Shrink Sleeve Applicators and Steam Tunnels

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Applying shrink sleeves to your products is an essential step before they head off to market but you may be wondering what type of machines you should use. Before we jump in, we should note that applying shrink sleeves or tamper-evident shrink bands is a two-step process. First, you will need an applicator to place the shrink sleeve or band onto the container. After it’s placed onto the container, it will need to be shrunk onto the container by passing through a steam tunnel.

Shrink sleeve applicators and steam tunnels can be integrated into existing production lines or can be installed off-line based on the application and request. Also, keep in mind that you may need to run your equipment below its max speed to produce the best results. Please note that we don’t sell application or shrinking equipment (we only print shrink sleeves) but Karlville Development Group is the company we use and often refer to customers for equipment and parts. All of the models listed below can be found at https://www.karlville.com/.

Automatic Shrink Sleeve Applicators »
Tamper-Evident Shrink Band Applicators »
Steam Tunnels »

Shrink Sleeve and Band Applicators

When shopping for an application machine, it’s essential that you take into consideration whether it’ll be compatible with your container, shrink sleeve, and production line. A consultation with your machine supplier is a great way to ensure that your machine will work best for your application needs.

Sleevepro 400 shrink sleeve applicators

Automatic Shrink Sleeve Applicators

There are a range of shrink sleeve applicators to apply shrink sleeves on most container shapes, materials (glass, plastic, metal), and conditions (filled or empty) at speeds that range from 150 to 800 containers per minute (CPM). Below are some shrink sleeve applicators that offer different application speeds and can be used in industries like beverage, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, sauces, and dressings.

  • Sleevepro 150: Designed mainly for small to medium companies who require reliable and flexible solutions that strike a balance between efficiency and cost. Processes maximum speeds of 150 CPM for tamper-evident bands and 120 CPM for full-body shrink sleeves.
  • Sleevepro 300: Fits low-speed applications and processes maximum speeds of 300 CPM for tamper-evident bands and 200/300 CPM for full-body shrink sleeves.
  • Sleevepro 400: Fits medium to high-speed applications and processes maximum speeds of 400 CPM for tamper-evident bands and 300 CPM for full-body shrink sleeves. (Shown in the picture above.)
  • Sleevepro 600: Fits medium to high-speed application and processes maximum speeds of 600 CPM for tamper-evident bands and 500 CPM for full-body shrink sleeves.
  • Sleevepro 800: Fits high-speed application and processes maximum speeds of 800 CPM for tamper-evident bands and 700 CPM for full-body shrink sleeves (maximum speed depends on the sleeve cut length).

If you will be only applying tamper-evident shrink bands to your product and have no plans to use full-body shrink sleeves in the future, then you may want to consider shrink sleeve applicators that are designed only for shrink bands.

Tamper-Evident Shrink Band Applicators

Tamper-evident shrink bands are strips of film used to seal caps for product security, freshness, and depending on the design, anti-counterfeiting. Like shrink sleeve applicators, tamper-evident models range in capabilities to suit different application needs. When shopping around, it’s important to take into consideration whether the applicator is compatible with your container’s size, cap diameter, and shrink bands. Below are some examples of shrink band applicators and their capabilities.
Tampertec 1000i

  • Tampertec: Offers smooth and accurate placement of shrink bands from speeds of 300 – 600 CPM. It’s compatible with container diameter sizes of 50 – 95 mm, cap diameter sizes of 8 – 85 mm, container heights of 80 – 350 mm, and shrink band cut lengths of 25 – 90 mm.
  • Startec: Cuts and applies the shrink bands onto the necks of containers at a max speed of 600 CPM. It’s compatible with all container diameter sizes, cap diameter sizes of 20 – 55 mm, container heights of 80 – 350 mm, and shrink band cut lengths of 25 – 90 mm.
  • Tampertec 1000i: A high-performance machine with high accuracy and reliability for large productions. It has a max speed of 1,000 CPM and is compatible with cap diameter sizes of 8 – 85 mm, container heights of 80 – 350 mm, and shrink band cut lengths of 25 – 90 mm. Available as options are a dual-roll unwind stand (recommended for non-stop productions) and a vertical perforation system. (Shown in the picture on the right.)

If you would like a machine that not only applies the tamper-evident band but also shrinks it, then you should consider the Combitec.

  • Combitec: A compact machine solution that comes with an infrared electric tunnel and applicator which are both fully adjustable for accurate and efficient shrinkage. The Combitec has a max speed of 300 CPM and can be used for tamper-evident bands and small full-body shrink sleeves that have sleeve cut lengths of 25-60 mm.

After the shrink sleeve or band is applied, it will next go through a shrink tunnel where an even distribution of heat will shrink the sleeve or band to the container.

Steam Tunnels

Shrink sleeves and bands need a 360-degree spread of heat for a uniform shrink which is why you shouldn’t use a blow dryer, microwave, or shrink wrap tunnel. Instead, you should use equipment made specifically for shrinking sleeves like a steam tunnel, radiant heat tunnel, hot air tunnel, or hybrid tunnel (combines heat and steam). We recommend using a steam tunnel because it uses less energy to run than other types of tunnels, produces better results, and is easier to configure.

Furthermore, steam tunnels are becoming the label industry’s standard method of shrinking sleeves onto filled product containers because its relatively low temperatures (usually between 170-180 degrees) make it safe for filled products to pass through. That’s why in this section, we’re going to focus on steam tunnels because it produces the best results. When looking for a steam tunnel, make sure that it’s compatible with the container’s size and shape, the sleeve’s height and material type, and your production line (tunnels have different lengths so you should check to see if it will actually fit where you’ll be housing it).
Steamer from Karlville

  • Steampro / Steampro Dry: The steam tunnel is divided into 2 main zones which are controlled individually. The steam pressure outlet is adjustable per pipe and zone. The Steampro Dry features low-pressure steam which produces minimum moisture and lowers energy consumption. Please note that you will need a steam boiler to supply a source of steam for both models.
  • Steamer: Handles up to 200 CPM and has an integrated boiler which allows companies to save money and time because they don’t need to install a stand-alone steam boiler on site. The Steamer allows for high-temperature generation with consistent internal pressure and low power consumption. It’s ideal for integrating with mid-speed range applicators such as the Sleevepro 150. (Shown in the picture on the right.)
  • Steamtec: A premium steam tunnel that can handle up to 250 CPM. The Steamtec increases quality and line efficiency thanks to its full ramps 3D and process adjustment that can be done live from the outside. Like the Steamer, it has an integrated boiler which allows companies to save money and time because they don’t need to install a stand-alone steam boiler on site.

Finding the right shrink sleeve applicators and steam tunnels can be challenging but it can be made easier by working closely with your equipment supplier. Another option to consider is outsourcing the application of your shrink sleeves or bands to an experienced co-packer. Check out the pros and cons of hiring a co-packer in our blog article.

For more information or to request a quote for shrink sleeves or bands, please call us at 1-800-475-2235 or fill out the contact form below.