Manufacturers are seeking new ways to meet market-driven production challenges on their packaging lines, and robotics is playing an increasing role. In this 14th issue of DirectIndustry e-magazine, discover how new robot controls and integrated barcode readers allow operators to rapidly track and identify product, bolstering the fight against counterfeiting.
The magazine also explores the trend toward sustainable, attractive packaging. Don’t miss our story on how to make eye-pleasing packages from renewable materials!
Manufacturers are seeking new ways to meet market-driven production challenges on their packaging lines, and robotics is playing an increasing role. But robots must be adaptable and easy to program.
According to the PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, at least 75% of manufacturing end...
Brightly colored containers to tempt the consumer, cardboard to protect machinery and special coatings to keep food fresh— industries are seeking ever-innovative eco-solutions. With the challenges of finite resources and waste disposal, packaging producers have to respond to pressure for sustainable answers.
As the European Commission proposes increases of 80% in the recycling of packaging waste by 2030 and society looks towards greener living, so packaging producers are focusing hard on finding sustainable raw materials, achieving energy-efficient manufacturing and creating end products that are biodegradable and recyclable.
Inevitably, many are turning to biomaterials and bio-based materials. Producers of paper and cardboard packaging continue to herald their eco-credentials for their use of renewable wood fiber, but another natural solution has been to turn to food as a raw material.
Vegetable bases, including soy, are increasingly used in printing inks, and waste from food processing is being absorbed into the production of packaging. This includes starch-based void fill or loose chips to protect products and equipment during shipping.
Netherlands-headquarteredPaperFoam produces bio-based packaging solutions for customers in consumer electronics, the medical industry, cosmetics and dry foods. Manufactured with patented injection molding technology, the product is more than just highly sustainable, compostable and recyclable, explains CEO Mark Geerts.
If you look at the total carbon emissions of our product, from its plant-based origins and throughout its entire life cycle, we have 90% lower carbon emissions than traditional paper or cardboard packaging. Our product is made from waste industrial starch, natural fibers, water and a premix. Very little water is used in our manufacturing process and the material is very light, which reduces carbon emissions during transport.
Eco-Packaging Gets Attractive
Courtesy of Veuve-Cliquot
PaperFoam worked with the likes of Motorola and AMD on consumer electronics packaging before diversifying into packaging for other industries, where customers have included Microsoft, Philips, Medtronic, Cochlear, Veuve Clicquot and Burt’s Bees. Recent innovations include egg trays, which are designed to tempt the consumer with their vibrant design, are optimized for stacking and absorb fluid from accidental breakage.
UK-based Vegware also understands the value of attractive eco-packaging. Made from renewable materials, including corn and bagasse (sugarcane fiber), its fast food packaging is not only compostable but also appealing to the eye, says communications director Lucy Frankel.
The ideal packaging has to be practical and functional, but looks are also vital to help our clients attract consumers in a crowded marketplace. In the past, eco packaging was only available in muted tones. We want to help clients navigate other key trends too, one of which is the current craze for vivid color. That’s why we developed our Tasting Notes range.
Towards New Protein-Based Coating
Inevitably, some packaging lends itself more easily to eco-solutions than others. But behind the scenes the drive continues, even when the challenges are steep.
Dr. Elodie Bugnicourt, group leader for Eco-Materials at the Barcelona-based advanced engineering company IRIS, also coordinates the European Bio Board project. Here, a team of 14 partners is working on the development of sustainable, protein-based paper and paperboard coating systems, with the aim of increasing the recyclability of food and beverage packaging.
Some 7 million tons of coated paper, paperboard and cardboard are manufactured annually worldwide, says Dr. Bugnicourt. The standard coating material is petrochemical-based polyethylene (PE) and non-recyclable.
She points out that this means there is a need to develop polymers that are based on a sustainable resource and do not harm the environment, either in their manufacture or at the end of their life. They do, however, also require the same high performance levels as PE when employed as a coating for paper and cardboard.
It is a challenge. We are competing with materials that have been here for the last 50 years, at least. And coming up with a product that is greener just isn’t enough. It also has to be cost-competitive and processable.
But she remains optimistic. The project is making headway and Bugnicourt is confident a solution can be found.
We are working on the waste from the potato starch process and the whey that is a by-product of cheese production. We believe the new coating can be compatible with multilayer paper and board packaging and could potentially be used in the production of pouches and sachets for food, and cartons for beverage packaging.
With resources becoming scarcer and demand for packaging remaining high, sustainability will have to become the norm, she adds.
The factory of the future is fast becoming a reality. This is nowhere more obvious than in Germany. The rise of automated plants is bringing Industry 4.0 to the forefront of production, with companies like Festo leading the way in automation.
An Intuitive HMI Technology Plant
In Scharnhausen, southeast of Stuttgart,...
Today, packaging must tell a story and get that ‘buy me’ message to the consumer. In a crowded market, it’s all about differentiating your product on the display shelf. And in the case of FMCGs (fast-moving consumer goods), it can necessitate regular updates and reinventions to reflect fashion and market developments.
But just as packaging is sophisticated, so are the machines and equipment that produce it. That means frequent changes in packaging design can be prohibitively expensive.
Consumer needs around the world are changing fast and customers are looking for packaging solutions to respond more quickly to these demands. By offering this retrofitability concept to our customers, we are helping them to differentiate their products at a fraction of the cost of buying a new machine. In addition, we also enable them to introduce innovation much faster in the market.
Tetra Pak says the Retrofitability Kit allows customers to transform the shapeand base area of packages on the same machine platform.
Meanwhile, the Aseptic 250 Base Crystal is a new package featuring two crystal-shaped panels on the front of the familiar Tetra Pak Aseptic. It provides customers with more graphic design possibilities so their products stand out on the shelf.
Tetra Pak says the package offers extremely efficient stacking and storing, while increased board stiffness reduces damage during distribution. The 250 Base Crystal has been launched with Chinese dairy producer Mengniu.
A Low-Cost Filling Machine
In addition, the company has launched the TR/G7, a new, low-cost filling machine for chilled distribution. With a capacity of 6,500 gable-top packages per hour, potential contents include extended-shelf-life products such as milk, juice and other still drinks.
Tetra Pak says the TR/G7 is not only low-cost, but also reduces overall utilities consumption by 30%. The firm claims it is easy to install, use and maintain, minimizing staff requirements and downtime. It is suitable for smaller factories or areas with restricted floor space, its compact design taking up less than 19 m2 of floor space.
Zebra Technologies launched the TC8000, a scanner designed for warehouse picking that improves productivity by 14%. It saves 1 hour per day, per employee by using a new scanner angle that eliminates the wrist movement previously needed to effectuate the scan before going on to subsequent tasks. The TC 8000 is also equipped with a camera which enables new applications, such as scanning labels. According to the company, the terminal uses virtual reality to allow the operator to see item storage location on a screen and be guided to it.
The aircraft manufacturer already 3D prints engine parts. Going a step further, it has patented a technology that enables the printing of 3D objects with no support, while they are floating in the air. The new process involves multiple 3D printers and a magnetic field holding the “nugget,“ Boeing’s name for the initial bit of a 3D printed item. Levitation enables the nugget to be rotated in different directions, allowing the creation of more complex shapes. In addition, using several printers increases printing speed.
Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…
Felicity Landon is a freelance journalist with a knowledge in the packaging, manufacturing and business sectors. She has been honored in the Seahorse Club Journalism Awards as runner-up in the Journalist of the Year category.