Industry Q&A - Coating/laminating trends reflect converters' go-to-market strategies
Albert Negre, business managing director, Comexi Group
Q: What challenges do new films, including new sustainable packaging materials, present to coating/laminating operations and how are you solving them?
A: Films have been experiencing continuous change: The thickness of the films has been reduced dramatically and the quality and barrier effect have taken a huge step forward. As materials become thinner, more barrier coatings or more laminates are necessary for the final packaging.
To go forward in a reinforced way, many companies have been developing a focused strategy to produce special films and multilayer films; some converters even use coating and lamination lines in one step. There has been an increase in the demand for triplex lines that provide high productivity even though the investment level is higher.
Q: How are coating/laminating systems being designed for quick changeover and why is this important?
A: Today’s market is following the policies of just-in-time production. Reduction of inventories is a continuous demand and shorter runs are necessary in the industry. Quick changeover times, also, are a must.
At Comexi, we work with sleeve-type solventless coating heads so that changing the application width is a matter of minutes. Shaftless unwinders and rewinders greatly help reduce the changeover time while loading or unloading the machine. For high-productivity machines, the best solution in reel handling is to use automatic splices for both unwinder and rewinder.
Q: What new technologies are enabling coating/laminating machines to run at higher speeds and why is this important?
A: The market trends are moving toward different directions in terms of job speeds.
On one side, to improve the cost efficiency of produced goods, higher speeds are necessary, and this has to be provided both by the machine manufacturer and the chemistry manufacturer.
On the other hand, shorter runs are a must nowadays and higher production speeds are not the most important aspect as is the need to reduce the downtime of machinery and labor with fast changeover times.
While running high-speed solvent-free laminators or dry-bond laminators or coaters, Comexi can provide machines that apply accurate coating weights up to 600 meters per minute. The adhesives used have to be prepared for that purpose and that is why increasing production speeds do not only have to focus on the machine itself: It also needs co-development with adhesive suppliers, which already exists in the market.
High-efficiency drying tunnels for high-speed applications are also a must in coating or laminating applications to fully assure solvent retention, cost-effective results and energy savings to achieve environmental policies.
Q: What new products or technologies do you offer that helps give converters versatility in their coating/
laminating operations? provide solutions to these problems?
A:With the purpose of providing versatility to our customers, we have developed our coating and laminating machines with a trolley-type concept coating head. This allows customers to use different technologies in only one machine, such as gravure, flexo, solventless, reverse roll and more. Depending on what process a customer wants to apply, there is a specialized trolley to achieve the best result.
We can also provide customers with the right technology in electron beam (EB) and ultraviolet (UV) printing and coating process, opening to our customers a range of possibilities for their market, without limit of innovative designs, products and portfolio.