing methods – thermal and ultrasonic sealing, or a combination of both are possible.
Our new technology is a quickly-adjusted heat-sealing technology developed specifically for highly sensitive products. In the case of hot-seal films, the Flowmodul adapts seamlessly to the variable speeds of the upstream F4 robots, without having an effect on the seal quality or the tightness of the flowpacks. The key lies in constant sealing times at variable chain speeds. Here, we set new dimensions in the control range of the heat-sealing film. The patented flying cross sealing unit used here is highly flexible and ensures that the sealing times remain constant. If hermetically sealed packages are required, the sealing time can be set accordingly. Besides, the flow-wrapping machine can be provided with a non-rotating ultrasonic longitudinal sealing unit, which is especially suitable for films with high barrier effect. Both systems are characterised by low heat development, which makes them ideally suited for heat-sensitive products such as chocolate.

What are the current plans for the further development of the Flowmodul?
We have great plans for our customers in the healthcare and pharma sector – with a focus on meeting the industry’s stringent requirements and specific standards. A TLM packaging machine with one or more integrated Flowmoduls can already be used to package medical or pharmaceutical products into flowpacks using a film with high barrier properties. This protects pharmaceutical products from environmental factors. Future solutions for the pharmaceutical industry will also include the option of gas injection (modified atmosphere) of the individual flowpacks. I see great opportunities for our Flowmodul in this area.

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