[VIDEO] How do cannabis pouch packaging machines work?
As legalization of cannabis spreads across North America, competition is tight, demand is increasing, and cannabis producers are looking for ways to streamline their operations.
A big part of the solution is automating tedious manual processes with cannabis packaging equipment. Enter: The automatic pouch filling and sealing machine.
Let's learn more about this equipment, how it works, and why it's one of the most popular cannabis packaging machine types on the market.
Introduction to automatic pouch filling and sealing machines
Known by different names: Pouch packing machines, automatic pouch fill and seal machines, premade pouch machines...this equipment type can be configured in a rotary or inline layout. An inline machine is designed to execute its processes in a horizontal fashion, whereas a rotary machine completes the same process in a circular configuration.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the rotary pouch packing machine, which is the more popular of the two. Why? A rotary design conserves valuable plant floor space and is constructed in an ergonomic way that makes operation and maintenance much easier.
Simplified, rotary pouch packing machines grasp a preformed pouch, fill it with product, and seal it shut. This process involves moving each bag around a rotary table to different 'stations' that each perform a specific step of the packaging process. Rotary pouch filling and sealing machines often have between 6 and 10 stations, with 8 being the standard. Depending on your needs, your automatic pouch packing machine can feature a single lane, two lanes, or four lanes. The more lanes, the more product you can package in the same amount of time.
So let's get started! First, watch a pouch packing machine produce bags of cannabis edibles in the video below. Then read on for a detailed explanation of each step (with time markers that correspond with the video so you can follow along).
How a cannabis pouch packaging system works, step by step
STEPS THAT OCCUR PRIOR TO PACKAGING
Before the product reaches the cannabis packaging machine, a few things usually happen:
- Vertical product conveyance. (0:28 - 0:41) The bulk product is usually deposited into a hopper at ground level and then carried vertically by a bucket elevator.
- Weighing. (0:41 - 1:00) The product is deposited by the bucket elevator onto a vibratory feeder that conveys it into a high-accuracy multi-head scale for weighing. The scale weighs enough product to fill each bag to accuracies within a tenth of a gram.
(Note: This applies to edibles and solid products. The conveying and weighing process is a little different for liquids or powders. Your packaging machine manufacturer will help guide you to the right solutions for your specific needs.)
HOW THE POUCH PACKING MACHINE WORKS
And now the product reaches the pouch filling and sealing machine. Here's what happens next:
- Bag loading. (0:13) Preformed pouches are loaded by an operator into a bag magazine. A roller automatically feeds the bags into the machine for further processing.
- Bag gripping. (0:20) When a proximity sensor detects a bag at the end of the magazine, an arm (using vacuum suction) grasps the pouches and individually loads them into the rotary 'belly' of the machine. Now the fun starts.
- Optional printing. If the bag requires date or lot codes, a printer will add that information to each bag as it passes.
- Zipper opening & detection. (0:24) This station has vacuum suction pads that gently grasp and pull the bottom portion of the pouch open. An arm catches the top part of the bag to fully open it. This station also has a sensor that checks to see if a bag is loaded correctly or at all. If it does not detect a bag, the filling and sealing steps will not engage for this particular bag.
- Bag filling. (1:01 - 1:21) The part we've been waiting for! As the multi-head scale weighs out individual portions of product, they are dropped individually down a funnel and into the waiting pouches.
- Optional gas flush. (1:22) Most cannabis companies are concerned with maintaining the efficacy, taste, and texture of their products as well as extending shelf life. The main culprit that can negatively affect all of these things? Oxygen. A gas flush station pumps harmless nitrogen gas into the bag to displace ambient oxygen. This way, when the bag is sealed, the oxygen level will be low, creating an ideal atmosphere for a perishable product like cannabis.
- Pouch sealing. (1:25) The station has two hot seal bars that come together over the top of the bag, bonding the packaging material together and creating a strong seal.
- Bag discharge. (1:26) This station conveys the finished bags out of the machine for further processing.
Why pouch packing machines are hot in the cannabis market
There are a variety of cannabis packaging machines on the market today. Today we focused on one of the most in-demand: The automatic pouch filling and sealing machine.
Why? One word: Simplicity. Pouch packing machines are easy to learn, a cinch to operate, and if you want to change over to a different size bag, it usually takes less than 5 minutes (and no specialized tools).
For a cannabis company that is looking to scale up its production quickly, ease-of-use and quick startup are paramount. A simple machine means less time spent on training and configuring the machine and more time spent producing, meaning happier employees and a healthier bottom line.
Learn more about automatic pouch filling and sealing machines
Interested in learning more about how pouch packing machines can help you scale up your operations, increase your product's shelf life, and increase your bottom line? Not sure what to look for when shopping for this equipment type? Download our free guide: