Auto vs. Semi Auto Shrink Wrap Machine Differences
Auto shrink wrap machines and semi-auto shrink wrap machines produce the same finished product but differ dramatically in appearance, size, efficiency, set up, and many other aspects. To be clear, this post discusses heat shrink wrap machines for packaging, not auto vs. semi-auto stretch wrap machines for pallets. Heat shrink wrap machines use a sealer to enclose and protect products; a heat tunnel shrinks the material around the item or items being wrapped.
The final product should look the same. The capabilities of each machine can vary substantially, though. Some standard features on a full auto machine will not be available on a semi-auto machine. In contrast, other benefits of a semi-auto shrink machine are not possible on an automatic system.
Below is a broad description of each machine's benefits, drawbacks, and production capabilities. At the very bottom, there is a chart showing differences in automatic and semi-auto shrink wrap machines. It is essential to remember each manufacturer is different, and details can vary. Our main goal for this post is to describe the differences between auto and semi-auto shrink wrap machines. We also threw in some info on manual machines for easy comparison.
Manual Shrink Wrap Machines
Manual shrink wrap machines require hands-on operation for every step of the heat shrink-wrapping process. The machine operator will need to pull the film off the roll, insert products into the material, and make a seal. Once the seal is made, heat will need to be applied to shrink the material. Manual shrink wrap machines can wrap several products daily, but the operator can make or break the process.
Because manual machines are an affordable shrink-wrapping option, heat guns are used during the shrinking process. It can be an art and a science to package several products daily with a heat gun and not be required to redo several items. An operator can get the hang of manual shrink wrapping and efficiently package a product every sixty seconds or less. Other operators can get midway through a package and burn through the shrink film, causing redo after redo. This is one of the drawbacks of manual machines; each operator can vary substantially in consistency and efficiency. View the benefits and drawbacks of manual shrink wrap machines below.
Manual Shrink Machine Pros
*Most Fit Standard Plug-ins
*Identical finished product as auto machines
*Beginner all-in-one systems available
Manual Shrink Wrap Machine Cons
-Lack of efficiency
-Dependent on the operator's skillset
-Not made for high output
-Parts wear out faster
-More labor intensive
Manual Shrink Wrap Machine Differences
The operator is required for every step
One power supply 110V – 120V
Wire Sealing Element
Heat Gun for Shrinking
Up to 300 products daily
Not made for high production
Semi-Auto Shrink Wrap Machines
Considerably more efficient with fewer hands-on are semi-automatic shrink wrap machines. Semi-auto machines can come with many different functions and designs. Generally speaking, semi-auto machines assist with one or more steps in the shrink-wrapping process. They can be a step away from automatic shrink wrap machines or a step above manual machines depending on the features included with each machine.
Some semi-auto machines have a magnetic hold-down to keep the bar closed during sealing. This function frees the hands of the worker to grab the following product to be packaged. The magnets release once the seal is complete. One-step shrink packaging systems seal and shrink in one cycle within a chamber. Magnets hold the lid closed during the sealing and shrinking process. Many steps are considered semi-auto with this type of machine, but they are not made for high-volume shrink packaging. Most can package a product every 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the power supply.
For a higher volume semi-auto machine, shrink wrapping combo systems are prevalent. Combo machines have an L bar sealer and shrink tunnel for streamlined shrink packaging. Decked-out semi-auto systems require the operator to insert the product into the film and push a button. Other basic semi-auto shrink machines need the operator to hold the sealing bar down and place the product into the shrink tunnel. There are many production benefits to semi-auto shrink machines. They are a favorite for companies wrapping more than two hundred products daily. The durability and efficiency are often justified because of less hassle throughout the entire process.
Semi-Auto Shrink Machine Pros
*Relieves the operator of one or more steps
*Durable parts to last through more seals
*Consistent-looking finished products
*Easy Set up
*Many semi-auto features are available
*Works with thicker materials
*For higher production packaging
Semi-Auto Shrink Machine Cons
-Most require 220v power supply
-Larger footprint than manual machines
-Shrink tunnels can take time to heat up
-Operators can still make or break the process
-Products will still need to be inserted into the shrink material
Semi-Auto Shrink Machine Differences
The operator is required for one or more steps
Most require one or more 220V Plugins
Wire, Micro knife, or hot knife sealing elements available
Small to medium shrink tunnel for shrinking
Some machines are capable of 5,000 products daily
Made for medium production levels
Automatic Shrink Wrap Machines
Auto shrink wrap machines will pay for themselves with enough use. Manual machines can package one or two products per minute, while automatic machines can package up to thirty products per minute. With enough volume, an automatic shrink wrap machine purchase is a no-brainer.
Any company packaging more than three-thousand products daily should begin to consider a fully automatic machine. Once volume breaks ten thousand products daily, full auto is almost a necessity. With semi-auto machines, two semi-automatic devices with one or more operators would need to package products for a full day to reach ten thousand. In comparison, a fully automatic machine would package that amount of items within four hours or less, with someone loading the line and someone unloading the line.
There are two popular fully automatic machine styles for shrink packaging with centerfold shrink film. The first is an automatic L bar sealer with two sealing sides close as the photo-eye sees products pass. The two sealing sides are fixed and can only accommodate products smaller than the sealing bar. In contrast, an auto-side seal machine can seal products up to a specified width but can seal elongated products such as molding and baseboards.
Longer shrink tunnels are used with fully automatic sealers to keep up production speeds. With auto side seal machines, shrink tunnels can be more than six feet long. In addition to the shrink tunnel, an exit conveyor to catch finished products is strongly recommended. Conveyors come in many different forms but should be used at the entrance and exit of automatic shrink machines. With a complete packaging line, packaging tens of thousands of products daily can be done with two employees.
Auto Shrink Machine Pros
*Made for high volume
*Minimal operator knowledge needed
*Faster Warm-up times
*Auto-side seal machines can wrap infinite lengths
Auto Shrink Machine Cons
-Multiple 220v plugins are often needed
-Required assistance for initial setup and training
-Higher initial capital expense
-Does have limitations
-Repairs can be costly
Auto Shrink Machine Differences
The operator only loads and unloads conveyors
One or more 220v plugins required
Premium hot knife sealing blades
Medium to large shrink tunnel for shrinking
Costs tens of thousands
Some machines made for 25,000 products daily
Made for high production levels.
The differences can be innumerable with the vast selection of semi-automatic and fully automatic shrink wrap machines. Use the chart for a brief note of some differences. For a business with higher packaging requirements, efficiency and durability are the primary difference between the machines. Spending the additional money on the front end can pay for itself within months. It does not matter if you have low or high-volume shrink-wrapping needs; we would like to help. Call 1-800-441-5090 and speak with a professional today.
Auto vs. Semi-Auto Shrink Wrap Machine Differences
|Question about the machine||Manual Shrink Wrap Machine||Semi-auto shrink wrap machine||Full Auto Shrink Wrap Machine|
|How much is required from the operator?||The operator is required for every step||Operator required for one or more steps||Operator required to load and unload conveyors|
|What is the power supply?||110V||One or two 220V power plugs||One or more 220V power plugs|
|What is used for sealing the shrink film?||Wire Sealer||Wire, Mirco knife, or hot knife||Hot Knife|
|What is used for shrinking the shrink film?||Heat gun||Small to medium heat tunnel||Medium to large heat tunnel|
|How large is the machine footprint?||Small, tabletop||Medium||Large|
|How much does the system cost?||Hundreds||Thousands||Tens of thousands|
|How many products can be packaged daily?||300||5,000||25,000|
|What production levels can the machine handle?||Low||Medium||High|