What causes packaging blades to fail [and how to prevent blade failure]

packaging machine knives are a critical component of flexible packaging lines

Packaging machine knives play a critical role in slicing and separating film on any flexible packaging line. But when packaging machine knives fail it can bring your entire line to a halt, costing you valuable production time and even damaging your equipment.

Let’s take a closer look at what packaging blades do and why blade failures occur. We’ll also consider some ways you can prevent failures from happening.

What Do Packaging Blades Do?

Packaging blades are types of industrial machine knives commonly used on flexible packaging machinery. They include:

Losing Your Edge: What Causes Packaging Blade Failure?

Packaging machine knives use a combination of teeth and machined edges to perforate and shear different types of packaging materials. They are used to cut materials ranging from film to laminates to rigid plastic containers.

A blade fails when it becomes too blunt or damaged to cut cleanly. A well-made industrial knife should not break if it is being used as intended, but blades do eventually wear and need replacing.

Factors that determine how quickly a knife will wear out include:

  • The hardness and durability of the blade
  • How frequently the blade is being used
  • The toughness, or “abrasiveness”, of the material being cut, and
  • How well the knife is maintained, including cleaning and corrosion protection.

What Causes Blades to Fail Prematurely?

While normal packaging knife failure due to wear and tear can be predicted and planned for, premature blade failure can disrupt production, damage machines, and even endanger workers.

Premature blade failure can occur when a blade:

  • Is poorly manufactured using substandard materials and techniques
  • Is incorrectly installed or used in incompatible equipment, or
  • Suffers excessive or rapid corrosion

For example, TGW International has found that rapid corrosion in packaging knives is often linked to the use of highly caustic cleaners, and blade life can be extended in many cases simply by switching to a more neutral cleaning product.

Cutoff knives used in vertical fill sealing and cup or tray fill sealing are particularly prone to premature failure because they are constantly exposed to high temperatures and corrosive sealing chemicals.

What Are The Consequences of Premature Blade Failure?

In most cases, premature blade failure will result in incomplete cuts or ragged or torn edges on materials. Sometimes telltale “stringers” become visible on the edges of cuts as a knife begins to lose its edge.

Catastrophic knife failure can occur when a blade physically breaks. Knife fragments pose a danger to workers and can cause severe damage to equipment. There is also a risk of contaminating products, especially in food or medical facilities. These types of blade failures are seen most commonly in tray sealing applications, when a cutoff or slitter knife strikes frozen food or other material protruding from a tray, breaking the blade.

Catastrophic or not, premature blade failures can result in:

  • Unexpected production downtime
  • Missed production targets
  • Higher repair and maintenance costs, and
  • Unexpected equipment replacements.

How Can I Prevent Premature Blade Failure?

Flexible packaging processors can reduce the chances of premature blade failure on their machines by:

  • Using the correct type and grade of material for the blade
  • Running equipment at the prescribed speed for the blade design, and
  • Establishing and sticking to a preventative maintenance program.

Both OEMs and equipment end-users should also look to ensure consistent packaging blade quality and reliable service by partnering with a reputable industrial knife supplier with an established track record.

What to Look for in a Reliable Packaging Blade Supplier

Industrial knife manufacturing is a highly specialized discipline that requires a deep knowledge of blade-making materials and how they perform under different conditions, as well as how different bevels, coatings, and treatments can alter the blade and overall quality.

When choosing a packaging blade supplier to partner with your company, look for:

  • A well-established reputation for quality blades
  • Large stocks of the products you need
  • Quick turnarounds on in-stock orders, and
  • Short lead times on custom orders.

Most importantly, you should look for an experienced industrial blade company that is willing to stand behind its products and work with you to find the right packaging knives for your application.

Trust TGW International for Your Packaging Knife Needs

TGW International has built a lasting tradition of service and quality in the industrial machine knife industry. Our skilled team offers equipment owners the ability to match or reverse engineer any OEM blade. We work with you to solve blade failure issues and other production problems.

With a legacy of over 100 years of knife-making expertise, TGW offers only the highest quality in blade manufacturing. We inspect every item we ship to make sure it matches your needs in design, performance, and durability.

We also offer:

  • The highest quality in blade manufacturing
  • A wide selection of materials, finishes, and coatings
  • Unrivaled stocking with next-day shipping of most items, and
  • Customer order lead times of two weeks or less.

Click below to learn more about how TGW International can meet your flexible packaging knife needs today and into the future.


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