Three technologies are currently employed – injection moulding, extrusion blow moulding, and – newly-emerging – thermoforming. However, globally, most activity remains in injection moulding.
AWA’s president and CEO, Corey Reardon, then moderated a lively panel discussion on label materials. Signi?cant comments were that east European growth is compensating for west European stagnation (Andre Soterio, Yupo); and that generic plastic containers are turning to in-mould, particularly for high-volume products (Joerg Hofmann, Innovia Films). Michael Demchinski (Taghleef Industries) suggested that thin-walled containers could go as low as 40-50µm in thickness, but emerging economies – where there’s no experience of in-mould – would be obliged to start with higher gauges. Participants agreed that the technology could take off in a big way if advanced ?lms with capabilities such as moisture-resistance and barrier properties were available.
Moving to practicalities, Amanda Jones of Paragon Inks examined ink-related issues, from ‘everyone wants everything for nothing!’ to ideal formulas for ?exo inks and coatings for IML; legislative in?uences; and cures for common problems.
Digital print for labels on plastic containers was the precise topic addressed by Filip Weymans of Xeikon, whose company offers a comprehensive portfolio of CtP imaging equipment, printing presses and pre- and postpress support, and is today offering a digital solution for experienced sheet-fed in-mould labels – already running in two installations.
Victor Gomez of Durst dealt in the opportunities presented by narrow-web colour inkjet print for in-mould labels – possible in CMYK and white and metallic inks, and now competitive with ?exo at the 50 000 label point.
José Peña of Husky Injection Moulding Systems showed how the company delivers tailored solutions for in-mould packaging in terms of machines, moulds, hot runners, and robots, as well as ‘full system integration’ for customers; and Hubert Kittelmann from Marbach gave an update on the technology features of T-IML, an innovative thermoforming process. This particular solution was also analysed in depth by Claus Weinert of Illig, who pronounced it ‘now really competitive’. The trend to larger machine sizes, featuring a higher number of cavities, is a business focus today for machine supplier Netstal, whose hybrid machines are delivering energy efficiency coupled with high performance.
Platinum sponsors Paragon Inks and Gold sponsors Illig, Taghleef Industries, Yupo, and Xeikon, joined seminar delegates for cocktails after the seminar.
Sleeve labels – shrink and stretch
The following morning, sleeve labels were on the agenda at the Sleeve Label Conference & Exhibition 2013. The maturing stretch and shrink sleeving processes now represent a complex base of technologies examined in depth over the one-and-a-half-day programme.
Dr William Llewellyn again set the context with current market data, showing how, with around 17% of the total global label market today, sleeve labels’ CAGR for the medium term is now a projected ± 5%. This is slower than hitherto, but still ahead of other label technology growth rates. Growth continues to be driven by heat shrink sleeves (with roll-fed machine-direction shrink sleeves showing potential in North and South America); and high-shrink films, offering 80-85% shrinkage, are now making their appearance.
Sleeves have gained a high profile in the branding arena, delivering exceptional shelf ‘stand out’ for many products. This would not have been possible without the technological contributions of label producers, and Kris van Bael of Esko showed how the company’s software programs are delivering real advances in shrink label artwork origination – including 3D product imaging of the label design on the product. Inks are a key part of the label package, and Colin Smith of SunChemical introduced the broad platform across which the company delivers eye-catching innovation.
Materials for shrink and stretch sleeves
Shrink sleeve label design is also very dependent on choosing the right material; and Chris Frank of Klöckner Pentaplast set out the key selection criteria across the current options – PVC (described as ‘the preferred substrate in all regions’), OPS, PETG, micro- voided PETG, PLA and coex.
In parallel, Paul Marquard of Taghleef Industries discussed the company’s new generation of OPP roll- fed shrink films.
Roll-fed shrink films are, according to Raffaele Pace of Sidel, ‘the future of the shrink sleeve market’; and he demonstrated Sidel’s roll-fed application machinery in action in liquid packaging/beverage applications.
Applying shrink sleeves to empty rather than prefilled containers is a special challenge for which Laurent Corbet of Karlville presented a technical reference paper.
Tony Couling of Accraply, following an evaluation of the implications of film downgauging, summed up the overarching conference message on shrink sleeves: ‘Always involve your sleeve material supplier, printer, converter, container and machinery supplier right from the beginning of the project. A successful shrink sleeve project depends on EVERYONE!’
Moving the focus to stretch sleeves, representatives of Dow Europe and Petroplast Vinora introduced new polyolefin-based Visique stretch sleeves and the opportunities for premium on-pack aesthetics, functional features and a cost/sustainability profile they offer for highly-contoured bottles and containers. Wolfgang Ploesch of CCL Label presented his company’s answer in this arena – high-shrink TripleS films for large-area bottle decoration – claimed to offer cost and energy savings and easy recycling.
Lively discussion around the associated exhibition continued throughout the conference breaks and the cocktail reception offered by platinum sponsors Accraply, Dow, Paragon Inks and Petroplast Vinora. Comments conference moderator, William Llewellyn: ‘AWA has been following developments in this market for several years and our annual conference always delivers an outstanding agenda and the attendance of knowledgeable professionals who want to keep abreast of what’s new and network with their industry peers.’