Martin Automates High Speed Multipack Line at A&R Carton

Posted: March 10, 2010

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The majority of A&R Carton's two-piece Multipacks are produced for leading European brewing companies, which export them around the world.

A&R Carton BV's production facility in Sneek, Netherlands, is one of Europe's most highly specialised plants for the production of beer and beverage packaging solutions. Part of the multi national A&R Carton Group, which has 15 production sites across Europe, as well as sales offices in Asia, Africa and the USA, it is acknowledged as a pioneer in the design and creation of high impact retail packaging.

Into this challenging production environment, Martin Automatic was charged with the responsibility of providing unwind and splicing technology for two bespoke high-speed lines that produce A&R's patented two-piece Multipacks. To quantify the often-overused term "high-speed", each of the lines at A&R is capable of producing 36,000 six-packs per hour, enough to hold 72,000 litres of beer - that is packaging for 1,152,000 litres of beer per shift!

It is the award-winning design of the pack, which is produced as a two-piece that has allowed such high production speed. By using a lightweight quality board for the printed outer and a lightweight lower grade for the supporting inner, and feeding the two together on a Roberts PolyPro folder gluer, A&R Carton has made a major advance in beer and beverage packaging. Previously the domain of one-piece production, which is slow and costly on board waste, Multipacks can now be manufactured in high quality and high volumes on short turnarounds.

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A&R Carton's Process Engineer, Jouke Hilarides, says the Martin Automatic machines require minimal maintenance and give high operational availability, even when running triple shifts.

Speaking for A&R Carton, Process Engineer Jouke Hilarides explained: "Our rolls of the inner board are delivered ready slit into two 400 mm widths, but at 1860 mm diameter, they are left joined together for stability and safety purposes. We needed technology that would handle these rolls reliably to allow us to run the folder gluer lines with inline rotary die cutting non-stop - Martin Automatic came up with the best solution."

The project to develop this production concept began back in 1998, with the first Roberts PolyPro folder gluer installed two years later. The new two-piece product was introduced to the market shortly after the Millennium. In 2002, as a consequence of a boom in demand, A&R Carton installed the second Roberts line, but continued to look for ways of taking cost out of the manufacturing chain and further optimising their production lines. After careful market research and trials of two manufacturers' equipment, the decision was made to install a Schober rotary die cutter together with Martin Automatic technology.

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A&R Carton's Martin MBX units handle rolls up 558 mm wide and 1828 mm in diameter.

The two Martin MBX automatic unwind and splice units handle the rolls with ease, and feed each line via a festoon device into a decurler, web guide and pulling station, which, by being linked to the speed of the folder gluer, applies the exact web tension required for rotary die cutting, stripping and blank separation, prior to the gluing together of the two elements of the pack — the outer blanks are fed in after being printed and die cut.

The Martin machines have a non-stop splicing speed that matches the production speed of the line, and in this configuration are capable of handling web widths to 558 mm on rolls of 1828 mm diameter weighing 1135 kg. Jouke Hilarides explained his preference for Martin technology: "We knew the equipment had a reputation for sustained reliability under heavy workloads, largely as a result of its functional design. Our two Martin machines require minimal maintenance and give us high operational availability even when we are running triple shifts in the peak Summer months."

A major part of the plant's current output is for European brewers that export to overseas countries. Key to the Multipacks? success was the detailed research A&R carried out at the design stage. With continuous price pressure coming from the market, and raw material costs increasing, A&R Carton set out to keep board consumption to a minimum.

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Gerard de Vries is A&R Carton?s Beer and Beverage Business Area Manager. He said the key to success of the two-piece Multipack is its design that allows high-speed production and minimal use of virgin fibre.

Vice President of A&R Carton's Beer & Beverage Business Area, Gerard de Vries, takes up the story. "We had to refine the product as far as possible for cost and performance reasons. Using low cost board was of no use if the pack failed in practical terms. The crucial part was maintaining strength in the handle, which bears the greatest load, but we also had to ensure that the contents were well protected in transit. By setting up functional specifications, introducing consumer behaviour simulation, and minimising tolerances, we could achieve our goal and make a considerable cut in the use of virgin fibres."

A&R Carton's Multipacks offer a variety of advantages to the beer and beverage manufacturer, including individuality, convenience, proven performance, and also a sustainable packaging solution. By maintaining a high brand profile in an innovative way, the company believes it has become part of its customers' production process.

A&R Carton BV
Tel: +31 515 422 922