Packaging technology firm adopts laser marking technology

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Sealing station inside GEA's PowerPak Plus thermoforming packaging machine, with an integrated laser marking system. (Image: GEA)

German food processing technology firm GEA has announced its integration of laser marking systems into its thermoforming packaging machines.

The machine will be used to apply complex product labels in a high-resolution and reliable manner – a laser application gaining increasing traction in the food industry.

GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. It specialises in machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. 

The firm is using laser technology to boost the efficiency of the thermoforming machines of its ‘PowerPak’ series in cooperation with various suppliers on a customer-specific basis.

'Demand for laser marking systems is rising sharply,' said Volker Sassmannshausen, senior product manager for thermoforming at GEA. 'While packaging has to provide growing volumes of product information for end customers, it also has to ensure that products are fully traceable at all times. Applying a QR code with a laser is a solution with plenty of advantages.' 

Lasers provide numerous advantages over traditional marking solutions. Not only can complex marks encoding large amounts of data be produced over a very small area, but they can be applied to packaging film at very high speeds while also being impervious to heat, abrasion and water. In addition, lasers don’t require consumables such as labels and ink, providing impressive sustainability credentials. They are therefore reliable marking solutions in the food and beverage packaging industry, being able to work just as well in dusty and moist operating environments as they can in ideal conditions.

The technology also provides great flexibility, which is ideal as different packaging processes require different approaches. In GEA’s case, depending on production batch size, its machines are able to either mark the top film feed in advance, or once it has passed through the thermoformer’s sealing station, before the finished packaging units are cut apart.

Find out more about laser marking here

One of the firm’s customers opted for a laser marking system from Videojet to accompany its thermoforming packaging machine. The chosen CO2 laser was integrated at the system’s sealing station to print the top film before it is joined to the bottom tray. Despite the additional processing step, there is no increase in production time because labelling is accommodated within the integrated production process cycle.

When packaging similar products, using a laser can significantly boost machine efficiency since the only changes necessary are the ingredient lists, which can be accessed in the machine’s database. This means there is no need to switch to previously marked films in each case. Thanks to the reduced number of film changes, setup times are cut down. 

'Seamless interaction between components is the source of packaging machine efficiency,’ concluded Sassmannshausen. ‘Given that the laser marking system and our thermoformer are engineered to be a perfect fit, they meet high throughput, quality and product safety requirements.'

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