Troubleshooting 5 common film-related issues on VFFS machines

Scott Miller


When packaging equipment is the backbone of your operation, any unplanned downtime seriously affects your efficiency (and your profits).

Luckily, quality vertical form fill seal machines that are properly cared for don't need much servicing, but inevitably there will be a time when your VFFS machine has film issues. When that happens, you want to be prepared with the info you need at your fingertips.

So we've compiled the top VFFS film issues we see, what they mean, and their possible causes.

NOTE: These are general tips. Your packaging machine may not have all features listed. Consult your owner's manual or machine manufacturer's service department for VFFS troubleshooting specific to your machine.

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General VFFS film troubleshooting tips

If your vertical form fill seal machine is having film issues, error messages will report issues on the HMI (human machine interface) screen. The message will remain present on the screen until it is acknowledged by an operator.

If you experience an error message or are having VFFS film issues, first ask yourself 3 general questions:

  1. Did you switch over to new film with a different structure?
  2. Have you recently spliced the film?
  3. Are machine components dirty or worn?

Often one of these three things is the main culprit when you have film issues on a VFFS machine. If the above questions don't uncover anything abnormal, you can move on to more specific VFFS film troubleshooting, starting with 5 common issues and their possible causes below:

1. Film eye mark error

This error means the eye mark on the film was not registered during the machine cycle. For a VFFS machine to register the eye mark, there needs to be a clear contrast between the mark and the background color of the film. When the VFFS machine cannot 'see' the film eye mark, it will not 'know' how long a bag needs to be. This will often cause bag sizes to be inconsistent or too long.

Possible causes:

  • Dirty registration photo eye sensor lens
  • Film is too shiny or reflective
  • Optical probe of registration photo eye is in a bad position
  • The film has been spliced
  • The registration photo eye sensor is out of place
  • Bad color contrast between eye mark color and background color on film
  • Pull belts are slipping

2. Film feed fault

This error means the film is not feeding properly through the VFFS machine.

Possible causes:

  • Registration photo eye did not see registration mark on film
  • Pull belts slipping
  • Machine ran out of film
  • Film is broken or spliced
  • Splice table clamps are down

3. Film is not tracking properly

This error means the film is not 'lining up' properly as it is fed through the VFFS machine. First, check to make sure the film carriage moves freely. Also check all wiring, relays, and power to the motor. Wipe the film brake roller clean.

Possible causes:

  • Film is not centered on spindle
  • Film is not webbed up properly
  • Rollers and dancer levels are parallel
  • Film is loose on one side and tight on the other
  • Splice table clamps down
  • Rollers not spinning freely
  • Auto film tracking not working
  • Forming tube damaged or not installed properly
  • Splice tape stuck in forming tube
  • Pull belts not set up properly
  • Brake roller dirty

4. Film unwind fault

This error means the film unwind is not working, which can cause the film web to snap.

Possible causes:

  • Film coefficient of friction is too high
  • Low or no film
  • Film is not webbed up correctly
  • Splice table clamps down
  • Dancer not set up properly
  • Bad cables or sensors
  • Film is damaged, rough, or torn
  • Film unwind brake is improperly set

5. Bad vertical/cross seals

These errors mean package seals are inadequate. This might manifest as incomplete seals (leakers), misaligned seals, seams that are stronger on one side than the other, blistered or discolored seams, or creases in package seals.

Possible causes:

  • End of the film roll
  • Film tracking sensor lens dirty
  • Film is not webbed up correctly
  • Bad cables or sensors
  • Incorrect heat seal bar temperature
  • Seal bar misalignment
  • Incorrect seal bar spring tension
  • Forming tube misalignment
  • Surface of seal jaws dirty
  • Damaged seal jaws

Get help with vertical form fill seal machine troubleshooting

With a proper preventive maintenance plan, vertical form fill seal machine troubleshooting should be infrequent and easy. Need help getting started? Download our free VFFS Preventive Maintenance Planner:

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