For instance, when it comes to automation, machinery and tooling continue to evolve with new control systems and automation in the form of robotic stacking systems.
It’s also reported that thermoforming could replace injection moulding in packaging applications owing to speed of production and lower tooling costs.
Thermoformed in-mould labelling is another technology that has evolved over the past decade and is now more common for higher-end thermoformed products. Lightweighting and sustainability are gaining ground as consumers seek ‘greener’ products. In addition, downgauging (thin-walling) is a trend as weight reductions have impacts beyond the pack itself, particularly for transportation and logistics.
Thermoforming: as easy with PP as with PS
Another innovation comes from Serac in France, whose Roll N Blow vertical thermoforming technology using either polystyrene (PS) or polypropylene (PP) recently won ‘Best Dairy Manufacturing/Process Innovation’ at the World Dairy Innovations Awards.
Cost-efficient, space-saving and easy to operate, Roll N Blow machines are truly versatile with this material option and offer dairy and food manufacturers the possibility of entering new single-serve market segments.
Designed for on-site manufacturing of bottles from plastic reels, the Roll N Blow technology is very simple to operate. As it requires no particular experience of bottle manufacturing, it’s a good option for dairies and food companies diversifying into small bottle packaging (from 100ml to 500ml).
Providing a better barrier against moisture and withstanding higher temperatures than PS, PP is also more flexible (shock resistant) and shows better chemical stability than PS. All these properties allow PP to be used for a wider range of products, for instance extended shelf-life dairy products and flavoured UHT milk. It’s also possible to consider manufacturing multilayered PP bottles with EVOH to protect liquid foods from oxygen, such as sauces, soups or baby food.
Thanks to higher chemical resistance, PP containers can be also be used for personal care products such as liquid soaps, shampoos, creams, oils and lotions, as well as more aggressive products such as hair dye.
Thermoforming with recycling in mind
When it comes to recyclability, Dairypack Tubs (Polyoak Packaging) is taking a decisive lead.
Thermoformed multipacks for yoghurt, chilled desserts and fruit compote are right on trend when it comes to consumer convenience and portion-ability. They’re also a cost-effective solution for chilled foods such as fresh sauces, custard and baby food; and Dairypack Tubs offers an array of 75g and 100g thermoformed multipacks in four-, six- or eight-cup configurations to suit the requirements of differing household sizes, while smaller portion sizes are available for catering and foodservice applications.
Bring cost benefits over injection moulded packs, thermoformed multipacks are now in widespread use. And for food manufacturers they bring an added advantage – they don’t have to invest in their own form-fill-seal machinery.
The polystyrene (PS) material used is available in white or other colours including black, often used for premium brands. Dairypack Tubs can also thermoform clear PS to better showcase the product inside. This is especially relevant for those brands with layered fruit that’s visible from the outside. And tubs can be thermoformed in a variety of shapes, also interesting from a pack differentiation point of view.
Traditionally these multipacks have been decorated using wraparound paper labels applied in the mould to enable 360-degree branding and on-pack communication. Although these tubs are recyclable, it’s a complex process as the paper and PS have to be separated in the recycling process.
Dairypack Tubs now offers mono-material thermoformed multipacks that are recyclable in one easy step. This has been achieved by switching from paper to a PS label material that retains good colour reproduction. And, unlike paper, it’s available in a clear substrate so doesn’t obscure the product inside a clear PS tub.
The PS label – still applied in the mould – is completely waterproof.
As Karl Lambrecht, chief executive for Dairypack Tubs, sums up: ‘The major advantage is that both thermoformed tub and label are made from the same material – PS. This enables the pack to be recycled without the complexity of having to separate the paper, and that’s exciting news for the environment.’
Astrapak’s Thermopac revitalised
Thermopac, part of Astrapak’s forming division, is being revitalised with a drive on efficiencies and innovative leadership. This shift in focus aims to provide a platform to reposition the company, making it more competitive in the marketplace while concentrating attention on more profitable consumer products.
With its market-leading position in terms of quality and supply, Thermopac is now striving to eclipse local competition through research and the introduction of international best practice, to continue providing superior products in a demanding and challenging industry.
Based in Cape Town, this BRC-certified facility extrudes its own raw material, producing the sheet requirements for the forming process and goes on to manufacture a wide range of thermoformed packaging, specialising in shelf-life extension technologies, such as modified atmosphere packaging, using APET, polypropylene or HIPs in a range of colours.
The food, bakery, confectionary and catering industries remain target markets but universal unbranded products form a major part of Thermopac’s business, supplied to chain stores such as Shoprite, Spar, Pick n Pay and Woolworths.
With in-house tooling and mould design capabilities Thermopac’s customers are assured of efficient product design.
UltraClear PP for thermoformed food packaging
Turning to material matters, polyolefins additives supplier, Milliken, is set to impress Europe’s packaging industry at FachPack 2015 with the exciting ability of UltraClear PP to create thermoformed food packaging that’s eye-catching, high-performance and resource- and cost-efficient.
Visitors to the Nuremberg Exhibition will see how UltraClear PP clarified with Milliken’s Millad NX 8000 series sets a new clarity standard for PP that’s comparable to glass-clear materials.
Addressing the trend for efficiency and consumer appeal, UltraClear PP is at the forefront of delivering exceptional aesthetics and lowest weight potential for thermoformed packaging.