You are on your way to have your fully operational tobacco business. There will be quite a bit to learn. And a lot will be in the area of how your product is actually made. Read on for the abc of tobacco processing and cigarettes manufacturing.
While we’re at it, let’s quickly go through the skinny on tobacco.
The plant come from the Americas to Europe and the rest of the world in the 1700s, first as medicine. It was the aspirin of the time, curing headaches.
Two varieties of the plant are known: Nicotiana tabacum, with over 60 species hereunder, and the less cultivated Nicotiana rustica.
The main tobaccos types fall into the categories of oriental, semi-oriental, Virginia, Burley, for cigars and for mass consumption.
And for some perspective, keep in mind cigarettes became the main tobacco product only in the last 50 years, when they dethroned pipe and cigars alike.
Your next main focus is the tobacco.
Tobacco manufacturing starts with the drying of the tobacco leaves. A lot happens in there. The actual method is subject to the type of tobacco and the finished product. You’ll think of the desired color and elasticity, for instance.
Once ready, tobacco traditionally goes into fermentation. It’s no longer done in modern manufacturing, by the way. Natural ferments carefully preserved in the earlier stage activate now to oxidize. A full range of chemical reactions ensue, with only one goal: flavor, taste and quality. And since I must have mentioned I majored in chemistry, let’s indulge in the occasional science lab intermezzo: during fermentation, starch (a very common carbohydrate found in seeds, plants and tubercles) fully hydrolyses, i.e. mixes with water, breaking out the sugar, which eventually disappears. Soluble carbon hydrates decrease, sucrose is reduced and what’s left is monosaccharides. Nitrogen then decreases, as do nicotine, organic acids and polyphenols.
At the end, you have quality, flavored tobacco for filling, your key raw material for cigarettes and cigars. Which is not to say you can do without cigarette paper, filters, wrapping, boxes, propylene foil or bands. You sure need those as well.
Then you can start looking into cigarettes manufacturing.
You’ll begin with filling preparation, where you mix ingredients to a recipe. Think grandma’s apple pie, then move it in the realm of quality, palate caressing, smoky taste only a well made cigarette can give.
Tobacco is first wetted: it gives it elasticity and resistance and it makes your job handling it a lot easier. Then you will unbind and spread it, choose and mix the tobacco leaves, do the casing and the flavoring treatments. You will only use the strips, by the way. The strings are subject to a different recipe and don’t really get used in premium product.
At the end of treatment, most importantly, comes the cutting. All your work to this point serves THE purpose: optimum, uniform cut rag, made of long and elastic threads, with as few short threads as possible. The output then goes into torrefaction and flavoring. You’ll need a key ally through all this – and that’s your primary line, the equipment that executes all these processes. But more on that, some other time.
Cigarette makers will produce an output of tobacco rod, continuously wrapped in cigarette paper. The rod is later cut in predefined lengths. The inscription on the cigarette can be done directly in the maker, with a small printing unit.
The cigarette batches go through the filter attachers, where segmented filters are brought at the intersection of two segments of cigarettes. The ensemble moves to glue primed tipping, i.e. the cork paper, which then gets rolled and glued. The later formation is cut in two filtered cigarettes.
Cigarettes are then packed in paper or carton blank bundles, most typically of 20 pieces each. The design is, of course, predefined, matching the packer. You could add an extra aluminum foil or wax paper to isolate your bundles before going into the final paper or carton pack.
To sum up, in packing, your cigarettes will go through grouping and distribution, intermediary layering, pack filling and closing.
Last but not least, your carton packs could have a hinge lid (most frequent), be the shell and slide kind (think matchbox), or an actual cardboard or even plastic or metal box.
For good keeping, a layer of PP foil is then added to each pack, which in turn are grouped in cartridges (pack bundles), overwrapped in PP foil for sale and boxed in master cases. You may see pack bundles wrapped in foil directly – that’s called naked wrap.
Your equipment for the process is pretty self explanatory: packers, wrappers, boxers, overwrappers.
It sounds very theoretical, but – and that is a classic tune in this business – it all breaks down to simple processes. Putting them all together and making it work is where the art is. You’ll get there. We promised we’d be there for you through it and we’ll make good on that. Call when you’re ready.
How many kinds of cigarettes are there, anyway?
Your product will fall into one of these categories: carton tube cigarettes (papiroshka), recently back in production after a long absence, paper or reconstituted tobacco foiled cigarettes, filtered or unfiltered cigarettes. You could also tell them apart by form: round or oval, caliber or diameter, length, inscription, tube add-ons, filter quality, nicotine content, air flow, ashes quality, etc