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Semi Automatic Vs. Fully Automatic: Which Stretch Wrapping Machine is Best For Your Needs?

Consistency and efficiency are two of the most important elements of successful packaging. Today, with the physical demands and inconsistencies that come with stretch wrapping by hand, companies are finding it easier to justify the purchase of stretch wrapping machines. However, they are still faced with the challenge of finding a stretch wrapping machine that complies with their unique operations.

stretch wrapping machine

Which type of stretch wrapping machine is best for your operations? To confidently answer this question, you must know the difference between semi and fully automatic pallet wrappers and understand the distinctive benefits of each.

In this post, we’ll explain the difference between these two types of stretch wrapping machines and help you better understand the key elements of each. Let’s get you on your way to finding the right stretch wrapping machine for your operations!

Semi Automatic Stretch Wrapping Machines

If you’re handling low-volume applications, a semi automatic stretch wrapper may be the best solution for you. These machines provide a safe method of unitizing loads, while providing a competent pallet load to fulfill your customers’ demands. Semi automatic stretch wrap machines require an operator to place the pallet loads on the stretch wrapper and apply the film tail to the load to initiate the cycle. After which, the stretch wrapper applies the film and wraps the pallet load.

These systems are normally used in low volume applications, with fewer than 20 loads per hour being wrapped. Even if your wrapping requirements are as few as 10 pallets per hour, the purchase of a stretch wrapper is easily justifiable.

There are 3 basic types of semi automatic stretch wrapping machines. In effort to help you determine which best meets you needs, here are the key features and functions of each:

stretch wrapping machine

  • Low Profile Turntable Stretch Wrappers: Best for pallet jack operations; these machines are designed with the turntable positioned less than 3 inches from the floor. Using a ramp, pallet jacks can easily place loads on this series.

stretch wrapping machine

  • High Profile Turntable Stretch Wrappers: This machine is designed specifically for forklift loaded applications. Compared to low profile turntable stretch wrappers, this turntable provides easier loading and positioning access because it is elevated. Poor pallets also do not end up dragging on the machine frame as can happen on a low profile system.

stretch wrapping machine

  • Overhead Rotary Arm Stretch Wrappers: Designed for heavy or unstable pallet loads (light, tall, and poorly constructed loads), this type of stretch wrapper allows loads to be easily wrapped while stationary on the floor. Three mounting configurations are available: Wall Mount, Floor Mount and Free Standing Gantry.

Automatic Stretch Wrapping Machines

Automatic stretch wrapping machines, on the other hand, require no operator intervention during the cycle. Loads are typically brought to the machine on a conveyor belt so that the machine can automatically begin wrapping. Fully automatic stretch wrappers interpret the height of each pallet load to the film carriage and ensure a professional and efficient wrap every time. The film is then cut and sealed to the pallet load, which exits the wrapping cycle to make room for other loads.

These systems are commonly used in higher volume applications, from 20 pallets per hour to up to 120 loads per hour being wrapped.

There are 4 specific functions that true automatic stretch wrapping machines must perform. To help you better understand these functions, we’ve put together an overview of each. To be truly automatic, the stretch wrapper must:

  1. HOLD… the tail of the film to start each stretch wrapping cycle, without the need of an operator to attach the stretch film to the load.
  1. WRAP… the product based on the wrapping parameters that the operator has set on the stretch wrapper control panel.
  1. CUT… the stretch film from the pallet load and secure it in a clamp. This way, the leading edge of the stretch film is properly positioned to allow subsequent pallets to be wrapped.
  1. APPLY… the tail end of the stretch film to the load. Positive film tail treatment ensures that the hanging edge does not unravel during transit to the customer.

Beware; as some semi automatic machines can have options and gadgets added to help give machines extra automation but do not properly provide all of these features. Here’s a simple way to test if a stretch wrapper is truly automatic: If at any time during the cycle you hope the film is in a certain position for the machine to work (instead of the machine positively locating the film in that position), then it is not a true automatic machine.

As an example, we have a useful option on semi automatics that allows the film to be torn off at the end of a cycle, so the operator does not have to cut the film. While this is a useful feature, the film tail at the end of the cycle is not wiped down, tucked, or sealed. It simply falls to the ground, where it starts a slow process of potentially unravelling.

There are also 4 basic types of automatic stretch wrapping machines. To help you determine which best meets you needs, here are some key features of each:

stretch wrapping machine

  • Rotary Ring: Rotary rings are unique because they rotate only the carriage itself, unlike a traditional turntable or rotary arm. Featuring a compact design, this stretch wrapper is suited for constant applications. The Phoenix PRRA Rotary Ring Pallet Wrapper reduces film costs dramatically when compared to conventional rotary arm and turntable stretch wrappers because it can start and stop the cycle anywhere on the load. Often these film savings alone can provide payback on the new machine in 3 years. 

stretch wrapping machine

  • Conveyorized Rotary Arm: These machines eliminate the need to rotate the pallet being stretch wrapped. Whether dealing with heavy or unstable loads, it can quickly and efficiently be wrapped with this system. These machines are most commonly used in-line with the rest of the packaging line. 

stretch wrapping machine

  • Conveyorized Turntable: This system offers a flexible and economical stretch wrapping solution for up to 50 loads per hour and 4,000-pound weight capacity. Featuring a compact design, this stretch wrapper is best when faced with tight fitting applications.

stretch wrapping machine

  • Non-Conveyorized Automatics: Operators just have to place the pallet on the stretch wrapper and pull the cord to begin the automatic cycle. This machine eliminates the need for operators to get off the forklift to stretch wrap pallets and is available for both low profile and high profile operations.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you are sure of which type of stretch wrapping machine is best for you operations. If you are looking for more information or have any questions, please feel free to comment below or contact us directly!

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