11 min read
The Top 6 Box Turning Technologies: Which Should You Choose?
Written by: François Granger, 7 September 2021
If you’re thinking of adding a box turner to your production, you’re probably wondering:
“What box turner is right for my company?”
It is important! But just as important is choosing the right box turning technology for your production.
The truth is: Choosing a box turner is not just about choosing the best box turner product.
Choosing a box turner involves choosing the right box turning technology and the best fitting box turner product.
Hi! My name is Francois, and I am a Mechanical Engineer and an IMPACK Expert.
Over the last 4 years, I have recommended, sold, and been involved in the testing of dozens of box turners in many countries around the world.
This experience has allowed me to have a very in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of box turners.
In this article, I will cover the Top 6 Box Turning Technologies on the market and how to know which box turning technology is right for you.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
What is a Box Turner?
IMPACK’s Ergosa A with an IN2 Box turner installed on site for one of our clients in the United Kingdom.
A box turner is a pre-packing device that individually turns each carton box in the shingle* exiting the folder-gluer to form a new shingle with the boxes presented in the desired direction.
*A shingle is the overlapped stream of folded boxes exiting the folder-gluer.
Box turners can range from the most basic to the most advanced systems on the market depending on the technology used and the capabilities that these technologies offer.
Being a pre-packer, a box turner is installed right after the folder-gluer and before a packer.
The image below shows where a box turner (a pre-packer) would be located within the flow of your packaging equipment.
A graphical depiction of the flow of packaging equipment around a folder-gluer.
If you’re not familiar with what a box turner is, learn here about what a box turner is, how it works, and the benefits it offers to your packing process.
Who Needs a Box Turner?
The best choice of a box turner always depends on your box sizes, product mix, format restrictions, and the amount of floor space you have available.
In other words, they are entirely dependent on the folder-gluer packer or stacker you select.
What Are the Most Popular Box Turning Technologies on the Market?
The working principles of a box turner vary based on the type of box turning technology used.
There are 6 common box turning technologies on the market. Those are:
- Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer
- Helicoidal Turners
- Turning Tables
- Right Angle Transfer Conveyors
- Shingle Turners
1. Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer
The simplest and most basic box turning technology that exists on the market is “Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer.”
This just means using guides and tools directly on the folder-gluer’s compression belt.
Despite being the most economical way of turning boxes, it is the technology that is most complex to set up and is rather limited in the scope of its application.
In terms of box turner products, IMPACK’s IN1 Box Turner would arguably fall into this box turning technology category: Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer.
IMPACK's IN1 Box Turner.
That is to say, the IN1 Box Turner was built as a standardized solution that offers the same capabilities as that of guides and tools used on a folder-gluer’s compression belt.
The IN1 can be installed directly on your folder-gluer’s compression belt and offers you the capability to turn your boxes 90° to the left, 90° to the right, or straight through.
It is the easiest, simplest, and most economical solution on the market to turn your boxes and it offers several possible orientations.
2. Helicoidal Turners
A “Helicoidal Turner” is one of the most common box turning technologies that exist on the market.
Helicoidal Turners are included in every Collecting Table out there.
Bobst's HandyPack GT - A Semi-Automatic Collecting Table.
Helicoidal Turners are a fairly economical way of turning kicker boxes on their edge and they have the advantage of keeping the count from the folder-gluer kicker (i.e. keeping the offset box visible throughout the whole turning process).
That said, Helicoidal Turners have the disadvantage of being angled 90° relative to the folder-gluer.
This means that all the equipment following the folder-gluer must be positioned sideways which occupies more floor space.
In addition, with the Helicoidal Turner, the helicoidal turn is mandatory in the sense that there is no straight through mode.
This means that you cannot turn left one day and right the next day; you only get to choose one fixed turning side when purchasing a Helicoidal Turner.
More specifically, it is not possible for your boxes to pass straight through without turning unlike with other box turners such as Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer, Turning Tables, Right Angle Transfer Conveyors, or Shingle Turners.
If turning is not required (turning is not required for non-straight line boxes), the Helicoidal Turner must be removed from your production line as it becomes useless and you cannot make use of its accumulation conveyor either.
Learn in this article about the advantages of an accumulation conveyor and how Collecting Tables compare to Semi-Automatic Packers.
3. Turning Tables
A “Turning Table” is also a relatively widespread box turning technology that is popular in the North American market.
WSI Global's MITT Packing Station is an example of one of the popular Turning Tables in Western countries.
WSI Global's MITT Packing Station (A Turning Table).
Turning Tables consist of a rotating table and they have the advantage of being compact.
Just like Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer, Right Angle Transfer Conveyors, and Shingle Turners, Turning Tables can also turn your boxes 90° to the left, or 90° to the right, depending on the direction of rotation of the table. But there is no straight through mode available.
Turning Tables are generally difficult to set up and it’s hard to get a consistent shingle out of the turn when the folder-gluer speed increases or decreases.
4. Right Angle Transfer Conveyors
A “Right Angle Transfer Conveyor” is a conveyor positioned perpendicular to an upstream infeed conveyor.
A Right Angle Transfer Conveyor’s process consists of dropping the box shingle onto a conveyor that is positioned slightly underneath the conveyor and at a right angle.
Admittedly, and just like every other box turning technology, this process has its drawbacks. One of these drawbacks, in particular, cannot be overlooked:
If the boxes are counted using the folder-gluer’s kicker, the offset box will be realigned in the turned shingle causing a very slight difference in the shingle pitch* on each side of the counted box.
*Shingle pitch: The shingle pitch is the distance between overlapped boxes in a shingle.
This means that the count will be difficult to detect by your packing person(s).
The good news is that there are various ways to address this problem and different companies will propose distinct solutions based on your needs and their capabilities.
At IMPACK, we separate those solutions into two types: Marking devices and automatic counting and separation units.
This optical brightener, used originally to bleach the carton, has the property of an invisible ink under normal light and glows under blacklights.
We then add a "blacklight led array" at the operating station to make this mark easily visible to your packing person(s).
The picture below from one of our clients depicts this procedure:
A shingle shown on a Ergosa's accumulation conveyor. The box is marked with a diluted optical brightener using IMPACK's OBP and is clearly visible underneath the Ergosa's built-in UV Lamp.
Counting and Separating device: Alternatively, you can add a counting and separating device such as IMPACK’s INTRO.
Due to high demand from clients, we also made the Counting and Separating device available as a standalone machine that can be paired with our Semi-Automatic packers.
IMPACK’S INTRO: An automated counting and separating device with a laser counter and double-belt system.
Bobst's CartonPack 4 uses this laser counting technology to count boxes after the Right Angle Transfer Conveyor.
And this same Right Angle Transfer technology is also part of many of IMPACK’s box turners.
If you only have a Right Angle Transfer Conveyor and nothing else, all the equipment following the Right Angle Transfer Conveyor will be positioned sideways which occupies more floor space — just like with the Helicoidal Turners.
You cannot have any other orientation or change this orientation with a Right Angle Transfer Conveyor.
Bobst's CartonPack 4 - Automatic packer.
If a semi-circular roller conveyor is installed prior to the Right Angle Transfer Conveyor, then you can change the orientation of your box shingle and keep the downstream equipment aligned with your folder-gluer.
In other words, installing a semi-circular roller conveyor before the Right Angle Transfer Conveyor gives you the flexibility to change the orientation of the equipment following the folder-gluer and you’re no longer stuck with your equipment being fixed sideways after your folder-gluer.
Some examples of machines that have a Right Angle Transfer Conveyor and a semi-circular roller conveyor combination are Graphic West’s J-Pack, KBA Duran's Omega Pack Station, and Heidelberg’s Diana Packer.
As well as IMPACK’s IN2 Box Turners.
The integration of those rollers allows different orientations (90° to the left, 90° to the right, or straight through) but they require you to move the downstream equipment sideways to achieve the desired orientation.
5. Shingle Turners
There are also other types of box turning technologies that change the orientation of the shingle altogether instead of turning each box individually within the shingle.
These box turners are called “Shingle Turners.”
Shingle Turners are normally used to change the direction of the flow of boxes to allow you to install your packing system either parallel to the folder-gluer (on its side) or on its perpendicular axis. This is convenient when there is limited space after the folder-gluer.
1. IN2C Shingle and Box Turner: This unit offers two turning modes:
- IN2C’s Shingle Turning Mode can be used to turn the shingle such that a packer can be installed 90° perpendicular to the folder-gluer (if your company has tight floor space).
- IN2C’s Box Turning Mode can be used to allow a right-angle transfer drop after the folder-gluer. This achieves the 90° degree turn of the boxes.
IMPACK's INU Shingle Turner versus IMPACK's IN180 Box Turner.
This means that the packer is oriented towards the feeder of the folder-gluer. So the palletizing will take place at the beginning of your folder-gluer.
There are also other “combinations” or hybrids of the above box turning technologies that are available on the market.
Those hybrids combine several of the features and capabilities offered by each of the individual box turning technologies to provide more benefits within one box turning technology.
Listed below are a few examples of combinations that we designed here at IMPACK:
1. Our IN3 Box Turner (patented) combines a Right Angle Transfer Conveyor with multiple sets of rollers and an extensible belt to provide all 3 orientations (90° to the left, 90° to the right, or straight through).
The best part about the IN3 is that you do not need to move any of your downstream equipment since the shingle remains in the same center axis position no matter which turning mode is used (even when using the straight through mode).
IMPACK's IN3 Box Turner.
2. Our IN180 Box Turner combines two Right Angle Transfer sections with multiple sets of rollers and belts to provide a straight through path or a 180° turn.
IMPACK's IN180 Box Turner.
Our INH Box Turner is our newest innovation with the most advanced box turning technology on the market (patent pending).
As illustrated in the image below, the INH turns the box shingle and makes the boxes stand on their folded edge in the gluing direction. All in one single motion.
The INH Box Turner is a unique combination of a roller section shaped in a helicoidal path and an accumulation conveyor that is oriented in the gluing direction.
- The Helicoidal roller section provides the advantages of maintaining the count from the folder-gluer's kicker. This allows you to turn your boxes 90° while making them stand on their folded edge and in only 1 meters length.
- The accumulation conveyor in the gluing direction keeps your downstream equipment aligned with the folder-gluer. This means that no equipment will be positioned sideways, 90° left, or 90° right. Your boxes will continue in the gluing direction of your folder-gluer.
IMPACK's INH Box Turner.
Thus, the INH Box Turner occupies far less floor space than the Helicoidal Turners (Helicoidal turners are the box turning technologies used in Collecting Tables such as Bobst’s Handypack GT, KBA Duran's Omega Pack Station and Tünkers' FAS 480).
Choosing the Best Box Turner For Your Company
Now that you have a very good understanding of the top 6 box turning technologies, and their differences, your next step would be to choose the best box turner product for your production.
We talked about several of IMPACK’s Box Turner products and what box turning technologies they use.
You’re probably asking yourself: “How do those box turner options compare against each other?”
Well, we’ve got you covered!
Begin by comparing IMPACK’s Box Turners side-by-side by reading “Comparing IMPACK’s Box Turners: Which Is Best For Your Company?”
Learn more about the specifications of IMPACK’s Box Turners by visiting “IMPACK’s Box Turners”
Find out how to choose the best box turner for your company by checking out "What Box Turner Is Right For You?"
Need More Help?
We’d love to help! Contact us today if you’ve got more questions.
IMPACK’s experts would love to help and maybe even show you some of our box turners LIVE on a video call 😉.
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