18 min read

What is a Box Turner and Do I Really Need One?

Featured Image

Carton boxes come out of a folder-gluer in a particular orientation that is determined by the gluing process. 

Unfortunately, and in most cases, this orientation is not the same orientation at which you'd want to pack your boxes into cases based on your customer's request or based on best practice.

Therefore, 90% of the time, box manufacturers are forced to turn their boxes before packing them into cases.

The burden of turning boxes falls onto your packing staff.

This means:

👉 More work for your packing staff.

👉 Slower packing speeds and diminishing productivity.

👉 Less ergonomic workstations and greater repetitive strain injuries for your operators and packing staff.

What if I told you that you can easily solve this problem and save time and money?

What if I told you that you can fully automate the turning of your boxes so that you never have to worry about it ever again?

Welcome to the world of box turners.

Hi! My name is Francois Granger and I am an Area Sales Manager here at IMPACK.

Over the last 4 years, I have recommended, sold, and tested dozens of packaging equipment including Box Turners.

But, what is a box turner?

How does it work?

And, does your company really need a box turner?

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about box turners and the available options on the market. 

Let’s dive in, shall we?

What is a Box Turner?

A box turner is a pre-packing device (a pre-packer) that individually turns each box in the shingle* exiting the folder-gluer to form a new shingle with the boxes presented/oriented in the desired direction.

*A shingle is the overlapped stream of folded boxes exiting the folder-gluer.

shingle diagram webp optimized

A schematic diagram of the flow of boxes with IMPACK's IN2 Box Turner.

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.

Turning the boxes facilitates a case packing and(or) box bundling process since the boxes are presented/oriented in the correct direction so that they can be packed into cases or sent to be banded or strapped together.

Typically, straight line boxes must be turned prior to the case packing process. Therefore, having a box turner eliminates the need to manually turn your boxes before packing them into cases.

When it comes to 4/6 corner boxes, they are sometimes turned and other times left unturned. It all depends on your customer’s requested case packing configuration and the technology used for the case packing or box bundling.

As for crash-lock/auto-bottom boxes, they are most often inverted into batches to avoid wedge-shaped rows and to get a more compact case or bundle configuration. Hence, it is generally not necessary to turn crash-lock/auto-bottom boxes.

What is the Purpose of a Box Turner?

The purpose of a box turner is to allow you to rotate your boxes 90° to the left, 90° to the right, or straight through.

At IMPACK, we also offer box turners with 180° turning features, such as the IN180 Box Turner.

A box turner gives you the ability to control your box orientation so that you can meet each customer’s requested case packing configuration.

As you may already know, straight line boxes are typically packed with the glue-line laying horizontally in the case just like the orientation of the IMPACK logo shown in the image below.

boxes webp optimized

This means that your boxes should be turned 90° before they are packed into the case.

If your boxes are not turned before they are packed into the case, they would come out standing up which would require your packing staff to manually turn them 90° and then pack them into the case.

Therefore, what a box turner really does is present/orient your boxes in the right direction before they enter the case packing or box bundling process so that your packing personnel do not need to turn the boxes manually. 

This saves you time and money that is otherwise spent on asking your packing personnel to turn your boxes before packing them into cases or sending them for banding/strapping. 

In sum, a box turner allows you to:

  • Automatically turn your boxes 90° to the left, 90° to the right, straight through, or 180°.
  • Have your packing personnel focus on the packing and not box turning.
  • Avoid repetitive movements which lead to constant wrist injuries. 
  • Simplify the grabbing movement. 
  • Save time and money during the packing process.
  • Improve the efficiency, ergonomy, and productivity of your packing process.

Where is a Box Turner Installed?

Being a pre-packer, a box turner is installed right after the folder-gluer and before the packer. 

Box Turner right

The image below shows where a pre-packer is located within the flow of folder-gluer packaging equipment.

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A graphical depiction of the flow of packaging equipment around a folder-gluer.

Who Needs a Box Turner?

Carton box and corrugated cardboard box manufacturers that own a folder-gluer packer or stacker need a box turner.

The only exception is if you own IMPACK’s Ergosa A packer which already includes an IN2 or INH 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. 

That is, they are entirely dependent on the type of folder-gluer packer or stacker you select.

🔍 Related: Ergosa Vs. Virtuo Vs. Everio: Which Folder-Gluer Packer/Stacker Should You Choose?

How Does a Box Turner Work?

The working principles of a box turner vary based on the type of box turning technology used.

To have a better understanding of how a box turner works, I will break down the 6 most common box turning technologies that exist on the market.

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.

IMPACK’s IN1 Box Turner would arguably fall into this solution category of Basic Tooling on a Folder-Gluer.

Image 1

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, such as Bobst's HandyPack GT, and are a fairly economical way of turning kicker boxes on their edge. 

Bobst Handypack GT Webp

Bobst's HandyPack GT - A Semi-Automatic Collecting Table. 

Helicoidal Turners 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. 

That is, 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.

Hence, if turning is not required, the Helicoidal Turner must be removed from your production line as it simply becomes useless and you cannot make use of its accumulation conveyor either.

Learn in this article about 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.

Turning Tables

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-GluerRight 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.

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. 

Marking Device: IMPACK’s OBP or OBS systems apply a small amount of diluted optical brightener on the edge of the kicked cartons at the folder-gluer trombone.

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 by the packing person(s). 

The picture below from one of our clients depicts this procedure:

Marking-Device-UV-Mark

Optical Brightener counter marked with IMPACK’S OBP system.

Counting and Separating device: Alternatively, you can add a counting and separating device. 

This unit uses laser counting and belt separation technology which is present in all IMPACK's Automatic and Fully-Automatic packers and stackers. 

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.

INTRO-2

IMPACK’S INTRO: An automated counting and separating device with a laser counter and double-belt system.

This laser counter technology is exactly how Bobst's CartonPack 4 counts 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 Cartonpacker 4

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 are 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 meet the appropriate direction of the next module after the folder-gluer other than next to the folder-gluer (parallel on its side or in the perpendicular axis).

IMPACK’s Shingle Turners are the IN2C Shingle and Box Turner and the INU Shingle Turner.

     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.

     2. INU Shingle Turner: The “U” in the INU Shingle Turner refers to the U-turn capability of the INU Shingle Turner which is different from the 180°       turn offered by the IN180 Box Turner.

The picture below shows a side-by-side comparison of the INU Shingle Turner and the IN180 Box Turner.

INU VS IN180 Box Turner LATEST

IMPACK's INU Shingle Turner versus IMPACK's IN180 Box Turner.

The INU Shingle Turner can be installed at the end of a folder-gluer to have the shingle turned 180° in parallel to the folder-gluer. This enables you to use that extra space for a packer or stacker.

This means that the packer is oriented towards the feeder of the folder-gluer. So the palletizing is taking place at the beginning of your folder-gluer.

6. Combinations

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) without the need to move any of your downstream equipment.

IN3 Webp

IMPACK's IN3 Box Turner.
  1. 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.

IN 180 Box Turner

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 to left, or to the right, and makes the boxes stand on their folded edge in the gluing direction. All in one single motion.

inh box turner webp optimized

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.

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IMPACK's INH Box Turner.

Thus, the INH Box Turner occupies far less floor space than the Helicoidal Turners which are present on the widely known Collecting Tables.

🔍 Related: What's the Difference between Collecting Tables and the Ergosa Packer? (Definition, Automation & Types)

Do I Really Need a Box Turner?

It all comes down to what your needs are.

Over 90% of carton box and corrugated cardboard manufacturers require a box turner to present/orient their boxes in the right direction before the boxes enter the case packing process.

If your boxes are not turned, they would come out standing up which would require your packing staff to manually turn them 90° before packing them into the case.

This wastes time and money on something that you can fully automate.

You Do NOT Need a Box Turner IF 👇

  • Your packing process is fully manual and you're not yet looking to automate your box turning process.
  • Efficiency and ergonomy improvements are not a priority for your company at this point in time.
  • Your packing configuration does not require you to re-orient your boxes after they exit the folder-gluer.

You Need a Box Turner IF 👇

  • Your boxes must be turned before the case packing process (In most cases, it is mandatory to turn your boxes since they exit the gluer front-first and need to be packed on their folded edge).
  • You're interested in an IMPACK packer or stacker such as the Ergosa packer, Virtuo packer, or Everio stacker.
  • You already have a non-IMPACK packer or stacker and you need to turn your boxes to achieve a specific packing configuration.
  • You need to turn your box shingle to get it at a 90° angle or to return it in parallel with your folder-gluer (if there is not enough space at the end of your folder-gluer).

How to Choose a Box Turner:

The choice of a box turner depends on 4 key aspects:

  1. The size of boxes that you produce.
  2. Your product mix, range, and variety.
  3. The amount of floor space you have available.
  4. The folder-gluer packer or stacker that you choose.

We have a complete article that covers "What Box Turner Is Right For You?" that I’d strongly recommend you to check out, but here’s a quick overview to get you thinking:

  • If you are considering an Ergosa A packer, then your 2 available options are the IN2 and the INH box turners which are already included as part of the Ergosa A package.

  • If you are considering an Ergosa C packer, then your 4 available options are the IN2, IN3, IN1, and INH box turners.

  • If you are considering a Virtuo packer, then your 2 available options are the IN3 and IN2 box turners.

  • If you are considering an Everio stacker, then your 2 available options are the IN2 and IN3 box turners.

  • If you already have a packer or stacker (IMPACK or non-IMPACK brand) that has limitations related to case configuration due to the packer’s lack of turning capabilities, then your 3 available options are the IN3, IN180, and IN2 box turners.

👉 To find out what folder-gluer packer or stacker is best for your company, take a look at the following articles:

What is a Folder-Gluer Packer and Do You Really Need One?

What Folder-Gluer Packer Is Right For You?

Ergosa Vs. Virtuo Vs. Everio: Which is the Best Folder-Gluer Packer?

👉 To learn more about what box turner you should choose, check out those resources:

What Are IMPACK’s Options of Box Turners?