Breaking down barriers
President and CEO
vice president, sales and marketing
Russ Gehrke, vice president,
product development and technology
Q:WHY ARE BARRIER FILMS INSUCH DEMAND TODAY?Russ Joseph:Barrier films are being used more now than ever before in a variety of applications, from food to medical and chemical to industrial.
One of the fastest growing areas is in the convenience food segment. In the real world of dual income, with both parents working, time seems more valuable than ever before. This is especially true in food preparation. The convenience food segment is tied to packaging that reduces the time it takes for meal preparation. These barrier films are going into structures such as value-added meats, heat-and-eat meals and products packaged inmicrowavable pouches to allow quick and easy cooking.
Q:WHATMATERIALS AND/OR STRUCTURES BESTMEET CURRENTRuss Gehrke: Current needs for barrier are met by a variety of film materials and combinations of materials. Moisture barrier needs are met with high-density polyethylene or polypropylene. Oxygen and aroma barrier needs are most typically met with ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) or nylon. Nylon or polypropylene materials address chemical barrier and oil barrier or grease resistance needs. It is common that barrier materials are combined in the same film to meet the diverse needs of the application. Nylon, with EVOH, along with high-density polyethylene, are in use for film applications requiring high oxygen and moisture barrier along with toughness. Although the desired barrier properties are a significant component in the definition of a packaging film, it is critical to assess all of the functionality objectives that define the most appropriate film for the application.
Q: HOWCANBARRIER FILMS ALSO ADDRESS SUSTAINABILITY?Dale Brockman: Multi-layer barrier films can sometimes achieve the barrier required without the need for the secondary processes. With the advent ofelectronic beam printing and scuffresistant inks, the need for burying printing can sometimes be avoided. In addition, sevenlayer capabilities can provide theleverage of substituting lower cost materials to allow downgauging of the substrate to reduce material usage and thus cost.
The attributes of barrier films offer many positive economic, environmentaland social attributes, which include light weighting; broad temperature ranges with low-seal initiation temperatures to reduce energy usage; improved shelf life via durability;product protection; extended shelf life; and high BTU energy content for waste-to-energy conversion at the end-of-life cycle.
Q:WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FORMANUFACTURERS?Brockman: Continual innovation to meet the needs of popular technologies such as hot-fill and cold-seal applications. Focus on innovation and design for recyclability. Enhanced moisture-barrier films are constantly under development.
Gehrke: The industry will continue to see improvement in moisture- and oxygen-barrier materials technology for adaptation into film structure designs. Over time, we could also see the evolution of improved functionality with barrier materials-for example, improved optical properties or increased strength.