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Bubble wrap bags by PH Flexible

Harnden bag making machines help build a niche market

PH Flexible Packaging has long been a pioneer of innovative bubble wrap products in the UK. Right from the start of this venture the company has relied heavily on the ability of Harnden bag making machines to keep pace with its own product development and, says PH Flexible director Paul Maddox: “We have never found them wanting”.

Founded 17 years ago by Paul Horobin, in premises “no larger than a garage”, the company homed in on the huge potential market for products employing bubble-wrap when Paul Maddox joined in 1988. He came with a wealth of manufacturing knowledge and expertise gained from his previous employment in plastics packaging.

Already personally familiar with the capabilities of Harnden machinery, he had no hesitation in acquiring a secondhand Harnden that was, in his words, “gutted and refurbished by ourselves” and set to work developing the techniques that would see PH Flexible go on from strength to strength.

Today the company is operating out of a substantial factory in Swadlincote, converting bubble and foam into bags, sheets and packaging shapes into products for markets as diverse as pharmaceuticals, glass, computers, automotive sun-visors and even for engineering applications. It was 11 years ago that, to keep pace with growth, PH became one of the first smaller users to purchase what Harnden was calling its ‘New Wave’ PP bag making machine.

So successful was the company in opening up the specialized market that, some three years later, another Harnden bag making machine to the same specification was installed.

For its part, Harnden has always stressed how versatile the PP bag maker is, with its range of sealing options for side weld, bottom weld, skirt side weld or pouch seals, and how easily it can be adjusted to handle a wide range of stock. Because much of the material used by PH Flexible is extremely light, bulky reel changes are frequent and the ability to do this in less than one or two minutes on the PP machine is vital in keeping costs down.

Rapid resetting

Similarly, although some jobs are for long runs, others demand frequent change-overs, but the machine’s integral computer stores all parameters for each job on a recipe basis and enables rapid resetting for repeat jobs to be called up at the touch of a button.

Working from material reels of up to 600mm diameter, the PP machine can operate at a maximum of 250 cycles/min when producing side weld bags, or 150 cycles/min for skirt weld. It also features a particularly wide draw length capability ranging from 75-1,000mm and is able to handle material from 10-250 micron in thickness.

This year, innovative ‘techno bags’ have become the number one product for PH. The company says the growth in the market for these brightly coloured metallic laminated bags reflects an increase in demand for unusual product packaging, ranging from concert programmes to CDs and even women’s fashion accessories (see picture).

Harnden sales engineer David Broadbent comments: “There have been many instances where we have been required to assist customers while they have developed particular niche markets. Sometimes this has involved us in providing specific add-ons and sometimes technical or operational advice. We are always delighted to do this.”


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