As case packing experts, we often get questions on the most common case types and how they vary from one to another. Since the style case used often affects the case packing automation, we will be exploring the most common corrugate cases or “shippers” used for shipping goods. Please note, there are many other materials and case styles used for purposes not discussed here. Let’s get started!
The first case style we will talk about is the RSC and stands for Regular Slotted Container. This is sometimes referred to as a knock-down case. It is the most common case style used to ship products through all steps in a distribution chain.
RSC Cases are popular because they use minimal material to completely encapsulate their contents. They can also be easily erected by hand from a folded state because the manufacturer’s flap is already sealed in the proper location.
A tray case is like an RSC but missing one side panel and two flaps. The remaining flaps are typically the same length from score to edge. Trays are overwrapped after loading to save on corrugate and create a retail ready package for big box stores.
The acronym HSC stands for Half-slotted Container. This is like an RSC case, but with only one set of flaps located on one end of the case. It still has a manufacturers flap secured in place, like the RSC case. The HSC case is not seen as frequently as RSC and trays. Most require an overwrap after packing while others may include a corrugate tray lid. This creates an ideal case for co-packers who send their product to repack.
A wrap-around case is an RSC case without the manufacturer’s flap sealed. This is the second most common case style used for shipping. Wrap-around cases require some sort of machine or other assistance to be erected because the manufacturer’s flap must be attached and done so in the correct position with repeatability.
Although a wrap-around case will resemble an RSC once fully erected and sealed, there are some unique benefits over an RSC case. A wrap-around case can save money because the case manufacturer does not need to charge for the manufacturer flap sealing process. Because wrap-around cases can be shipped as blanks, which are one corrugate layer thick, twice as many wrap-around cases can fit into a case packer magazine. (With RSCs, the folded cases would be two corrugate layers thick.) Finally, wrap-around cases can be made to fit the contents tighter while RSC are formed perfectly square prior to packing. The sealed manufacturer’s flap in an RSC case can also create a potential catch point.
A type of harness case used often in shipping is also called a Center Seam Five Panel Folder case (say that three times fast). This type of case does not use a manufacturer’s flap. Instead, one of the side panels is split in two equal lengths. Because of this, it has many of the benefits of the wrap-around case, as it is shipped and loaded into a machine as a blank and can fit tightly around its contents. Unlike a wrap-around, this type of case could more easily be erected and sealed by hand around a product than a wrap-around case (because of the lack of manufacturer’s flap).
Case Packing Automation
After gaining a basic understanding of the various case styles or shippers, let’s review how this translates into case packing automation. There are four basic styles of traditional case packers: Side or Horizontal Load, Top Load (which includes Robotic), Bottom Load and Drop Case Packers, let’s dive in.
As the name implies, a side load case packer inserts the product into the case from the side. All the case styles mentioned above can be packed with a side load case packer. However, some of the cases must be tilted onto their side before loading.
A top load case packer typically uses a gantry with an end-of-arm tool designed to pick the product from a conveyor, or other staging area, and place it into the case from above. Top load case packers are usually used to load product which cannot be loaded from the side. An example is an array of wine bottles standing upright in an RSC case. These could not be easily swept into the open end of the RSC case tipped on its side.
Brenton has experience loading many different products into cases from above. It is standard practice to design a custom end of arm tool in order to best capture and support the product during its transfer into the box. Brenton utilizes sensors in the end-of-arm tool to be sure all product was present, captured, and successfully loaded. These packers can load RSC, tray, and HSC cases.
Robotic case packing is a form of Top Load case packing but instead of the gantry style of a conventional top load case packer, a robot is used. The type of robot can vary, and is typically either a robotic arm, a delta robot, or a SCARA robot. Empty cases are conveyed into the loading area and their position is secured by a case locator which can also hold the case flaps out of the way to ease the loading process.
Brenton most often uses a six-axis robotic arm in these case packers. In scenarios where contamination-sensitive products must be loaded, the six-axis robot does not need to be mounted overhead, like a delta robot. A six-axis arm can provide additional degrees of freedom for product manipulation while entering the case. Sometimes the product itself can be used to hold the case flaps out of the way in order to avoid use of a case funnel.
Robotic case packing is often paired with 2D or 3D vision software to increase the flexibility of the machine. Whereas the gantry top load machines rely on mechanical manipulations of the product to establish the pack pattern, a robotic arm paired with vision software can create the pack pattern within the case providing the customer with more flexibility.
Bottom load case packing is ideal for products that cannot be vertically picked or tilted and require gentle care. This product should remain standing during the packing process. Typically, this serves the food and personal care market with examples including dairy applications with gable-top cartons or gallon jugs and products with shrink wrap or transparent film on top.
End users will select a drop pack style case packer when they have multiple variations of ridged containers. They offer easy changeover and flexibility in placement whether inline, counter flow or right angle. While still a viable case packing option, robotic top load case packing is beginning to replace the traditional drop packers in many applications.
Your product drives your case style and your case style drives your packer. Being knowledgeable in both with help with packaging cost savings, machine efficiency and longevity. Brenton offers a variety of case packing solutions to meet your plant’s requirements. For more information visit: https://www.brentonengineering.com/products/case-packing-equipment/