Cartoner: First-Time Buyer's Guide

Congratulations on coming across the right guide to help step-by-step with your purchase of your first set of cartoner packaging machine.

Written for a First-Time Buyer of Cartoner Machine

A step-by-step guide to help you with your purchase of cartoner machine

As the most popular form of secondary packaging, carton boxes are anywhere throughout all industries from pharmaceuticals, food, and beverage, dairy, personal care, cosmetics, etc. No business would see that they can avoid using such packaging.

As the reader of this article, we feel pretty sure you are looking for some reliable packaging automation solutions and packaging machines for your carton box packaging. And congratulations, you have come across the right guide for you.

As a first-time buyer, we will take you through all the details, not only about the carton packaging itself, yet as well as how to find the right kind of cartoner machines for your business. Purchasing the right cartoner packaging machine can boost your business and generate more margins. And beyond this, purchasing the right and qualified packaging machine can not only automate your packaging process and improve your productivity but also bring long-term benefits, reduce the potential risk of pitfalls (downtime, frequent maintenance, etc), reduce injury, and so on.

No matter at the end you will decide to go with a cartoner machine by ELITER or any other manufacturer, professionals at ÉLITER Packaging Machinery are always here to help you with your decision-making. Let's get started!


What to bear in mind when buying a cartoner machine for the first time?

What are the different types of cartoner machines?

What are the different types and styles of carton boxes?

How to calculate the ROI of buying a cartoner machine?

What to bear in mind when requesting a proposal?

What to ask your cartoner supplier?

Our Cartoning Machinery for You

Our portfolio covers from entry-level to advanced cartoning equipment

Entry-level horizontal end-load cartoning machine - eliter packaging machinery
Entry-Level Horizontal Cartoning Machine
Intermittent Cartoner for your low speed application. Our most-welcomed traditional model.
  • Motion: Intermittent
  • Speed Range: 30~100 cartons per minute
  • Carton Size Covered: 60*40*15 ~ 260*180*80 mm
Machine Details
adhesive application horizontal end-load cartoning machine - eliter packaging machinery
Adhesive Application End-Load Cartoner
Adhesive application version of our entry-level cartoner with Focke Meler B4 Glue Melter.
  • Motion: Intermittent
  • Speed Range: 30~100 cartons per minute
  • Carton Size Covered 60*40*15 ~ 260*180*80 mm
Machine Details
sleeve wrap around cartoning machine - eliter packaging machinery
Sleeve Wrap-Around Cartoning Machine
A bespoke cartoner version for sleeve and multipack packaging.
  • Speed Range: up to 50 cpm
  • Format: Up to 2*3 multipacking
  • Size range: Consult our team
Machine Details
Continuous cartoning machine - eliter packaging machinery
Crescendo Cartoner - DUET 200
Our "Next-Generation" Smart Cartoning Machine. "State-of-the-art" cartoner with motion control technology.
  • Motion: Continuous
  • Speed Range: max. 200 cartons per minute
  • Carton Size Covered: 60*40*20 ~ 260*220*85mm
Machine Details
wrap around cartoner - eliter packaging machinery
Wrap-Around Sleever
The "Next-Generation" model for high-speed wrap-around cartoning of single and multipack.
  • Speed Range: up to 150 ppm
  • Format Change Time: Within 10 minutes
  • Features: SINAMICS V90 Multi-axis servo
Machine Details
Gran Sonata Balcony Cartoner
Cartoner for food safety application tailored with European quality. Full SUS construction with option of washdown.
  • Speed Range: up to 80 ppm
  • Construction: Heavy-duty with full stainless steel build
  • Features: SINAMICS V90 Multi-axis servo
Machine Details


Find more about Crescendo Cartoner

5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Cartoning Equipment is a big Investment: Ask yourself the 5 Questions Before Taking the Decisions

The purchase of a cartoner machine is not such a tiny investment that you can randomly take decisions without worrying about the aftermath. Totally on the contrary, ask yourself the following questions so that you will make the right choice.

What is the carton style you are using.png

What is your carton packaging type?

Cartoners are generally designed for standardized packaging processes and carton styles.

You don't have to worry about the choices when your carton boxes are as standard as tuck-end cartons or glue-sealed cartons.

If your carton packaging is irregular, customized, extra-large or extra-small, or of special carton styles, automating your cartoning process will be at the extra expense or sometimes impossible.

For example, an intermittent cartoning machine can handle snap-lock bottom carton boxes, while such a style is impossible to be automated on a continuou motion cartoning machine.

Loading pattern of the carton boxes you are using is also a factor to be considered. Let'see, a horizontal end-load cartoner is not able to automate the packaging process of top-loading cartons. However, the right choice should be a top-load carton former + cobot + tri-sealer machine.

As following you may find some of the most common types of carton styles:

  • Straight Tuck-End Cartons
  • Reverse Tuck-End Cartons
  • Adhesive Closure Cartons
  • Hanger Tab Carton
  • Gable Top Carton
  • Snap-Lock Bottom Cartons
  • Auto-Bottom Cartons
  • Tongue and Tuck Boxes

Find more Details about Each of the Carton Styles

Speed of cartoner machine do you require
Customization with your carton box packaging

Is there any customization with your packaging?

"Being unique" is the state of "self-actualization" that we would also be glad to achieve. When it comes to packaging automation, the customization means more works in engineering, more complex automation system, more effort in R+D+I, and for you, a high budget and longer lead time.

For example, you are using cartons with inner securing tabs, or you are packing bottles in cartons with a neck-through pattern, etc, which are things far more complex than simple tuck-in carton packaging.

We don't say that customization is such a bad thing we need to avoid. It is good for marketing and brand recognition. Meanwhile, packaging automation solutions fro customized packaging can save more labor and manual cost than a standard one.

Weigh your options before taking the decision:

  • Do you want to keep with the customization and invest more in packaging?
  • Are you willing to give up customization to keep money and standardize your packaging?

Will you save money with a cartoner

Will you save money with cartoner or how much?

Review your current packaging process and ask yourself: how much will you save by implementing a cartoner machine?

Probably you are just an SME with low requirements about production rate, you are accommodating small orders, and you are hiring just one person to do the packaging. Then an automated cartoning solution can be relatively expensive.

Or if you are hiring bunches of people to the work manually, everybody is on the rush hour to keep pace with your production plan, then you may need an automatic cartoner. And the labor cost saved will be considerable in the long run.

Or you are planning to expand your business for which you need more capability to accommodate large orders, especially if your are a copacker or contract packaging company. Then you must prepare yourself with sufficient automation capacity.

Are you ready for future investment

Are you ready for future investment?

Just like all the other kinds of packaging machines, implementing a cartoner machine is not a one-for-all deal.

Most people only see the initial cost of installing a cartoner, which may range from as cheap as USD 20,000 to those most advanced cartoners as expensive as USD 700,000 or even more. However, another factor that people would neglect is the ownership cost.

You may have to ask the manufacturer to dispatch technicians to your site for maintenance, repairs, commissioning, etc. You may have to order spare parts regularly for your machine. All these costs will accumulate over time.

Know What Kind of Carton Boxes You are Using

The very first step for you, as a first-time buyer of cartoner machine, is to define what kind of carton boxes you are using. In many cases, people may not know so well their cartons as they suppose.

End-Load Cartons

An end-load carton or side-load carton has open ends in its narrow and horizontal sides from which articles are loaded. This is the most common form of carton box used in all industries.

An end-load carton can be loaded either horizontally or vertically, which will define what is the right cartoner for you, let's say, horizontal end-load cartoner or vertical end-load cartoner.

What kind of cartoner works for end-load cartons?

Top-Load Cartons

Top-loading cartons are typically formed from a flat blank and with an open on the top for loading articles.

Applying top-load cartons can be an expensive option now that you will need a series of different machines from top-load carton former, cobot or pick-and-place robot, then a tri-sealer machine to close the top-load carton.

What kind of cartoner works for top-load cartons?

top load cartons

Know What Types of Cartons or Carton Styles You are Using

Before setting out to find your first set of cartoner machines, you should learn what kind of carton styles you are using. While there are many carton styles of various shapes, structures, sizes, etc., a certain kind of cartoner machine may not be able to get all of them covered.

The Right Type of Cartoner Machine for You

What are the Different Types of Cartoners?

Depending on how the cartons will be loaded, either by end-loading or by top-loading, you must know which kind of cartoner is the right option for your production. Bear in mind, a certain kind of cartoner is only available for the cartons with the loading pattern that it has been designed for. For example, a horizontal end-load cartoner machine by no means will be able to handle a top-loading carton.

Horizontal End-Load Cartoning Machine
Horizontal End-Load Cartoner

Horizontal End-Load Cartoner Machines are featured by the pattern that carton blanks are erected with their open ends facing horizontally where articles are loaded.

Horizontal Cartoning Machine can either be of intermittent motion of of continuous motion.
Vertical End-Load Cartoning Machine
Vertical End-Load Cartoner

Vertical End-Load Cartoner Machines are typical with a oval shaped bucket conveyor where carton blanks are erected with their open ends facing vertically from which articles are loaded.

Vertical End-Load Cartoner can either be of intermittent motion of of continuous motion.

Take note that ÉLITER Packaging Machinery does not manufacture vertical cartoner.
Top Load Cartoning Process
Top-Load Cartoner

A top-load cartoner is actually an integrated cartoning system with top-load carton former, pick-and-place robot, then a tri-sealer machine. Top-load cartoner is typical for the process from forming carton from a flat blank. This is a high-end solution that calls for robotics.

Take note that ÉLITER Packaging Machinery does not manufacture top-load cartoner.

All about Horizontal Cartoning Machines

The most welcomed type of cartoner machines in all industries

Horizontal Cartoning Machines, or horizontal end-load cartoners are widely used nowadays in almost every industry from food, dairy, personal care, cosmetics, to beverages, and etc., simply for the reasons that:

  • Horizontal Cartoning Machines have been becoming such a standard solution that it accommodates a wide range of applications
  • Horizontal Cartoning Machines are easy to find, now that there are a lot of packaging machine manufacturers of this kind of cartoner machinery
  • Just like all the other packaging machines, cartoner saves labour costs considerably, boosts business productivity and avoids manual intervention and the subsequent potential of labour injuries

A horizontal end-load cartoner machines works step-by-step, starting from the introduction of packages of materials: bottles, blister packs, snack bars, bags, trays of meals, etc., once the cartoner detects the introduced articles, the cartoner will erect a carton blank with its two ends open, the cartoner will then insert the articles into the erected cartoner, complete the closure by different ways according to the carton styles, and discharge the packed carton box.

A normal horizontal end-load cartoner machine, either an intermittent or a continuous one, can work at a rate anywhere between 30 and 400 cartons per minute, while some ultra-high-speed cartoner can reach a speed of 1000 cartons per minute (refer to that of IWK).

We introduce as follows how does a horizontal end-load cartoner machine works, which are steps that basically all the cartoning machine would follow:
Loading Package of Material onto the cartoner's bucket conveyor
Step 1: Loading Packages of Material

Loading packges of materials, let be bottles of perfume, bags of cereal, snack bars, pens, snak pouches, flow-wrapped articles, etc., can be either manually or through an automatic infeed system, which is bespoke and of case-by-case review.

Packages of materials are loaded onto the cartoner machine's bucket conveyor, a bucket conveyor generally consists of two chains, one trailing, another datum, and by adjusting one of the chains, the size changeover is achieved by adjusting the distance between each bucket.

The bucket conveyor is also installed with a photo-eye to detect the presence of articles loaded, which in turn will send signals to PLC, the latter will order other functions of the cartoner to work, to coordinate with the inflow.
Step 2: Picking and Erecting the Carton Blank

Once upon the loaded article (articles) is detected by the photo-eye on the bucket conveyor, a singal is sent to PLC which in turn orders the penumatic system to activate vacuum for the carton feeder to pick and erect a corresponding carton blank into a carton box with two ends open. The carton is forced open by the pressure against the feed guides and the moving lugs.

The erected carton is secured on the lug chains, pending going through the discharge path flow. P.S.: The carton feeders may vary tremendously in design according to each manufacturer. Carton feeder is the symbolic structure of a cartoning machine that stands for the ingenuity and creativity of the mechanical engineer that designs the cartoner.
Feed a carton blank and erect it into a carton with two ends open
Insert and load the package of materials into the erected carton
Step 3: Inserting and Loading the Articles into Erected Cartons

Depending on the kind of the cartoner, let's say, an intermittent or a continuous motion cartoner, the loading assembly will be quite different. In the case of a continuous cartoner, there is a barrel cam loader system with bunches of loading slide arms which pushes the articles into erected cartons over several machine cycles.

While in the case of an intermittent cartoner, the loading assembly is simply a structure with rod and cam or servo-motor to push and load products into cartons one time per machine cycle.
Step 4: Going through the Lug Chains and Folding the Dust Flaps

The loaded cartons are carried through the lug chains. An assembly that follows a repetitive and reciprocating movement will fold the dust flaps (the smaller flaps on each ends) of the cartons. Take note that the lug chains consist of a phase lug and datum lug. The datum lug is fixed in position and the phase lug is adjustable for different width of cartons. By moving the phase lug chain, the cartoner can fit different carton width.
Folding the dust flap of the carton
Folding the closure panel and close the carton
Step 5: Folding the Closure Panel and Complete the Tuck-In

At the end of the path flow through the lug chains, a pair of tuck closure assembly, on at the loading side and another at the non-loading side will fold the closure panel and insert the tuck flap so as to complete the carton's closure.

Additional Functions

Some bespoke and different functions of a cartoner

Infeed System
Infeed System for a cartoner
Glue Melter
Adhesive Closure
Adhesive Closure of a cartoner
Leaflet Dispenser
Leaflet Dispenser

Six Questions and Tips to Bear in Mind when Talking with your Supplier

Ask yourself and the packaging machine manufacturer these questions to evaluate their reliability

The purchase of a cartoner is a business and partnership between two companies all over the life cycle of the machine. 

A reliable packaging machine manufacturer is solution-oriented instead of purely sales-oriented.  
To bear in mind, packaging machines can be designed as standard as possible though, not all projects are as same as another one, which means, for example, a cartoner is not something "one-fit-all". With that being said, sometimes the manufacturer has to tailor a specific machine to achieve your requirements. 
The packaging machine manufacturer must study all the possibilities, including feasible solutions and probably downsides, shortcomings, and problems, and thus they must have to ask as many questions as possible to dig into the project about your needs, either current or future ones. On the contrary, an irresponsible seller, probably an intermediary, is only sales-oriented and might quote the price to you at the early stage of the discussion. 
Keep in mind, implementing an improper machine will bring a lot of problems to your business: operation failures, falling behind of your expected productivity, endless maintenance, downtime...

A packaging machine is not something that you will use for a while and then throw away.
A cartoner is often supposed to be used for more than 10 years and even 20 years. Throughout the life cycle that machine will be confronting situations with dust, water, erosion, chemicals, food remnants, contaminations, etc... thus the material used must be resistant and stable in characteristics.
What's more, especially in the food and pharmaceutical industries, companies are rigorous and picky about materials in parts where the machine will have contact with the products, let's say, for example, the requirements and regulations about Food Contact Materials is one of the concern. 

galvanized steel parts are not food safe serving
In a broad sense, AISI SUS 304 is the most common material used for cartoner's construction. Stainless steel is food-safe-serving and resistant to erosion and rust.
Make sure to check with your packaging machine manufacturer what materials they will use in building the cartoner. Some unwanted materials are as follows:
  • AISI A3 Carbon Steel is covered by SUS 304 or even SUS 204 plate (this is a common trick some companies may use
  • Galvanized or coated iron parts. They are not food-safe serving, and are still vulnerable to rust and erosion

On your own, if you have already received the machine, use Chemical Test Kit to check whether the mateial is AISI SUS 304 or not.

A cartoner may have some parts with serving-life-limit that should be replaced time over time. For example, the suction plates, air tubes, pneumatic cylinders, timing belts, etc. 
Ask your manufacturer for a list of spare parts and schedule it with an parts ordering plan to minimize the chance of downtime with your cartoner.

Servo and motion control technology, together with smart HMI, are changing the way how cartoner machines are designed and built.

A fully mechanical cartoner would have a lot of screws, sprockets, chains, gears, etc., that you have to deal with when doing maintenance. Meanwhile, the size changeover will be tedious and may take around 30 minutes or even more.

On the contrary, a full servo-driven cartoner might be simpler in structure with fewer mechanical parts in terms of transmission between different section and the maintenance as well as technical works will be easier

Implementing a cartoner is not a simple transaction of paying money for a machine. You will have to maintain contact with the packaging machine manufacturer all along the cartoner's life cycle. For this reason, you must check with your cartoner machine manufacturer the following questions so that you can expect a safe and stable long-term partnership through the cartoner's life span of 10 years or even 20 years.

  • Does the cartoner manufacturer have a service center near your site or in your country?
  • Do they send technicians from their country, or cooperate with a 3rd party in your country?
  • Will they offer training and commissioning when the machine arrives at your site?
  • Where will they send spare parts? From their country or do they have an overseas stock?
  • Ask whether they have done some projects similar to what you are inquiring about.
    If so, it's better. If not, it still doesn't necessarily mean they are not reliable.
  • Ask them for suggestions about predictive and scheduled maintenance plans.

In manufacturing and packaging, changeover refers to the process of changing a production line from producing one product to producing a different one. Fast changeover is essential for cartoning machines because it allows companies to minimize downtime, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Here are some reasons why fast changeover is important with cartoning machines:

  • Reduces Downtime: One of the primary benefits of fast changeover is that it can significantly reduce downtime. Cartoning machines are used in high volume production environments, and any downtime can be particularly costly to the overall production process. With fast changeover, the cartoning machine can be quickly adjusted to accommodate different products and packaging sizes. This reduces downtime and ensures that the production line is continuously operating.
  • Increases Productivity: Fast changeover is also important because it increases productivity. With the ability to switch between different products and packaging sizes quickly, companies can produce a wider range of products, and quickly respond to changing market demands.
  • Reduces Costs: Fast changeover can also reduce costs. With the ability to switch between different products and packaging sizes quickly, companies can avoid purchasing multiple cartoning machines. Instead, they can invest in one machine and use it to package multiple products. This can lead to substantial cost savings.
  • Improves Efficiency: Fast changeover can improve the overall efficiency of the packaging process. By ensuring that the cartoning machine can quickly switch between different products and packaging sizes, companies can reduce the amount of time and effort required to change the production line. This allows workers to spend more time on other tasks, such as quality control and maintenance, which can improve the efficiency of the entire production process.
why fast changeover is cartoner packaging machine is important

Some Information about Cartoner

USD 30,000 ~ 600,000
Price of a Cartoner
Generally 30~500 CPM
Speed of a Cartoner
Made in 1956
World's First set of cartoner
EU, U.S., China
Primary Manufacturers of Cartoner

Calculate the ROI and PBP with your Cartoner

Return on Investment and Pay-Back Period are Essential for your Benefits

We understand you feeling that it has costs an eye of you to buy the first cartoner and you are curious about how long it will pay off. There are some steps to help you with the calculation of ROI and PBP.

Calculate ROI and PBP of cartoner
Ask your manufacturer how fast your ordered cartoner can run per minute. Calculate your productivity based on how many hours per day and how many days per year you will set running the cartoner.

Cut the annual earning with the cartoner by the annual earning of packaging by manual work. You can get the benefits generated by the new cartoner equipment. Divide the result by the cost of buying the equipment, you will have the rate of ROI. The formula is as follows:

ROI = (Earning generated by cartoner - earning based on manual work) / Cost of the cartoner * 100%

Assuming that your cartoning equipment works at a speed of 100 cartons per minute, 8 hours each day, 365 days all over the year, while each with each unit of packaging your will earn $3,00.

Your annual earning with the cartoning equipment will be: 8 * 365 * 3 *100 = $ 876.000

Assuming that you are hiring 5 people for packaging. 8 hours per day, 260 days per year excluding holidays, each one makes 20 units of packaging per minute, each unit of packaging generates an earning of $3,00 then,

your annual earning with manual packaging will be: 8 * 260 * 5 * 20 * 3 = $ 624.400

Assuming that your cost of purchasing the cartoner is USD 200.000

Then your ROI with the cartoner is: (876.000 - 624.400) / 200.000 * 100% = 125.8 %

This step is similar to the previous step of calculating the ROI. You may simply get the Payback Period by dividing the cost of the cartoner by the benefits generated during a year. The formula is as follows:

PBP in years = Cost of the cartoner / (Earning generated by cartoner - earning based on manual work)

Refer to the figure we mentioned in the previous part about ROI, we will be able to calculate your PBP, which is

$200.000 / (876.000 - 624.400) = 0.794 year, which is equal to 290 days.

You will soon get your investment paid off within 290 days!
ROI or Return on Investment is a key financial metric used to measure the profitability of an investment. It provides an indication of the efficiency and effectiveness of the investment in generating profits over a particular period of time.

When it comes to a cartoner machine, which is used for packaging products into cartons or boxes, ROI is important for several reasons:

  • Helps in decision making: The ROI of a cartoner helps in determining whether investing in a particular machine is financially feasible or not. If the ROI is high, it indicates that the investment will yield good returns and hence can help in making an informed decision.

  • Assists in budgeting: Calculating the ROI of a cartoner can also help in budgeting for expenditures related to the machine, such as maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.

  • Facilitates comparison: By calculating the ROI of different cartoners, businesses can compare and evaluate which one is more profitable and efficient. This helps in selecting the most suitable machine for their needs, which can save significant costs in the long run.

  • Helps in determining pricing: In some cases, the ROI of a cartoner also plays a role in determining product pricing, as the cost of production (which includes the cost of the cartoner) directly influences the final price of the product.

More Resources Related to Cartoning

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About Bottle Cartoner

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About Blister Cartoner

Cereal Cartoning Machine

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Sleeve Cartoning Machine

We are specialist in sleeve wrap-around packaging. From sleeve cartoner to wrap-around sleever, our sleeve automation solutions are recognized by clients worldwide

About Sleeve Cartoner