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Cartoning Machines: The Carton Packaging Automation Solutions


Cartoning machine or cartoner packaging machine takes a considerable portion of the packaging machines provided and sought in the market. Our purpose of elaborating this guide is that customers can refer to it before purchasing an automatic cartoning machine so that during their procurement they can have a comprehensive and to-depth review of the options they have, thus selecting the correct one.

We’ve mentioned the importance of procuring qualified and reliable packaging machinery and the negative impacts of an unqualified one purchased, which are principal as follows:

  • constant labor and technical cost of maintenance
  • replacement and the second purchase of machine if it by all means not reliable,
  • the lagged production which may have a fatal impact on your business…

In this guide, we’d not only cover details about the machine itself but as well things about the package itself: the variety of cartons, ways of closing and seal, etc., so that the reader can evaluate, based on their demands and specifications of the product, the adequate automatic cartoning machine for their project.

ÉLITER Packaging Machinery as a Manufacturer of Cartoner

At ÉLITER Packaging Machinery, we strive to offer our clients cartoning machines with satisfying performance and quality, yet at an affordable level and with cost-effective features.

We take it as our principal belief that cartoner machines should not be designed and built restricted to tuck-end cartons only. The horizontal end-load cartoning machines made by ÉLITER Packaging Machinery can be adapted to cartons beyond tuck-end ones and until those most special and typical carton styles including gable top cartons, snap-lock bottom cartons, pillow boxes, carton sleeves, and so forth.

What are the cartoning machines that ÉLITER Packaging Machinery offers?

With our recently launched ¨Next-generation¨ Model – Crescendo Cartoner, and together with our traditional entry-level intermittent cartoner, we are now able to offer a full range of cartoning choices from intermittent to continuous, from low speed to high speed.

DZH-120 Horizontal End-Load Cartoner

Crescendo Cartoner


We suggest you visit our pivotal page of cartoning machine to find out further information:


I. The Most Commonly Seen Packaging Solution: What is Cartoning Machine?

Taking a walk in the supermarket, pharmacy, a cosmetics store, and so forth,  I’d find, with just a glimpse of products on the shelf, that a majority of them come loaded in a carton. And each category of them stands for a packaging line in which there must be a cartoning machine. Literally, automatic cartoning is the packaging solution that serves to insert or load a product into its carton package and get in closed or sealed. In the following chapter, we start by talking about types of carton and then extend our discussion into categories and characteristics of cartoners.

I.I. what are Cartoning Machines?

cartoning process

Cartoning machine, in a narrow sense, basically refers to cartoning machine or cartoner. Cartoning machine is a kind of packaging machinery that can erect carton blanks, insert products into the erected carton and then close the carton.


II. Basic Varieties of Carton Package

Cartons come in a considerable variety of shapes and forms which subsequently will determine the level of personalization of carton solutions. In this chapter, we talk about cartons to leave an essential foundation for our further topic of cartoning solutions. We will focus on End-Load cartons only and not extend to a thorough discussion of carton package.

In the very beginning, we shall first introduce two concepts:

PANELS: Cartons are all in cubic and cuboid forms. When it is closed it appears as a complete cubic consisting of 6 planes which are called the Panels. Panels are categorized into:

1. Front Panel

2. Rear Panel

3. Leaf  Side Panel

4. Right Side Panel

5. Top Closure Panel

6. Bottom Closure Panel

reverse tuck-end carton

FLAPS: Basically Flaps are those parts that help to maintain the form of carton when it is closed and they are fixed in the inner part of it when carton is closed. Flats can be divided into three categories:

1. Tuck Flaps – those are adjacent to the panel on the end side and are inserted into the carton to close it.

2. Dust Flaps – the two relatively small flaps on the end side. There should be four dust flaps on a carton

3. The Glue Flap – a carton magazine is formed into a carton with the Glue Flap connecting two ends of it.

cartoner for autobottom

For your better understanding, we present to you as follows a footprint of Tuck end Carton which we will talk about in the next part.

II.I Tuck End Carton

A tuck end consists of a Closure Panel and a Tuck Flap, accompanied by Dust Flaps on the two sides. This is the most popular form of carton style that you must know. The tuck end carton can be classified into two types: Straight Tuck End Carton and Reverse Tuck End Carton.

Straight Tuck End or STE Carton: A carton with a top and bottom that both tuck into the same side of itself.

Reverse Tuck End or RTE Carton: Literally, this is a carton with a top and bottom that both tuck into the different side of itself.

A comparative image is as follows so that you can have a vivid view of these two types of tuck end cartons.

Straight Tuck End Carton Reverse Tuck End Carton

II.II Snap-Lock Bottom and Auto-Bottom

A Snap-Lock Bottom is also known as a 1-2-3 bottom for its ways of being closed. Three flaps are folded for closure and form a rather more stable structure.

snap-lock carton

An Auto-Bottom is a self-supporting structure that when the carton is erected, the flaps and panels pop on the bottom pop into place making itself a closure structure simple, quick and stable.

autobottom carton

II.III Seal-End Carton

Seal-End is usually used for loading heavy and large-size products. We must have seen such a structure on items such as cereal and muesli you have for breakfast.

The two closure panels are sealed by glue and usually, a batch code is printed on the outer panel. In case the two end side of the carton are all seal-end, the Top Seal-End will also be left with a Weakness Line for purpose of tear.

Glue end cartons

Here at the end of this chapter, we’d also like to mention that end load cartons may possibly come in a form that the previously mentioned structures are combined. As following are some examples of this hybrid: Tuck Top AutoBottom, Tuck Top Seal-End Bottom, Double Seal-End, etc…


III. An Overview of Carton Styles our Cartoner Covers



IV. Packaging Automation and Production Cost

In this part, we’d try to give an explanation of why packaging automation is so important and then give a classification of cartoning machines for packaging production.

Supposing a producer relies all on labor for production, the more it wants to produce, the more labor it needs. The increase of labor and people call for workshop with more space which in turn increases the land cost. We may suppose there is a linear relationship between the quantity of production and unit cost. The situation would be the function graph below on the left.

However, suppose a unit of cartoner and any other packaging machine (this does not matter since here the situation is just a hypothesis) is installed in the workshop, the unit cost of packaging production will starts as the machine price with the first unit produced and will go rapidly downhill as the quantity increases. Even if the producer wants to boost further its production by purchasing and installing more machines, the initial cost will be higher yet the level to which more space is needed will not be as much as more labor thus incur less cost.

vertical cartoning machine

V. What are the Different Types of Cartoning Machines?

Cartoning machines can be defined in different ways. For example, by how the cartoning machine moves or by how the containment is loaded into the carton. As follow we are going to talk further and in a detailed way about each diversity of cartoning machines (systems).

By how the cartoning machine moves


Intermittent Cartoning Machine:

Intermittent cartoning machines or cartoners, just as their name suggests, refer to those cartoning machines whose motion is intermittent. Intermittent cartoning machines are generally of intermediate and lower-intermediate speed and of affordable cost.

In some cases, intermittent motion cartoning machines are also ideal for large size cartons given the fact that when the object such as carton blanks and containment is large it is more difficult to be “fast”, while the stability is the primary factor to be considered.


Continuous Cartoning Machine

The continuous motion cartoning machine is featured by a series of barrel cam loaders, which are numerous inserters guided by a tract through which the inserters are horizontal motion controlled to realize the forward movement of insertion and backward movement.

Continuous motion cartoners are almost designed with the purpose to reach a higher speed, for example, hundreds of cartons per minute. And meanwhile, continuous cartoning machines are basically more complex and expensive than intermittent motion cartoning machines.


By how the containment is loaded into the carton


Horizontal End-Load Cartoning Machine

Horizontal End-Load Cartoning Machine refers to those cartoning machines that erect carton blanks with their top and bottom facing horizontally, and the rear and front panels are facing top and down. Horizontal End-Load cartoning machines can be either intermittent or continuous motion cartoning machines.


Vertical Cartoning Machine

vertical cartoning

A vertical cartoning machine is different from a horizontal one. During the working process of the vertical cartoning machine, the carton blanks are erected with the loading side facing the top, while the rear and front panels face horizontally.

Vertical cartoning machines are used on occasions where products should not or are not preferred to be loaded horizontally. For example, a perfume bottle may be supposed to be loaded vertically rather than horizontally to avoid abrasion on the surface of the bottle.



Top-Load Cartoning System (Machine)

Top-load cartoning machine resembles a vertical cartoning machine in terms of how containment is loaded into the carton, however, a top-load cartoning system is rather than a single set of machines but an integrated system joined by several machines and sections such as tray formers, robotic loader and carton closers.


VI. Structure and Workflow of Cartoning Machine

Regardless of the fact that cartoning machines are defined into several types, their working processes are actually “potato potahto”. Basically, a cartoning system would erect carton blanks, insert products into the carton, and close the loaded carton.

The following content will offer an overview of how a cartoning system or machine works and some introduction to the corresponding structures.

The Bucket Conveyor

The bucket conveyor consists of a pair of separate moving chains. The bucket conveyor is capable of moving the products in buckets from the loading hand to the feeding section. In some cases, the two chains are controlled by servo motors so as to automatically adjust gaps and distance between each bucket to fit to another project and thus to complete the changeover. The process is done only by setting the configurations on the touch screen.

Carton Magazine or Carton Hopper

A carton hopper or carton magazine is a station on the machine that holds a pile or a stack of flat carton blanks which are unfolded. The carton erector will pick the blanks from the hopper one by one and then fold them into erected cartons. On the carton hopper there are usually several photo eyes installed to withstand and monitor the level and quantity of carton blanks left in the hopper. For example, a low carton photo eye is installed to warn against the situation when carton blanks are just about to be used up. When the alert is triggered, the machine usually would reject to working until new blanks are filled and placed into the hopper.

Carton Erector or Picker Assembly

The carton erector or the picker assembly is such a section to which the most innovations those manufacturers of cartoner machines attach to.

Carton blanks are to be picked by the picker or suction panels on the picker assembly which is connected to air. The erector can either be servo-driven or mechanical driven depending on what cartoner it is and by which manufacturer it is made.

Vacuum is applied to the suction panel on the assembly once, during the rotation, it gets in contact with the carton blank into carton hopper. Thereafter, the picker places the carton onto the lug chains of the carton transport for discharge after going through a series of guides that help to force and open the blanks in order to fold them into erected cartons.

Export Conveyor, Carton Transport

The export carton transport conveyor consists of a pair of lug chains. The carton is placed and secured between them. The space is always fixed according to the size of the carton. When it is supposed to adjust and carton size on the cartoning machine for format changeover, one of the lug chains should be adjusted in order to widen or narrow the space between the chains.

Insertion Station

Once the carton has been opened and erected, the packages of material carried on the bucket conveyor are going to be inserted into the folded and opened cartons. There can be a single insertor that pushes the packages or materials on an intermittent basis or a series of barrel loaders that push them into the carton in a continuous manner.

Flap Folding and Tuck-In Station

In the case of tuck-end cartons, a station is nearby the discharge station to fold the dust flaps and complete the tuck-in in order to close the carton.

Discharge Station

The discharge station consists of a pair of time belts that secure the closed carton and takes them out of the cartoning machine.

VII. Cartoner Machines, PLC, SCADA, and Factory Automation

Taking a double-bottle cartoning machine as an example

In the context of factory automation, the PLC is the most used machine controller regardless of the industry. Especially in the case of the cartoner machine, which is usually installed in an assembly line, the application of PLC helps to boost production and quality of the production.

While PLC is the core factor of the total processes of supervisory, data acquisition, process control, and so forth, there is always a circumstance where something unpredicted may occur and due to which a machine breakdown is led to. For example, on a cartoner machine, the box fails to be folded, the insertion is hurdled, or there is a lack of carton blanks… etc. All the above cases call for an interface where people can handle the situation and proceed to troubleshoot and recover from the downtime.

Industrial professionals and engineers usually get this done by:

Utilizing a human-machine interaction panel (HMI) which has been programmed and can coordinate with various data acquisition and supervisory devices on the cartoner machine to render supervisory on the functionality of the cartoner machine and thus improve the production process.

We discuss in this blog how such a system is achieved on a cartoner machine by analyzing step by step and part from part.

This is an article to simply introduce the summation of processes on a cartoner and the coordination between the machine and the PLC.

Automatic Cartoning Machine for Gable Top Carton Box


VII.I. The Basic Logic Between the Cartoner and PLCs

Regardless of the fact that the cartoner machine can either be fully automatic or semi-automatic, the cartoner machine works with optics, electricity, air source and mechanisms which are controlled by the PLC to work smoothly. The data acquisition, or say the detection of physical parameters is realized through various sensors installed on the cartoner machine. After that the data has been sent to the PLC, the program handles them to verify the status and situation of the machine and send feedback, if necessary, to the actuators such as solenoid valve, glue melter, leaflet folder, etc to complete the corresponding actions regarding the situation and circumstance.


So, to put it in a word, it would be something like:

Physical ParameterSensorsPLCs ActuatorsActions and Further Physical Parameters

which finally forms a loop during the operation of the cartoner machine.

Process of Cartoner and PLC


VII.II. The Basic Working Process of a Cartoner Machine

A cartoner machine can be used either separately or connected with upstream machinery such as a blister packaging machine or a cupping machine to form a packaging line. Here we take a double bottle cartoner machine connected upstream for the cartoning of bottles as an example.

The Basic Working Process and Functions of Cartoning Machine

  1. Infeed of Products (Bottles)
  2. Product Detection (Achieved by photo-eye)
  3. Leaflet Infeed
  4. Detection of leaflet (Achieve by photo-eye)
  5. Carton Hopper or Carton Magazine
  6. Carton Blanks Level Control (by photo-eye)
  7. Carton Picker (or carton feeder)
  8. Detection of cartons loaded on the chain
  9. Closure of dust-flaps
  10. The transfer chain (for discharge)
  11. Pushrod
  12. Closure for Tuck-in
  13. Discharge Station

Product Infeeding (the case of a double bottle cartoning machine)

The machine is connected with an infeed conveyor on which bottles are collated and fed one by one to the infeed wheel. A bottle sensor is there to detect whether the primary bottle is already loaded on the bucket conveyor and confirm its presence. The system is synchronized with the help of the servo motor, PLC and the photo-eye to ensure for each primary bottle loaded on the bucket chain the infeed wheel will place a corresponding second bottle on the bucket conveyor.

Bottle Cartoner


Leaflet Infeeding

Leaflet folder

The machine is installed with a leaflet folder on which there is a hopper to store the leaflet blanks. The leaflet is folded the carried by a conveyor which is parallel to the bucket conveyor aligned with infeed of bottles. A photo eye supervises whether the leaflet has been folded and fed to the chain with success and if not, sends signals to PLC for rejection afterward.

Carton Feeding

The cartoner machine is equipped with a carton hopper where carton blanks are to be picked up, folded and erected on the conveyor. The carton magazine is often installed with a minimum load photo-eye to detect whether there are enough carton blanks loaded in the carton hopper. While bottles are moving down being loaded on the bucket conveyor, the carton feeder picks and erects carton blanks onto the corresponding position on the conveyor for the correct insertion afterward. This process is realized by air source by the coordinator between photo-eye, solenoid valve and PLC.

Carton Feeding


VIII. Troubleshooting Guide for Cartoning Machine

It is not a rare situation where cartons are torn during the working process of the cartoning machine. Follow this chapter to determine where did the problems originate and solutions to get the problems eliminated.


Damage on Carton’s Leading Corners

rips in leading cornrer of carton

  • Check the vacuum of the carton feeder. The possible cause of the rips might be that the vacuum has been too strong at the point when carton is just about to be secure on the lug chain yet it is still dragged by the vacuum, thus leading to tearing on the leading corners of the carton
  • Check the overhead gudie of the cartoner. The rips might be casused due to the squeezing between carton and the overhead guide


Damage on Trailing Side of the Carton

damage in trailing side of the carton

  • Check the timing when carton is secured on the lug chain
  • Check the tightness of lug chains


Damaged and Unfolded Dust-Flap

Unfolded and Damaged Dust Flao on Carton

  • Check the position of the dust-flap folder after the loading of carton on the lug chain
  • Check the position of flap securing guides
  • Check whether the length of the dust-flap corresponds to that of the carton the cartoning machine was designed for


Wrinkles on the Side Panel

Wrinkles on the side panel

  • The overhead guide has been set with an extra low level that squeezes the carton downwards
  • Check the lug chains and make sure that they are not set with an extremely short distance



IX. Criterion of Selecting a Qualified Cartoning Machine

We suggest that after all these explanations you must have acquired a basic but general view and knowledge about the cartoner and cartoning solution.

After all these explications you must have had a rudimentary but also comprehensive overview of an overwrapping machine. We’d like to take some steps further so that, together with all the information provided and learned we can proceed to define what are those characteristics a qualified overwrapping machine must have.

i. Flexibility of Format Changing

We attach emphasis to this factor and put it as the primary one to consider for reason that a cartoning machine is relative of higher cost in comparison with other machines for secondary packaging. A cartoning machine should be designed with an adjustable structure to cover various formats and can be configured, connected and installed in any packaging line where the cartoning solution is needed.

ii. Labor Security

Cartoning machines are built with complex structures for which, in case of improper manipulation, the operators are exposed to a higher chance of severe accidence. An automatic emergent shut-down function, as well as a manual shut-down button, must be considered in its design.

iii. Size

Nobody would prefer equipment that takes tremendous space of the workshop or factory. Cartoning machines’ design is supposed to be as lean as possible.

iv. Degree of Automation and Intelligence

To which level of automation is required should be informed to the manufacturer properly so that a correspondent solution can be provided. A troubleshooting system must also be incorporated within the machine for the purpose that once an error occurs, the machine can stop immediately to avoid further problems.

v. Output

The efficiency of a machine determines how many products are rendered daily. A project should be specifically reviewed by the machine manufacturer to check how much output the machine can reach regarding the size of the product to be packed.

X. ÉLITER´s Cartoning Solutions

At ÉLITER, we know very well our customer’s expectations and always give it our best effort to offer efficient, economic, and personalized cartoning solution no matter what form of carton it is, how the infeeding system is supposed to be, how complex that situation is in which the cartoner will be installed… …

Our engineering team, service, and commercial professionals are always at your disposal. Click here to find some of our cartoning solutions, or get in contact with us for a special review.


Implementation of Customised SCADA for Cartoner Packaging machine for Cost Effective Solution – IRJT, Prof. V.B. Kumbhar, Prof. S.D. Gokhale, e-ISSN: 2395-0056, p-ISSM: 2395-0072


About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery