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How to Operate a Horizontal End-load Cartoner?

This article provides the necessary information to train personnel on how to properly operate a horizontal end-load cartoner, from set-up to maintenance, as well as the correct recognition of machine problems. This is applicable to horizontal end-load cartoning machines either intermittent or continuous and loads one carton at a time.

Topics: horizontal end-load cartoning machine

Question to Answer:

  • What is the structure of horizontal end load cartoning machine?
  • How to install a horizontal end load cartoning machine?
  • How to do maintenance for a horizontal end load cartoning machine?
  • Tips for troubleshooting with cartoning machine

How Would you Use this Guide?

This guide or manual provides all the necessary information so that any professionals involved in the operation of cartoning machine can refer to it for issues including operation, installation, set up, maintenance, and troubleshooting.


ELITER Packaging Machinery BEARS NO RESPONSIBILITY if the information, advice, or instructions given here do not actually fit your cartoner machine and neither for any subsequent problems caused should you follow this guide to fix the problem rather than referring to the official manual issued by the manufacturer of asking for their technical support.


Know How Horizontal End-Load Cartoner Works

The operation of a horizontal cartoning machine follows a known and conventional sequence, no matter it is a continuous or intermittent cartoning machine. Generally speaking, there are:

Drop through cartoner

  • The operator should monitor the carton magazine and timely feed carton blanks to make sure that the low-level sensor is not triggered
  • When out of the blue the low carton supply sensor is no longer blocked, the system should be recovered manually and go back to work by adding more blanks
  • In case it is manual loading, the operator should place products onto the cartoner’s bucket conveyor
  • Waiting for the bucket loaded with products travels until the position where there is the photo eye checking proper loads
  • Once the load detection photoelectronic sensor is triggered, a feed signal will be sent to the carton picker
  • The carton picker assembly will pick a carton blank from the magazine, and place it between the leading lugs and trailing lugs of the export lug chain
  • The export lug chain carrying erected carton travels forward to the position of insertion where there is a cam-driven inserter (intermittent cartoner) or barrel cam loader (continuous cartoner)
  • The flap support guides control the closure panel in the right position when lug chains are moving forward so that it will not hinder the loading
  • Once the bucket carrying the product, the lug position that carries erected carton, and the insertion station move together, the products will be pushed into the carton boxes
  • The loaded carton will travel toward the carton closing station
  • The dust flaps are closed by minor flap folders
  • The tuck-in of the closure panel and tuck flap is done by major flap folders
  • In the case of adhesive application, there will glue gun reaching from the glue melter to apply adhesive, and flaps are sealed by guides or air cylinders
  • Sealed or closed cartons are discharged from the cartoner


Carton Orientation on the Horizontal End-Load Cartoner

It is essential to understand to which part of the carton boxes processed on a horizontal end-load cartoner do the terms length, width, and height refer.

Carton box on a horizontal cartoner

Without any doubt, these terms define the size of cartons as follows:

Length: the lateral dimension from one loading to another loading end where there are tucks and flaps

Width: the longitudinal dimension between two side panels or from the leading edge to the trailing edge according to the path flow on the cartoner

Height: is the vertical dimension between the front and rear panel of the carton


Know the Horizontal Cartoning Machine’s Structure

A majority of the horizontal end-load cartoning machines are designed and built with the following sections and funcional components including:

  • Bucket Conveyor
  • Carton Hopper or Carton Magazine
  • Carton Picker Assembly
  • Inserter or Barrel Cam Loader
  • Carton Transport Lug Chains
  • Tuck and Flap Folders
  • Discharge Station


Bucket Conveyor

Bucket Conveyor

The Bucket Conveyor consists of two moving chains which are flat table top chains with some HDPE blocks (High-density polyethylene), basically. The two chains can be driven separately by servo motors or together through mechanical transmission. In the previous case, the adjustment can be set through the touch screen for automatic size changeover, while the latter should rely on manual operation.

The key here to adjust and change the size is to move one of the two table-top chains so that the distance between the leading and trailing is changed to fit different sizes of products.

Alongside the bucket chain, there is a load-detection photo eye that looks through the bucket to detect any products placed on the bucket. Once the signal is triggered, the controller will receive a signal and send it to the carton picker to pull and erect a blank the matches this load.

Some manufacturers will apply 3 or 4 table top chains for cartoning machine’s bucket conveyor, among them, there are Kliklok Woodman and their SFR, MSR and MFR Horizontal End-Load Cartoner, for example.


Carton Magazine / Carton Hopper

The carton hopper or carton magazine is a section where unopened carton blanks are fed by the operator and from where the carton picker will pull carton blanks.

The magazine, according to each manufacturer’s design, may vary in shape and structure. However, they all follow a trait with necessary functions including size-changeover and low-carton supply detection.

The low-carton supply photoelectronic sensor is supposed to be blocked when enough carton blanks are placed in the hopper. On the contrary, when the photo eye is not blocked, the signal of low carton supply will be sent to the controller which will, in turn, order the machine to cease operation. The machine will keep in pause until the operator places enough blanks in the hopper in order to block the sensor again.

Carton Magazine can be designed into two forms:

  • Plate style magazine with cutout: A single plate with a cutout that fits the size of carton blanks. Such a magazine is specifically made for a carton size. And in case of a size changeover, a different magazine should replace the current one.
  • Adjustable magazine: this will be with a series of mechanical designs so as to be adjusted and thus fit different carton blank sizes.


Carton Picker / Carton Feeder

carton feeder

Carton picker is the most diversified structure among cartoning machines by different manufacturers. Generally, the carton picker can be with one or several heads with vacuum cups that apply vacuum to pull carton blanks. Carton Feeder can follow rotary motion, reciprocating motion and etc, all in accordance to a specific cartoning machine and designs by the manufacturer.

The carton picker once pulls carton blanks, will force them open by placing them between the lugs where they will be pressed to being erected.


Lug Chains

Lug chains are two pairs of chains with collated and spaced lugs (the distance between which is referred to as Pitch).

Lug chains are where pulled carton blanks are placed, pressed to set open, loaded, and carried toward discharge.

One of the two lug chains is called the Datum Lug, and another is Phase Lug.

When doing a size changeover, the Datum Lug is set in a fixed position, when the phase lug is adjusted moving forward, the space between each lug is adjusted to fit a different carton width.


Flap and Tuck Folders

Both on the loading and non-loading side of the carton box, there are a series of folders installed to fold flaps and insert tucks while the carton is moving along the path flow being secured by the lug chains.


Loading System

The loading systems basically may come in two types:

  • One insertion at a time – the insertor of an intermittent cartoning machine
  • Barrel Cam Loader – the loading system of continuous motion cartoner

The insertor of an intermittent horizontal cartoning machine may be driven by a camshaft and joined by swing arms and crank connecting rods. There are two reciprocating movements involved – one that moves up and down to secure the products, and one that moves forward and backward to push the product into the carton boxes.


Barrel cam loader is far more complex the the loader of an intermittent cartoning machine. The barrel loader may consist of more than 10 loading slid arms that will gradually insert products into the carton erected one by one.

barrel cam loader



Tips to Install and Start a Cartoning Machine

Set ready a cartoning machine at your site is not as simple as you may suppose. Below is some step-by-step suggestions for your reference.

Position the Machine

Positioning the cartoning machine can be a dangerous and hazardous operation now that moving a big stuff of almost 2 ton is a hard task. Some tips:

  • Make sure that you select the right tool to hoist the machine
  • Inspect the lifting tool to be used and ensure the lifting tool is capable of holding the cartoner’s weight
  •  Make sure your fellows stay away from the machine when it is being lifted and moving toward its postion

Advice for the Lifting Tool Operator

  • It is recommended to place some wooden blocks on each fork when lifting the machine
  • Pay attention to the machine’s shafts to make sure that they do not crash or hit into the fork
  • Make sure you life the machine to the proper height so that it will not crash with other equipment at the facility while you are moving
  • Move as slowly as possible to ensure safety and security


Assembly is always necessary now that during the shipment, some of the cartoning machine’s components and structures may have been dismantled or removed

  • Check the manual offered by the manufacturers about advice for assembly
  • Attach those mentioned parts and components removed during shipment such as the bucket conveyor, safety guards, glue melter… etc.
  • Connect the machine to require air supply
  • Check all tiny components such as screws, bolts, chains, etc. Tighten if necessary and any parts found loosened
  • Apply lubricate to all necessary parts
  • Make sure the one who connects power to the cartoning machine is entitled or knows about electrics

Before Starting the Machine

  • Check all details around critical mechanical and moving parts. Make sure that there are not any foreign articles
  • Check again chains, belts, guides and screws and make sure that they have been tightened
  • Check the enclosure and all safety guards and doors are closed


Essential Tips for Maintenance

Maintenance is the key task that should be done in a scheduled manner all along the cartoning machine’s life cycle. This is either to keep the machine in fine status for operation as well as to avoid potential downtime due to lack of maintenance.

In any circumstances, make sure that the machine is done with Lock Out Tag Out, except the power is essential for the operation.

Periodic maintenance can be carried out by different intervals including daily, weekly, monthly, and every six months.

Before doing maintenance, always make sure that you have stopped the machine.

Daily Maintenace Taks

  • It is recommended to take the daily checks to parts including: suction cups, vacuum pumps and vacuum lines.
  • The elimination of any foreign parts in critical mechanical parts should always be on the top of your daily checking list.
  • Clean photo eyes with a soft cloth.
  • Check records with can be found on the HMI and review the failures that take place during the operation, if any.

Weekly Maintenace Tasks

  • Lubricate all necessary mechanical parts, joints, rod eyes, gears…
  • Check the tightness of screws, linkages, chains, belts, etc.
  • Clean the machine’s surface. Using air to blow off visible foreign materials, dust and dirt.
  • Apply cleaning materials with a sponge to wash manually the machine surface. Ask your manufacturer for the recommended materials for washing.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

  • Inspect all chains and sprockets in case of wear.
  • Inspect motors, their motion and tightness
  • Inspect the transmission system
  • Inspect lug chains and bucket conveyors to find carton and product residuals
  • Inspect all mechanical parts which are supposed to be tightened


Troubleshooting of Cartoning Machine

Don’t expect that your end load cartoning machine can work smoothly all along its life cycle. Unexpected can always happen due to known or unknown reasons. In this chapter you will find tips to fix problems around: carton damage, detection fault, carton feeding problems, loading fault, and problems around glue melting system.

Carton Damage Caused During Cartoning Process

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

Photo Eye Detection Fault

Photoelectronic Sensors are one of those pivotal, vulnerable and complex parts that enact essential roles for the cartoning machine’s operation and interaction between signals, program and mechanical movement. When photo eye detection problem happens, check as follows:

  • Clean the photo eyes
  • Check photo eye timing
  • Check the status of gain potentiometer and adjust if necessary

Carton Feed Problems

At the time when the carton feeder pulls out carton blanks as well as when it is placing and erecting blanks onto the lug chains, problems may happen:

  • Check the main air supply to verify whether it reaches the required pressure and psi
  • Check the suction panel if there is any damage
  • Check the timing of vacuum
  • Check whether there are enough carton blanks


Problem with Glue Melting Systems

No Glue is been sprayed

  • Manually fire each glue gun and check the clogs
  • Check whether the glue gun is been connected to sufficient air supply
  • Check the photo eye detection for carton
  • Check the solenoid valve of glue gun.
  • Check the encoder to verify the timing of the glue firing

Wrong Position of Glue Seam

Verify the glue gun’s position. Ensure that they ae mounted in the right height and right position along the lug chains

Check the glue gun’s timing

Glue not appropriately melted

Check the glue system’s temperature. Refer to its operation manual to find out the ideal temperature, which is usually around 180 ° C


Problem with Adhesive Closure

Hooks in the Glue Seam

hooks in glue seam

  • Make sure there is no glue residual that hinders the glue jet.
  • Check the glue gun and glue nozzle and make sure it fits the glue melter.

Gue Seam is not Straight

Glue Seam bent

  • Waves in the glue seam mean the glue is not melted at a sufficient temperature. Make sure the glue melter has been configured and prepared at the right temperature.
  • Check the glue tank and see whether there is enough glue left.

Glue Seam Goes Stringy

Stringy glue seam

  • A stringy fall in the glue seam means that the temperature has not reached the level to sufficiently melt the glue. Set the glue melter to the right temperature.
  • Verify the glue gun and glue nozzle’s temperature.



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