The market for sustainable film materials is growing each year, and converters, original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and consumer packaging goods (CPG) companies want to know what’s working, as well as what sustainable film material and equipment work well together. 

Recently, Rovema North America produced a webinar to answer these questions and presented a detailed discussion on the intersection of sustainable film materials and vertical form-fill-seal machines.

Simon Hermans, director of U.S. sales and marketing for Südpack kicked off the webinar by defining sustainability terms for flexible films and discussed what the Germany-based film company is currently offering and plans going forward. 

“Our renewable raw materials program is interesting due to the use of plant-based resins that can substitute for fossil fuel-based resins,” says Hermans. “We’re using cornstarch or sugarcane to actually replace certain parts of those films, or actually replace the whole structure with a renewable resource made material.”

Hermans also added that mono-film materials and the importance of recyclable films, such as polypropylene, are making inroads with the company’s customer base in North America.

With mono materials making bigger inroads in the industry, Kelly Eastman, VP of engineering at Rovema North America, discussed important considerations with polyethylene film structures and pouching equipment. Seal functionality with form-fill-seal machines is crucial, and Eastman pointed to Rovema’s servo-driven equipment as critical to providing excellent control for jaw pressure on horizontal seals. 

“Rovema’s machines can produce light seal pressure to preheat, say, a polyethylene material and build a little heat energy into the film before we squeeze,” says Eastman. “This avoids ‘squeezing out’ the adhesive layer, and then bringing the jaws together at full force to get the final seal.”

Eastman also adds the equipment provider’s vertical form-fill-seal machines can slightly open the jaws to relieve pressure and allow the film structure to cool, before fully opening the seal. All the seal technology is possible due to the precise servo control technology. 

The webinar also revealed sustainable film material is working well to meet optimized production rates on form-fill machines, as mono-layer film structures are “running at 100 packages per minute (ppm), and Rovema’s fastest machines can hit 250 ppm.” 

Both participants discussed downgauging, and Eastman addressed reducing material by reducing seal lengths. 

“If you don’t have a strong seal, then a package can have a 20-mm wide seal instead of our standard 14-mm wide seal,” says Eastman. “If you can reduce every top and bottom seal by 5-mm, then you can save 10-mm per package, and over the course of the year that’s going to add up to a lot of film saved.”