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Nylopack stretches operations

Nylopack has invested in a third five-layer blown film line to diversify into non-barrier stretch-hood film production, reports Nici Solomon.

Nylopack has diversified from five-layer barrier film into non-barrier stretch-hood film production at its Roodekop (Gauteng) facility, reports Nici Solomon.

A venture between seasoned plastics industry entrepreneur, Theo du Toit, and extrusion specialist, Pieter Rossouw, Nylopack has invested in a third five-layer blown film line from Rajoo Engineers to set itself apart from standard three-layer production in terms of providing stronger and more cost-effective stretch-hood films.

According to MD, Pieter Rossouw, many local stretch-hood film suppliers are attempting production on more universal lines, creating a shortfall in terms of machine capability and the film’s final quality.

‘We didn’t want to follow this approach because these non-barrier films are more sensitive and difficult to produce than barrier varieties,’ he explains. ‘To obtain the highest quality results, we’ve invested in a dedicated line with top-of-the-range hardware (die and machine design), plus temperature, material blending and gauge controls.’

Stretch-hood films have evolved from being predominantly EVA-based for elasticity to modern metallocene resins, consisting of a combination of LDPE, LLDPE and elastomeric PEs. Mostly, resins used in each customer-specific formulation are imported specialist grades designed to provide pallet stabilisation for beverage products and extend the shelf life of cement and polymer products by preventing water ingress into the palletised load.

Training and support

With all three lines at Nylopack, Pieter has worked alongside factory personnel to complete most of the installationwork before Rajoo technicians have arrived from India to manage final alignment, electrical connections, commissioning and start-up.

‘When we bought the first five-layer Pentafoil coex line in 2014 – Rajoo’s first barrier line sold into the local market– it was completely new technology and presented a steep learning curve for everyone from middle management right down to operators. However, after a couple of months, we had enough people trained to run the line efficiently,’ he states.

They’ve been impressed by Rajoo’s competitive product offering and its latest technology, that helps to produce excellent quality blown films. Also notable is the technical back-up on auxiliary components and the fact that primary manufacture takes place in Rajkot, India, allowing simple resolution of issues online or via email or a phone call. 

It was these combined factors that motivated Nylopack to replace the last of its old extrusion equipment with a second Pentafoil coex line in June 2017 – based on the same configuration and Plast-Control integrated control system as the first one – simplifying the transition for extrusion staff.

The third line, which arrived in November 2017 and was commissioned in early 2018, is practically identical in terms of specifications, simplifying operations and spares stockholding,asall three lines share many components.

‘Additionally, Rajoo is growing its customer base in South Africa, which means there are often technicians in the country busy with other installations who can assist us if we experience any issues that can’t be resolved remotely,’ says Pieter.

‘I’m also a strong believer in bringing the OEM’s technician into the facility annually to inspect components for wear and tear and to fine-tune the extrusion and conversion machines,’ he concludes.

Stretch- vs shrink-hood technologies

The main differences between stretch- and shrink-hood technologies are that the former uses less film material to achieve the end result and a mechanical unit rather than an energy component to stretch the film.

‘With stretch-hood technology,you start with film that’s thinner and smaller than the pack you want to preserve, and you stretch it to become even thinner,’ explains Nylopack MD, Pieter Rossouw. ‘Shrink-hood technology, on the other hand, starts off with thicker material that’s bigger than the package you want to preserve and then shrinks it to make it even thicker.These differences in material usage rates result in stretch-hood film beingthe more economical option between the two.’

In addition, shrink-hood technology uses an energy component – usually gas burners that pose health and safety risks – compared to the stretch-hood’smechanical unit that stretches the film and positions it over the pallet.

Putting food-safe packaging first

Nylopack has upgraded its quality control and management system from ISO 9001 to FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification) certification to better meet the needs of its food industry customers.

The company supplies specialised multilayer films with barrier properties for vacuum bags, thermoformable and lidding materials, and moulded vacuum packaging for cashew and macadamia nuts exported to China and the US.

MD, Pieter Rossouw, reports that the implementation and certification process took more than a year and is a worthwhile investment because it ensures the long-term sustainability of the business by providing customers with the assurance that Nylopack’s product is manufactured and supplied in accordance with International food safety standards ensuring the necessary traceability and control systems. 

Admin manager, Johan Marais started the process in May 2016 and was assisted by food packaging expert Monique Bothma, who joined the team as a dedicated specialist from September 2017 to lead Nylopack through the final stages of certification. 

According to Pieter, one of the biggest challenges of FSSC 22000 certification is getting buy-in from factory staff and training them to understand the importance and necessity of food safe practices, hygiene, record keeping, as well as correct equipment maintenance and control from a procedural point of view.