Grimsby based Ultimate Packaging are experts in the production of printed flexible packaging. The company has constantly pushed the boundaries of high definition, flexo-print technology and have also developed a range of innovative films, used to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
In addition to significant investments in the latest printing technologies, the company has also installed a state-of-the art Rofin Laser System, which produces perforations in MAP materials at speeds twice that of previous systems, whilst at the same time, inspecting the perforations on the fly using machine vision. The technology is perfect to aid the production of AdaptMAPTM laser perforated films, Ultimate’s advanced modified atmosphere packaging.
This family business has seen extraordinary growth over the last decade and now boasts an annual turnover of £40 million. With a workforce of 280, Ultimate has established itself as a valued supplier to many of the major supermarkets and a diverse selection of food and non-food brand names. Today the company operates from a 100,000 square foot purpose built facility, running 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and 363 days per year. Ultimate take pride in their ability to deliver a complete packaging service, from concept to finished pack, meeting the growing demands of their increasing customer base.
With up to 70 per cent of the flexible packaging produced by Ultimate delivered into the fresh produce and chilled food sectors, production of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) has become a key part of the business. Ultimate Packaging has a dedicated specialist technical team who work closely with customers to define the unique laser perforation pattern required for each individual application, ensuring optimum performance and maximum shelf life. With the hole pattern established, it is essential that the systems used to produce these micro-sized apertures not only incorporate reliable methods of controlling and guaranteeing the size and shape of the holes being produced, but are capable of maintaining these essential attributes at the highest possible production speeds.
When a laser pulse hits fast-moving material there can be instances where the quality of the resultant hole may not be quite as required. If web speed exceeds certain values, the holes can become visibly oval and there may also be insufficient energy available within the pulse to completely perforate the material. In some cases, material produced at very high speed may not be of the accuracy required to allow the specified air exchange for the packaging and could therefore be deemed unusable. To achieve Ultimates’ aims of increasing capacity, producing at higher speeds whilst guaranteeing consistent quality, the company turned to laser specialists Rofin-Baasel UK for a solution.
Rofin-Baasel has been active in the flexible packaging market for over 10 years and a philosophy of continuous product development has resulted in a series of innovative laser based systems, with many different configurations, designed to support customers requirements in scribing (scoring), perforating and cutting packaging materials. The testament to this is the 200 plus customers already using Rofin systems within the packaging industry.
The system delivered to Ultimate Packaging is based on Rofins’ high speed StarPack Web Direction System which incorporates a 300W CO2 laser, with 4 individual Web Movement Compensation (WMC) heads. Rofins’ WMC controls and optimises the perforation hole dimensions, ensuring consistency, which in turn results in maximum shelf life for fresh food products. In this configuration, the system installed by Ultimate can accommodate web widths of up to 1300mm with production speeds in excess of 350m per minute easily achievable, double that of their previous production systems.
In-Process Vision Guarantees Quality
The fully integrated in-process vision inspection system on Ultimate Packagings’ Rofin laser further enhances quality control and enables measurement data to be recorded and analysed. The vision system, which uses 4 cameras, captures images on-the-fly and checks hole diameter and percentage roundness. The system can be set to alarm if a pre-set number of holes are out of specification, thus ensuring that the perforated film which is delivered to the end user meets the exacting standards set by Ultimate Packaging to maintain product freshness and maximise shelf life.
This latest acquisition by Ultimate Packaging has been integrated seamlessly within their film manufacturing facility to become a key part of their MAP production process. The new Rofin laser system also reinforces Ultimates’ reputation as a company that positively seeks out and embraces the technologies that will allow them to continue their extraordinary product, process and business development in the years to come.