B&R's out-of-the-box ospVFFS solution enables rapid development and testing of VFFS machines with minimal engineering effort and a short time to market. Photo B&R automation

The packaging industry is one of the most important and rapidly growing sectors of all. The world has seen significant progress in this sector and how it has supported the consumer market so well. Consumers today are more demanding than ever, so manufacturers are turning to automation in order to accelerate production while guaranteeing the highest quality, hygiene, and weight accuracy.

Increased consumer demand is driving the packaging industry to replace outdated conventional packaging lines with more flexible solutions. In addition, running systems need to be flexible and scalable to keep up with market demands and keep costs under control. Quality, product preservation, hygiene, traceability, and safety are some of the goals of packaging management. In addition, stability, quality, and services are the most important factors that meet the goals of today’s packaging industry.

VFFS machines – a boon to packaging

The packaging industry is using technology to address a variety of challenges, such as liquid leakage, speed control, and frequent breakdowns, which later become an obstacle to smooth production. This is where a vertical form, fill and seal (VFFS) machine plays an important role in the packaging of goods and food products. VFFS machines are used in many different industries, including chemicals, minerals, fast-moving consumer goods, pet food, and agriculture, for several good reasons. They are a fast, yet economical solution that saves valuable floor space. 

A VFFS machine is the modernized form of a filling and capping machine that takes less time, works faster, causes less downtime, is easy to install on the shop floor, and also requires less time for maintenance. Original equipment manufacturers are trying new aspects in machine designs to meet the changing trend. Today’s consumers prefer packaged foods rather than buying old-fashioned loose products. A significant gap has been identified between the cost and weight of the material. 

How they work

VFFS machines are designed to accurately weigh and fill ingredients in pouches. The production of pouches from thin plastic films, either with servo or VFD control, is another important function of a VFFS machine. Unwinding control and measuring the diameter of the plastic film roll are the most important elements to consider. After the ingredients are accurately weighed, they are filled into the formed pouches. Vertical and horizontal sealing are important aspects in pouch forming and ensuring quality packaging. 

The working principle of the packaging machine is mainly based on the vertical sealing bar, which is hot, moves forward, and touches the vertical overlap of the film, thus bonding the film layers together. The continuous movement keeps the mechanism of the VFFS machine in contact with the film at all times, so it does not need to stop to receive its vertical seam. The machine should be designed to handle products weighing from 50 grams to 50 kilograms. Motion control technology plays a crucial role in a VFFS machine to achieve accurate synchronization, which in turn enables perfection of sealing, filling, and cutting operations. 

The slightest error in synchronization leads to unnecessary waste of material and time. There is also the possibility of using different filling systems or mechanisms such as screw fillers, multi-head weighers, cup fillers, belt weighers, or piston fillers. A VFFS machine based on an ingredient or equipment type must include such filling methods. An advanced VFFS machine is expected to configure various filling mechanisms through the HMI screen, rather than managing them in the actual programming. A VFFS machine should be capable of packaging free-flowing, viscous, or granular products. 

Intelligent and flexible – ospVFFS

Advanced VFFS machines play an essential role in meeting the high demand, producing a variety of pouches in different shapes and sizes. The key for any future VFFS machine is to adapt to changing demands without the need for programming. In addition, machine builders need to build a machine and make it available to their customers without investing unnecessary time in programming. This drastically reduces time to market. 

Machine builders are moving toward a strategy of ‘configure more and program less.’ To meet all of these needs, B&R India has launched its ospVFFS, which is a scalable, configurable, and ready-to-use software solution. It can be used for both new and retrofitted machines with unlimited options and configurations. 

B&R’s out-of-the-box ospVFFS solution enables rapid development and testing of VFFS machines with minimal engineering effort and a short time to market. Photo B&R automation

The ospVFFS allows machine builders to configure a VFFS machine with different options in as little as 30 minutes. This not only improves machine performance but also enables a shorter time-to-market. In addition, the configurable solution is Industry 4.0 ready, with web-based diagnostics and secure IT connectivity – via integrated OPC UA. This solution offers higher productivity, meets Industry 4.0 and OMAC PackML requirements, the possibility of fast troubleshooting with reduced maintenance, a highly flexible solution (plug, configure, run), and the highest software quality, along with OPC UA readiness for superior IT connectivity.

The most unique and attractive feature of the ospVFFS solution is its cost-effectiveness. In addition, OEMs can achieve higher availability, better performance, and higher quality with ospVFFS, which increases ROI (return on investment) and enables rapid development and testing of VFFS machines with minimal time-to-market and effort. With lower maintenance and operating costs and higher efficiency, ospVFFS provides a unique completely out-of-the-box solution. It also reduces the overall effort required to configure the VFFS machine, drastically lowering TCO (total cost of ownership). 

B&R India has started a revolution in VFFS machine manufacturing with its OEM solution package ospVFFS. With ospVFFS, machine builders can reduce the time for initial commissioning to 4 hours and the time to commission a production machine to less than 30 minutes. B&R India helps the packaging industry meet core requirements with ease and is undoubtedly a leader in providing innovative automation and digitization solutions to various OEMs.

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The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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