Ryan Breese, Ph.D., has been technical director at Eclipse Film Technologies for 5 years
Q: What new features or technologies are being introduced to this sector of the industry?A: Newly developed films with enhanced properties have recently allowed laminators to provide innovative products to the marketplace. Converters are eliminating the need for multi-pass laminations by utilizing new substrates engineered specifically for a given application that enhance performance and reduce costs. For example, an oriented metalized polyethylene (PE) sealant film can replace the lamination of a metalized BOPP to a standard PE sealant. By using this stiff metalized PE sealant film, the converter now only needs to conduct a single pass lamination to the print web. In addition, new auxiliary technologies are emerging in the form of flexible clear higher barrier coatings and unique surface treatment, such as atmospheric plasma. These processes could displace higher cost coatings for barrier and print receptiveness.
Q: What kinds of trends are happening now, and what are customers requesting less or more of? Is there a formerly hot trend that is cooling off now?A: The majority of the trends in laminations have been focused on supporting sustainability efforts, lowering cost and providing attributes that are valued by consumers. One common trend has involved downgauging the various substrates in a lamination to reduce the overall weight of the packaging.
The key challenge has been retaining the desired performance, such as stiffness, strength and barrier properties, from the thinner films. Incorporating existing technologies, such as specially designed oriented films, enhances these critical properties and allows for the use of thinner films without compromising the lamination’s performance. Utilizing thinner substrates not only supports sustainability, but has the potential to significantly improve economics due to lower material, warehousing, logistic and scrap costs.
New substrates have also been developed that have desirable features which are inherent to the film. These new films eliminate the need for auxiliary processing and the allocation of capital for additional equipment. The benefits of incorporating these films include improving quality and performance consistency, reducing scrap and enhancing the package’s ease of use. A good example is utilizing a machine direction oriented (MDO) sealant film in a pouch to eliminate the need for laser scoring. MDO films tear very easily in one direction, while resisting tear in the opposite direction, giving the laminated structure a “clean and easy” opening feature that consumers value.
Q: What's missing from this sector? What would you like to see improve?A: The industry has made advancements in utilizing new materials and substrates over the past few years to lower costs, improve quality and sustainability. While significant progress has been made, ongoing efforts can provide greater cost reduction, improved performance and additional environmental benefits.
For example, converters are utilizing substrates, such as a machine direction oriented (MDO) PE film in place of BOPET film for print webs. Given the recent supply and pricing issues associated with these BOPET films, the MDO PE film has been a well received substitute.
Regarding sustainability, the MDO PE film’s yield (MSI/lb) is nearly 1/3 higher at the same gauge, simply due to its lower density. In addition, a 100 percent PE lamination is also recyclable.
Another example is utilizing a MDO polyolefin shrink film for ROSO (roll-on, shrink-on) full coverage bottle labels in place of PVC, PET and PS. Similar benefits to the aforementioned print web example are realized without compromising performance.
Eclipse Film Technologies