The new equipment produces high-quality IML containers for dairy products such as yoghurt, and is already producing containers for an export customer.
According to Neelin Naidoo, MD of Mpact’s Plastics division, the dairy sector is looking for innovative ways to contain costs. ‘Consumer spending is under strain and food producers are unable to pass on all cost increases,’ Neelin explains. ‘And, as fuel, imports and packaging are main contributors to these cost increases, we’re pleased to introduce new technology to produce high-quality IML packaging at high speed. This will help food producers to contain costs associated with packaging.’
Initially, the new Engel high-speed moulding machine, fitted with a label robot from Illseman Automation, is producing top-quality 150ml yoghurt cups. Other sizes are to follow, depending on market demand.
A high-cavitation mould from Glaroform in Switzerland gives a high-speed cycle time to produce some 55-million cups/year. The equipment complies with European safety standards and can accommodate moulds with higher cavitation. Cavitation refers to the number of cups produced in each cycle of the machine as it injects molten plastic into the moulds. Cavitation differs according to product size. Producing relatively-small 150ml yoghurt cups allows for a higher number of cavities to be used.
The IML robot also reduces the risk of contamination by cutting down on human contact with the cup during the manufacturing process.
‘In developing this capability, we’ve also applied our knowledge in product application, product design and market needs,’ Neelin comments.
The capabilities of the machinery have been tested and proven, confirms Paul Visagie, general manager of the Pinetown plant.
‘Currently this IML system is used to manufacture polypropylene IML cups for an export customer. Four cameras measure each cup ejected from the mould for defects such as label displacement, label over-moulding and rim accuracy,’ Paul explains.
Small print and multiple colours can also be used on labels without compromising quality; and changes to label artwork are less time-consuming than traditional decorating methods.
‘By keeping the more expensive elements of packaging consistent, we can help food producers to differentiate brands within a category by means of a simple label change,’ Paul maintains.
Also on offer are specialised labels offering oxygen barrier and temperature regulation, and various substrates and thicknesses to provide a variety of visual effects, such as pearlised, matt, gloss and metallic finishes.
This R10-million investment is very much in line with Mpact’s strategy to develop and selectively grow its leading market positions.
As Neelin Naidoo sums up: ‘We’ll continue to invest in our operations and our geographic footprint in order to meet customers’ changing needs and to remain cost competitive.’