Three companies responded to the following question: Printing is the most-common way to add value to flexible packaging, and innovations in this industry continue to expand the impact of printed words, graphics and photos. What types of advances (current and near-future) in printing will have the most significant affect on the flexible packaging industry?

Participants include:

Robert Hablewitz

Business Unit Manager

Pillar Technologies, an ITW Co.

Michelle Hearn

Director of Marketing

Sun Chemical North American Packaging

Michael Impastato

VP Business Development, Packaging Div., North America

Flint Group

Pillar Technologies

From Pillar Technologies perspective we are always working on improvements to our corona treater equipment that can lead to higher dynes, better production rates and lower operating costs for the printing industry.

A few recent advancements include our newly introduced Intelladyne power supply that operates at better than 20:1 turndown and accepts input voltages anywhere from 380-515 Volt, 3 phase, 50/60 Hz. The obvious improvement here is the fact that the operating input voltages of most facilities throughout the world fall into this range, and the need for expensive and large input transformers is minimized or eliminated. The easy-to-read full color operator display screens easily change to various languages. They contain both historical tracking on change of state, complete station diagnostics, and are capable of interfacing with all original equipment manufacturer (OEM) communication platforms in the industry today.

Another interesting advancement by Pillar Technologies is the use of the glass steel treater ground roll technology. The exclusive arrangement established between Pillar Technologies and Empire Treater Roll has allowed a cost-effective move forward in presenting this already existing technology to the industry in yet a different way.

Customer feedback has already indicated the ground roll covering has the ability to reduce high voltage streamers (too intense can damage films) while allowing the roll to run cooler than standard ceramic or silicone sleeved ground rolls. Further, because of the roll coverings homogeneous structure, it eliminates problems associated with pin-holing, offers a more dense corona that is useful with some of the more difficult-to-treat substrates available in the industry today and offers increased operational efficiency by requiring less power to do similar jobs.

This roll with all its advantages is offered exclusively by Pillar Technologies on our equipment stations and offered to the industry with a five-year manufacturer’s direct warranty; the longest term warranty in the industry.

Finally, the Pillar Technologies design of universal dual dielectric stations can offer the printer the ability to switch from conductive to non-conductive substrates with a simple change of the universal electrode magazine assembly. Switching to the different style electrodes for use with either type of substrate is accomplished in as little time as less than one minute.

Sun Chemical North American Packaging

The flexible packaging industry faces a number of challenges today. The costs of maintaining printing operations continue to climb thanks to the rising cost of natural gas and petroleum-based products. Due to the competitive nature of the industry, it is hard to pass along these price increases to customers, so many printers are looking for innovative solutions to cut costs internally.

Not only are costs climbing, but consumer packaged goods companies are looking for ways to answer the sustainability demands from retailers without a loss in print quality. This quality versus “green” conundrum has been a challenge for the flexible packaging industry for years.

Sun Chemical has introduced a printing process that will solve these challenges that printers face and have the potential to significantly impact the flexible packaging industry in the future. That process is called WetFlex.

WetFlex is a breakthrough wet-on-wet flexographic printing process which is designed to meet the needs of the flexible packaging market for the highest level of print fidelity and food product safety, along with the required durability to protect the package integrity and improve printing efficiency.

The WetFlex process uses the patented UniQure ink system, a combined electron cured and water-based ink system. It is dried in-line using an electron beam and produces higher quality print and improved color reproduction than standard solvent-based inks. Since the UniQure ink system is manufactured without any volatile organic compounds, it minimizes a converter’s impact on the environment.

In today’s competitive marketplace where the costs of raw materials continue to climb and brand owners demand higher quality and environmentally-friendly printing, Sun Chemical’s WetFlex process is a solution that can play a key role in resolving many of the key challenges that flexographic printers are facing today and ultimately have the most significant effect on the flexo printing industry as a whole.

Flint Group

The concept of the “first moment of truth” will continue to dominate flexible packaging. This concept was based upon that first immediate experience the consumer has with the product, or in many cases with the package. In the future, it will begin with the design and will carry through the entire distribution cycle to use and disposal. Packaging, and particularly flexible packaging, is a complex combination of attributes.

It encompasses protection, education, marketing, advertising, product convenience and use, and, finally, disposal. Flexible packaging provides protection using a minimal amount of materials. It educates and gives the customer choices. It supports and enhances marketing campaigns and brand identity. It makes the product viewable prior to purchase; and then allows the product to be used, dispensed and resealed.

The challenge for the industry is to educate the brand owners and the consumers of the benefits of the flexible package.

Flexible packaging is an industry which has continually evolved and advanced. It is difficult to say what may be the next significant advancement. But, the flexible packaging industry must ensure these advances and the past advantages of flexible packaging gets communicated.

Recently the industry has been buzzing with activity around sustainability. This can be a great advantage for flexible packaging if it is approached appropriately. Flexible packaging has a great story to tell. The challenge will be to tell the story and allow flexible packaging to deliver its promise to the market place.