FROM THE ISSUE: Waterjet Case Study – the complete package

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Montreal packaging solutions manufacturer continuously invests in automation to keep pace with growth and keep its R&D on point.

By Noelle Stapinsky

For over 30 years, WeighPack Systems Inc. has specialized in designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art packaging machines for the global market. From container filling, capping and labeling to augers, conveyors and turnkey solutions, this Montreal-headquartered company, which has another facility in Miami, Fla., provides complete solutions for the food and cannabis industries. 

At its 60,000-sq. -ft. facility it does a large portion of manufacturing, as well as all research and development (R&D). And like many manufacturers, keeping up with demand naturally led WeighPack to investing in automation and technology solutions. It has been four years since it purchased the Maxiem 1530 waterjet table by OMAX, an investment Nadine Bolduc, production and facility manager, says was necessary to bring material cutting in-house. 

“At the time, the lead times of the local suppliers who provided material cutting services were increasing. They went from two days to eight days, which is too long for us,” says Bolduc. “When you’re working on R&D and there is a mistake, if you have to reproduce a part, you need the ability to turn around and implement a change quickly. If I’m building a machine and I try to install a part and it doesn’t work or the application fails, I need to redesign and refabricate it quick, and an eight day lead won’t allow you to do that.”

When looking for a cutting technology, Bolduc says that at the time fiber lasers weren’t as popular as they are today. Other technologies were very costly in terms of maintenance, etc. They chose the OMAX system supplied bySpark & Co. because it could handle a variety of materials and the supplier was close to their facility. “We could get the parts we needed the same day, and the service was there,” she says. “It was also a question of money at the time … lasers were very expensive.” 

“The challenge with food processing equipment is that you need to cut many types of materials such as stainless, plastics, plexy glass, glass and mild steel, for example, in different shapes and thickness. Usually the customer is challenged with small production of different types of materials and thicknesses for custom built machines,” says Guy Bélanger, vice president of business development for Spark & Co., which has been a distributor of OMAX waterjet systems for over two decades. “The Maxiem 1530 is very versatile, easy to operate and can cut literally any material. From a .dxf file, the machine will ask you what material and thickness you’re trying to cut and the OMAX Intellicam software will create a cutting program in a split second.”

Bolduc says that depending on the complexity of the part or if it’s a reworked part, she can have it finished within 24 hours. “I could be producing a part in the morning and I am able to have it on the assembly line after lunch. That’s a huge difference from a productivity standpoint.”

Today, WeighPack cuts everything on the waterjet. “85 per cent of the time it’s stainless, we cut 10 to 15 per cent of aluminum and the rest is plastic and rubber,” says Bolduc. “But when we first got the machine, our projection for growth showed that we would run the machine three or four days a week. Now we’re running the machine seven days a week for six or seven hours and that’s not enough, so we have had to start outsourcing to keep up with demand.”

WeighPack started a case study at the end of 2021 to consider other equipment, “we decided to go with a fiber laser this year.”

Last July, WeighPack opened another Montreal facility that is about 30,000-sq.-ft. and fully dedicated to R&D. And along with the investment in a laser cutting solution, 2022 is going to be a significant year of technological growth. “We are looking for a new bending machine,” says Bolduc. “Our current one isn’t that old, but there’s a labour issue and it’s hard to find qualified people to operate a bending machine with complex parts. So we’re looking at machines that are more user friendly, and with the software on the market today, it will guide the operator through the steps and help with alignment with a 3D model on a screen.”

“I also just bought a laser welding machine, which we received in January. It’s an IPG LightWeld 1500 and it’s going to be a complimentary piece of equipment with laser cutting. It delivers a very nice quality, so it’s perfect for us and the speed of it is very impressive.” SMT

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