Two years ago, I wrote an article in Packaging Digest entitled “What the Makers of Tankless Hot-melt Systems Don’t Tell You.” In summary, this article suggested that “tankless” technology was yet to be fully embraced by the market due to various issues with its warm-up times, its ability to reduce space and save power, and its overall efficiency. I have since written a follow-up to the aforementioned article. It was originally called, “What Makers of the Tankless Tank Hot Melt Systems Have Found Out.” However, after attending Pack Expo in Las Vegas and, most recently, Pack Expo East in Philadelphia, I have no choice but to change the title.
At both shows I inspected equipment put forth by various machine manufacturers and did not see a Nordson Freedom™ or Graco Invisipac™ hot melt machine on any of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) packaging machines. If OEMs are not embracing the tankless technology, there is undoubtedly a legitimate business reason.
Case and carton erector companies are extremely practical in purchasing supplemental equipment to include hot melt systems. All of the OEMs appeared to be using traditional hot melt systems/tank systems with reservoirs on their case erecting, case sealing, and cartoning machines. The fact that the major case erector and sealing companies have slowed their purchases of tankless technology indicates that this technology might not offer sufficient value.
Secondly, despite being considered “disruptive” technology just a few years ago, Graco’s Invisipac™ was nowhere to be found at the show—Pack Expo in Las Vegas is one of the world’s largest venues for packaging machines with over 1,000 displays. The Graco Invisipac™’s absence is certainly not a good sign for the future of “tankless” tech.
The industry’s subtle yet apparent shift away from “tankless” technology corroborates my observation from my previous Packaging Digest article. Tankless machines do not have the traditional reservoir tank; this creates significant problems should the auto feed malfunction. However, despite having smaller reservoirs, I have found tankless machines, like the Freedom™ and Invisipac™, to be larger in overall size than most hot melt machines. This is because the large drum of the automatic filling feature actually takes up much more space than a standard hot melt machine with a reservoir. Additionally, power savings are not realizable. These units operate like an extruder, requiring massive amounts of power intermittently, all while carrying double the price tag of a conventional hot melt machine for the same performance.
Melting, pumping and applying hot melt with accuracy is one of the least complicated processes in any manufacturing facility. Today, customers around the world want simple packaging hot melt equipment that is less expensive and less complex. In my experience, “tankless” technology, albeit innovative, complicates the manufacturing process without adding enough benefit to justify it. As a result, I have seen OEMs beginning to back away from the technology.
Hot melt machinery and hot melt adhesives continue to advance and play an important role in the packaging process. We believe that application appropriate hot melt equipment will continue to be embraced by the packaging world, but that there will be a long hard road ahead for tankless hot melt technology.