Packaging Conference Showcases PET Innovations

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New technologies in plastic cans and bottles set for first commercial applications this year.

Plastic packaging—PET in particular—was the star of the show at The Packaging Conference, held Feb. 8-10, Henderson, Nev. The conference was produced by Plastic Technologies Inc., Holland, Ohio, and SBA-CCI, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Denise Lefebvre, v.p. of global beverage packaging at PepsiCo., Purchase, N.Y., spoke on the importance of developing packaging innovation. Pepsi’s approach has the consumer in mind for the entire lifecycle of a package: when they use it, why and how they use it, and what happens afterward.

“Across the lifecycle, there is innovation opportunity, and we want to be able to push the button and go in a meaningful direction,” she said. “Unless we start thinking in more of an innovation mindset, we will continue to miss an opportunity and shrink our volume collectively as an industry. We don’t do as much innovation as an industry due to lead time, and I urge us all to fix that.”
Almost as a direct answer to that, several companies presented their packaging innovations during the conference. Here are the highlights.

In 2014, Amcor, Ann Arbor, Mich, and French blow molding machinery producer Sidel, along with contributions from Japan’s Yoshino and Nestle Waters, announced the Liquiform process (see Sept. ’14 Starting Up and Apr. ’15 On-Site feature). This blow molding and filling technology uses pressurized liquid instead of compressed air to form and fill plastic containers in one step on one machine. LiquiForm reportedly delivers lower operating costs, space savings, and higher container quality and design flexibility.

Amcor is now licensing and promoting the technology to machine manufacturers, and Ann O’Hara, president of Liquiform, expects to see the first commercial application of Liquiform this year.
Liquid forming reportedly offers more consistent material distribution plus a lightweighting opportunity. The group has tested the technology on PET and HDPE, including use of 30% PCR and 100% PCR, in sizes from 200 ml to 2 L. The process can make a wide range of bottle shapes—straight, waisted, swirls, panels, ribbed, round, and oval.

Another example of packaging innovation was the TruVue clear plastic can developed by global packaging company Sonoco, Hartsville, S.C. It is a multi-layer structure of PP and EVOH made by extruding a tube and attaching metal closures on either end. Sonoco expects TruVue to be commercial this year (see Jan. ’16 Starting Up). 

The can is comprised of a cylindrical plastic body with steel top and bottom closures. Schuetz said the extrusion process provides wall-thickness uniformity and barrier consistency as well as a high output with low waste. 

“When we looked at plastic processing technology we considered blow-molding—a lot of people have tried that—injection molding, continuous extrusion, and, of course, thermoforming,” said Jeffrey Schuetz, v.p. of global technology for consumer packaging at Sonoco. “But the secret sauce came down to how do you put this together? The package closure technology was a big part of the breakthrough.”
Sonoco has tried the cans on fruits, vegetables, and soups with a shelf-life demonstrated at up to two years.  “Consumers want this transparency—what you see is what you get,” said Schuetz. ”

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