In the modern cannabis industry, the pre-roll is king, a perfectly packed consumer-packaged good that not only improves on the humble joint but adds a level of consistency and ease that keeps consumers reaching for them on dispensary shelves.
Far from the hand-grinding and rolling of the past, today, machinery makes it possible to automate nearly the entire process, with companies not only producing high-quality pre-rolled cones and tubes but also the machines to fill them.
From grinders and sifters through packaging, machines can help companies of every size make the production process easier, smoother and more consistent at every step.
Grinders & Sifters for Automated Pre-Roll Production
While automated pre-roll cone-filling machines make the most sense for the largest producers, every pre-roll manufacturer can benefit from automating at least part of their process — and it all starts at the grind.
A proper grind is key to producing high-quality pre-rolls. However you pack your cones, the cannabis needs to be a more uniform particle size to craft pre-rolls that smoke evenly and won't run or canoe. Even when filling cones by hand or with a tabletop machine like the King Kone or Knockbox, it is important to create similarly sized cannabis particles that will flow smoothly and consistently through the machine. And for larger, automated pre-roll filling machines, it's essential.
However, not all grinders are created equally, and not just anything can be used to break up cannabis because of the nature of the plant. Machines like blenders, food processors, and others that use high-rpm, low-torque motors to break apart flower generate heat, which can damage the valuable trichomes that house the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its flavor and potency.
The industrial cannabis grinder, however, uses high torque and low rpm to keep flower in the best shape possible while grinding up to one pound per hour into consistently sized particles ready to be packed into cones, tubes or blunt wraps. If that doesn't seem like enough, the best way to scale up your grinding processes is to add additional smaller grinders instead of switching to a larger one, as multiple smaller grinders will lead to less downtime and more flexibility of use, mainly if you are grinding multiple strains that vary in stickiness.
Beyond grinding is sifting, an often-overlooked step that removes stems and other unwanted material that can clog machines or tear through pre-roll cones. Additionally, standardizing particle size helps airflow through the joint to maintain an even burn.
Again, choosing the sifter that is right for your business is essential. For example, the QuickSift Mini and QuickSift Commercial Sifters both have multiple standardized screen mesh options to sift to the particle size of your choice. However, the diameter of each sifting screen is different, and the commercial model can handle larger throughput.
Automated Pre-Roll Filling Machines
For most manufacturers, automating the pre-cone-filling process is enough to smooth out production, increase capabilities and create consistent, high-quality pre-rolls. But for larger companies that make 50,000 pre-rolls per month, fully automating the filling process also makes sense.
Automated pre-roll machines can produce between 800 to 2,000 pre-roll joints per hour, a significant increase over tabletop machines. But as an investment, it's important to purchase the right machine for your business, and there are some critical distinctions between automated filling machines.
The main thing to watch for is usability. While automated machines reduce the human interaction necessary to produce a pre-roll, none run without a worker. And some machines are harder to use than others.
Some automated filling machines are simply over-engineered and difficult to operate or keep running. Ease of use is often overlooked until constant training and re-training eats into production. Talk to your partners about which machines can run with the least amount of direction and have the shortest downtimes between runs.
Additionally, pick a machine that offers setting customization, like cone size, final pre-roll weight, material tamping, and versatility, so you can fill cones, tubes, blunt cones, and cones with premium filter tips all on the same machine.
Automated machines work best with reliable, quality pre-rolled cones and tubes, so select a pre-roll supplier with high standards and top-quality cones.
Automated Infused Pre-Roll Machines
The fastest-growing pre-roll segment is infused pre-rolls, which combine flower with a concentrate to produce a higher-potency pre-roll that commands a premium price at retail.
There are two main ways to automate this process. First, there is the infused flower mixer, a spectacular machine that uses physics to perfectly combine flower and any concentrate – from kief to hash to distillate and even rosin – into a perfectly mixed composite ready to be packed into cones. Second, the automated infusing machine injects a line of concentrate into the center of your pre-roll cones that vaporizes as it is smoked, creating a "hash hole" through the middle of your pre-roll.
Automated Pre-Roll Packaging & Labeling
With the flower ground and the cones packed, the final step that can be automated is packaging. New machinery can not only pack pre-rolls into doob tubes but also multi-packs. The machines use cameras to orient pre-rolls however you'd like, be it all in one direction or zig-zagging filter-to-tip, and they're available in multiple sizes to package up to 50 pre-rolls per minute.
The decision to automate pre-roll production is not easy or cheap, so the best bet is to talk to a pre-roll automation expert about the best option for your business. Together, you can decide which machine or machines make the most sense to automate part or all of your pre-roll filling process.