With an increasing number of consumers becoming eco-aware, recyclable packaging is expected to drive the global food-packaging trends in the coming years. In fact, the Global Packaging Trends Report 2017 published by The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies predicted that in the year 2018 an increasing number of consumers will drift towards sustainable packaging options. As a result, egg carton manufacturers and the packaging development experts are using innovative recyclable materials, such as paper pulp, polylactic acid (PLA), plant-based plastics, bagasse, and other recycled products to develop sustainable packaging, minimizing their ecological footprint.
Over the past decade, molded pulp packaging is proving to be an attractive and environment-friendly alternative to polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed PET, and PVC, especially in the poultry industry. Owing to their delicate nature, eggs require specialized packaging for protection against tainting, loss of moisture, deterioration due to climatic changes, and damages caused during transportation. Molded pulp egg cartons are 100 percent recyclable as they are made using waste paper products such as paperboard, newsprint, and other post-consumer and post-industrial waste. Additionally, the molded pulp packaging is ideal for packing eggs as they offer superior protection and cushioning to its fragile contents.
Though each step in the molded pulp egg carton production is critical, the drying process, in particular, heavily influences the quality and the performance of the final product. This article shares our experiences and tips for new carton manfacturers who bought egg carton machine and then consider about egg carton drying system.
The Significance of Egg Tray Drying Process
The egg carton manufacturing process involves several steps, namely raw material collection and classification, pulping, pulp formulation, molding, drying, pressing, trimming, and quality inspection. After the molding process is completed, the semi-finished egg cartons hold a lot of moisture that must be removed.
The drying process has a huge influence on the quality of the egg carton and covers a major ratio of the total production cost. Hence, it is critical to master the drying process and know the various factors affecting it. For instance, technical factors, such as the drying temperature and the humidity, speed, and flow rate of the hot air largely influence the drying efficiency and the quality of the egg tray.
Types of Drying Methods
Once the pulp is molded into the desired shape, the semi-finished product is sent to the drying line. The drying can be done naturally or by passing the egg cartons through a tunnel.
For the natural drying process, you will need to invest in carts and drying racks with wheels, thereby facilitating the manual haulage and storage of the semi-finished products until they dry. This process involves manual labor, therefore, it greatly reduces your mechanical equipment and fuel costs.
The tunnel (also referred to as hot air convection oven) is a continuous drying line, made of metal (rock wool inside), brick, thereby offering heat to the wet egg cartons. The automatic drying lines possess chain conveyor rolls that work in a cyclic manner, thereby taking in batches of wet egg cartons into the heated tunnel. These convection ovens or tunnels have pressurized ducts or nozzles that discharge hot air at a high velocity, thereby evaporating the moisture from the molded parts.
The wet molded pulp egg carton can be dried using one of the below-mentioned drying lines. Each of them has different requirements with respect to the labor, the fuel, the local climate, and the floor space.
1. Natural drying
This method is also called semi-automatic egg carton production line . After the molding process, the wet egg cartons need to be manually carried on carts and placed on racks and exposed to sunhine directly. This method is perfect for the small-scale production of molded pulp egg cartons as it is easy and affordable and doesn’t require electricity or additional floor space. Moreover, since no fuel and electricity is used, this method does not cause any pollution.
However, this drying process is not suitable for regions affected by bad weather, such as low temperature, strong wind, heavy rainfall or snow. Furthermore, since the cartons are manually placed in the open air, the drying speed is slow, making it unsuitable for large-scale egg carton manufacturing units.
2. Tunnel drying
This drying line automatically accepts the wet egg cartons, dries them, and finally collect finished product. The system uses fuel, such as coal, diesel, and natural gas and structure of dryer is made of bricks and metal. Most automatic egg carton drying tunnel have 40 meters length or even longer. Hence, it is ideal for the large-scale production of molded egg cartons. The automatic conveyance of the egg cartons makes the production process faster in comparison to its semi-automatic variant. Moreover, the labor cost is low as the drying process is fully automated.
a) Brick structure
Just like building a sealed rectangular solid, coveyor is surrounded by bricks and is driven by chain. Blowers ensure circulation of hot air inside brick tunnel.
b) Metal structure
Since this dryer is made of metal it can be quickly heated, thereby boosting the drying efficiency. Moreover, it have good heat insulation performance due to rock wool inside the steel enclosure. In recent times, multi-layered metal dryers have been introduced in order to accommodate limited floor space. The metal drying line has been designed to make efficient use of fuels, namely diesel or natural gas.
Things to Consider before Deciding the Dryer Type
When decide to choose dryer for your egg carton machine, you must bear this in you mind, that drying speed must keep pace with your egg carton making machine. Hence choosing the right dryer type is critical to the production efficiency and the quality of the egg cartons. Here are three things you must consider, which enabling you to make an informed decision and maximize the return on investment.
1. The Size and Output of your Shop Floor
Each type of dryer demands a different amount of shop floor space and has varying production output. Therefore, it is wise to choose a dryer that suits your output requirements and the floor size.
For instance, if you have a small floor area then multi layer metal dryer is ideal for your firm. This type can accommodate a large number of egg cartons because of the multiple layers, high automation, and ease of operation. On the other hand, the brick drying line with an automated conveyor belt will cover a large area because only a single-layer conveyor belt is available to place the wet egg trays.
2. Availability of Fuel
Diesel, coal, natural gas, and/or wood are the commonly used fuels when operating on the drying lines. Choose a dryer depending on the cost and the availability of fuels in your region.
Furthermore, considering the fuel efficiency of the drying line will help in the optimal utilization of the fossil fuels, thereby reducing your carbon footprint. For instance, the brick drying line uses coal or diesel as fuel; however, it can conserve energy and reduce your fuel costs as bricks and clay possess good heat conducting property, thereby improving the drying efficiency.
Also, if you live in the sun-belt region, you can forego the use of fossils fuels for the drying process and take advantage of the natural sunlight to dry the wet egg cartons.
3. Customer Testimonials
After you have made a decision on the right dryer type for your business, it is critical to read the testimonials given by clients who are already using the equipment. Make sure you go through the ratings, reviews, and comments from customers on the manufacturer’s website or social media page to get an idea of the product performance and operational issues if any.
Genuine egg carton drying line manufacturers will not shy away from sharing their accolades and client contact details. Speak to the past users and enquire about the size of their business, their experience when trading with the equipment manufacturer, and the operation efficiency of the drying line they currently own.
Drying is one of the most important steps in the molded pulp egg carton manufacturing process as it determines the performance and the quality of the end product. This post focuses on the most critical aspects of the molded egg carton drying process, thereby enabling you to manufacture high-performance egg cartons.
Use the information shared in this article to appreciate the significance of the drying process and invest in the right dryer type for your molded egg carton manufacturing firm.