When it comes to manufacturing and packaging equipment, flexibility is key for creating quality cannabis-infused food and beverage products.
PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, notes in its report, “Cannabis Market Update: Unique Packaging Challenges for THC and CBD Products,” manufacturers must work closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop solutions that suit their individual requirements.
“New machine designs will need to be both flexible and adaptable, especially when it comes to the size and cost of the machine,” the report reads. “Cannabis companies range from small outfits with little capital and room to spare, to large production operations capable of making an investment in multiple machines at one time. OEMs will need to be aware of this range and work with cannabis companies to understand their needs and means and tailor machines to meet specifications.”
These small cannabis companies often start with pilot or laboratory equipment, since it can be used in both product development and manufacturing processes. Small-scale equipment can also fulfill production demand until the company outgrows it.
That includes high-shear mixing equipment, which is a critical step in many cannabis food and beverage manufacturing processes, says Christine Banaszek, sales manager, Charles Ross & Son Company, Hauppauge, NY.
“Investing in a scalable laboratory mixer is a game-changer,” she says. “Clients new to the cannabis space are pleasantly surprised that they can acquire a scalable laboratory high-shear mixer quickly and affordably. It's an entry-level machine that helps small labs and businesses create various formulations with a clear path to scale-up when the time comes.”
Admix, Inc., Londonderry, NH, relaunched its RS-02 Pilot Scale Mixer last year with a new mobile lift stand, making it easier to move the mixer—which fits through standard doorways— between laboratory spaces and production areas.
“We are pleased to bring the redesigned RS-02 pilot-scale mixer to processors looking for a high-shear mixer for smaller batch applications,” says Patrick Lakin, national sales manager, Admix. “Customers can quickly produce trial flavors or adjust formulations, helping them get their products to market faster.”
Speed and space considerations also play into running nimble operations. PTL, Auckland, New Zealand, provides chocolate and bar manufacturing equipment to the North American market. Last year, the company introduced the Melter V20, a chocolate melter that has a 45 percent smaller footprint and a melt rate that’s 125 percent faster than the company’s other melters. The machine also allows for quick changeovers, says Nick Halliday, managing director.
‘’Changeovers are an area that restrict production efficiency and the ability of our customers to be flexible, so we’ve addressed that in the V20 by transforming the changeover process,” he says. “Masses/coatings can be quickly switched and wash down is fast and simple, with a focus on allergen cleanability. For example, all product contact surfaces are removable or accessible for cleaning.’’
Flexibility is also critical in the packaging phase of manufacturing. GEA’s newest vertical packaging machine, the SmartPacker CX400 D-Zip, was designed to check a variety of boxes, says Martijn van de Mortel, product manager, vertical packaging, GEA, Dusseldorf, Germany.
“The SmartPacker CX400 D-Zip is future-ready,” he says. “Whether the need is for high quality, more capacity, greater flexibility, a small footprint, low maintenance, or a combination of all of these, the SmartPacker CX400 D-Zip answers the call. It’s capable of producing all common bag types on a single machine without compromising any expectations.”
Introduced in October 2020, SmartPacker CX400 D-Zip creates all existing bag styles and has a changeover time of under 45 minutes—without the use of special tools. Suitable for confectionery, snacks, and other products, the machine has an output of 100 D-Zip bags per minute.
Flow wrappers, which wrap products in plastic film and typically have a horizontal orientation, must also support manufacturers in quick, easy production. Launched in August, Syntegon’s Pack 202 includes technological advances such as an easily removable discharge belt, upgrades to the cross-seal and fin seal units, and a highly intuitive, user-centered design.
“The machine is easy to operate, clean, and maintain, which reduces downtime and maximizes overall equipment effectiveness,” says Kelly Meer, product manager, Syntegon, New Richmond, WI.
No matter which type of product they’re creating, cannabis manufacturers must adapt to changes in demand and the industry, and flexible equipment and strong relationships with OEMs will make it easier.
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