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PE Film Market Analysis: Shrink Film

By: James Callari 18. May 2015

 

Last year, processors consumed approximately 805.6 million lb of PEs of various varieties to produce shrink film. With an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 2.2%, PE resin consumption for the production of shrink film is expected to reach 860 million lb by 2017. The biggest application for shrink film is for unitization of consumer products, with new applications for constantly being developed. The public’s growing appetite for the convenience and cost savings of purchasing products in bulk has spurred the increase in demand, as has—relatedly—the continued popularity of superstores, warehouse stores, and wholesale clubs.

 

The physical characteristics required of shrink film include strength, puncture resistance, sealability, clarity, and excellent load retention. Some shrink film applications require coloring, ultraviolet light inhibitors (UVI), corrosion inhibitors, venting, varying coefficient of friction (COF) levels, anti-static additives, moisture barriers, printability, hot-tack strength, and controllable shrink or draw down percentages.

 

 

These are among the conclusions of the most recent study of the PE Film market conducted by Mastio & Co., St. Joseph, Mo.

 

 

The study notes that shrink films are classified by the amount of contraction or shrink percentage when heated in both the machine direction (MD) and the transverse direction (TD). The percent of contraction in the machine direction (MD) typically ranges from 50% to 70%, with 60% being the most common.

 

Contraction in the transverse direction (TD) typically ranges from 5.0% to 15%. Shrink films utilized for wrapping paperback books, magazines, and skin or blister packaged products with a cardboard backing require a soft shrink or low percent shrink film. Low force shrink films eliminate buckling or distortion of products and related packaging, according to the Mastio report.

 

MATERIALS TRENDS

 

The Mastio study reveals that LDPE resin remains the principal material of choice for the production of shrink film due to the resin’s high clarity and ease of processing. LDPE-homopolymer and LDPE-EVA copolymer resin grades are extruded separately, blended, or coextruded with other polyolefins for shrink film production. LDPE-EVA copolymer resins are often used to increase the shrink film’s clarity, low temperature flexibility, impact resistance and heat-seal properties. LDPE-EVA copolymer resin is well suited for shrink film and bags that require printing or freezing. LDPE-EVA copolymer resin also provides excellent adhesion when used as a bond layer in coextrusion or lamination with other heat-sensitive substrates such as BOPP film, because the film surface softens as the EVA copolymer content increases. Additionally, a small amount of LDPE-acrylic acid copolymer (LDPE-EAA) was also reported.

 

 

Mastio notes that other resins utilized in the production of shrink film include blends or coextrusions of LLDPE resins including butene, hexene, super hexene, octene (LLDPE-butene, LLDPE-hexene, LLDPE-super hexene, LLDPE-octene), and mLLDPE grades. LLDPE resins, alone, lack the physical characteristics necessary to produce shrink film.

 

More processors continue to use metallocene grades of LLDPE in the production of shrink film, according to the study. The metallocene process produces resins with very predictable performance characteristics that are extremely uniform and consistent. Improved film clarity and impact resistance, in lower gauges are some of the value-added benefits of using mLLDPE resin.

 

TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

 

Blown film is the preferred process of producing shrink film, because it allows the manufacturers to custom design film with the required percent of contraction. Control of contraction and orientation in both the MD and the TD is possible in blown film extrusion.

 

The cast film process, on the other hand, allows greater control of shrink film gauge uniformity, increased clarity, and higher output rates. Another benefit of cast film extrusion is the ability to produce shrink films with less shrink force in the TD, since most of the potential shrink force is limited to the MD. Shrink films produced with the cast film extrusion process are often called “low force” shrink films and are used for applications such as magazine overwrap. Over contraction of shrink films in those types of applications can cause the magazines to wrap or buckle when the outer packaging is heat shrunk.

 

Last year, coextruded structures accounted for about 61% of the market, states Mastio. Three-layer coex structures are most common, though some processors go up to seven.

 

MY TWO CENTS

 

Last year, Mastio reports, the industry’s top six shrink film processors held a collective market share of 60%. These are among the industry largest, most recognizable and most technologically advanced names in the film extrusion market, such as Berry Plastics, Sigma Plastics Group, Bemis North America, AEP Industries, Inc., Sealed Air Corp. (Cryovac Div.), and Cove Point Performance Packaging (Clysar, L.L.C. Div.). Most industry players categorized the market as “strong and stable,” with future growth depending on the overall economy (GDP).

 

Some of the smaller players are introducing new products for bulk packaging to reduce overall packaging usage. Others smaller players are looking at new markets and unique resin blends and combination in an effort to differentiate their product offerings. Market niches seem to suggest an opportunity for smaller processors to compete.

TerraCycle Wants To Fix The K-Cups Recycling Problem

By: Heather Caliendo 15. May 2015

When single-serve coffee hit the market, a majority of coffee lovers embraced it right away. Finally, we could all enjoy a cup of coffee without any work. And it is very popular: Keurig Green Mountain says it sold 9.8 billion K-Cup portion packs in 2014. But, like any new trend, it now suffers from a backlash due to recycling.

 

The issue is that the coffee capsules cannot be recycled as a whole unit due to the structure of the cup. For instance, the popular K-Cups consist of  #7 plastic, paper and an aluminum foil lid. In order for K-Cups to be recycled, the material must be separated from each other. But how many consumers do you think will take the initiative on that? Probably next to zero.

 

This is where recycler TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ) comes in. The company has developed a Zero Waste Box that can recycle any pre-packaged beverage capsules used in capsule-specific machines to make hot beverages. The Zero Waste Boxes come in three different sizes and can cost up to $210. Customers receive the box and then fill it with the appropriate waste streams. Once full, they can bring their box to any UPS location to ship the items back to TerraCycle using the pre-paid UPS shipping label, which is already on the box. When TerraCycle receives the box, the company safely recycles all of the collected materials.

 

The company launched the program about 18 months ago and has already collected 100 million capsules globally. Yes, a 100 million.

 

“People might doubt the recyclability of coffee capsules, but the fact of the matter is we have already collected 100 million—so it’s working,” Albe Zakes, global vice president of communications for TerraCycle, told Plastics Technology.

 

The collected waste is mechanically and/or manually separated into metals, organics and plastics. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products such as plastic lumber and shipping pallets.

 

“Our goal is to eliminate the idea of waste,” Zakes said. “We understand zero waste is more of a goal to obtain, but programs like this can help take steps in that direction.”

 

Keurig has pledged to make a fully recyclable K-Cup by 2020 and Zakes says that the company’s hope is to bridge that gap between now and then.

Moon’s Rise: Extreme Molding’s Joanne Moon Reflects on 38 Years in Medical

By: Tony Deligio 13. May 2015

Joanne Moon, who in 2002 cofounded custom molder Extreme Molding with Lynn Momrow-Zielinski, will bring the breadth and depth of that experience to Molding 2015 (June 16-18, Chicago) where she’ll deliver a presentation as part of the Medical and LSR session.

 

Recently, Moon reflected with Plastics Technology on her ever-changing path in the industry:

 

  • Plant Manager at C.R. Bard in 1978 in charge of manufacturing extruded and molded catheters
  • Employee No. 2 at startup UroMed Corp.
  • Worldwide General Manager for Healthcare Products for Saint-Gobain
  • Co-founder Extreme Molding (Read Plastics Technology’s July 2013 Onsite for more on Extreme)

 

She also gave her insights on the future of the sector, including where technology is taking it. Extreme Molding specializes in molding plastics and silicone life sciences products and high end consumer products, with overmolding as a core competency. As a contract manufacturer, Extreme also provides packaging and fulfillment for its customers “shipping around the block or around the world.”

 

PT: What are some of the processing challenges associated with molding silicones and thermoplastics in the same facility? How do you overcome these?

 

Moon: The two materials are totally different processes, one running the final product in a  hot mold, the other a cold mold. We therefore have to stagger the equipment for chilling and heating requirements. We also have to have technicians with different skill sets in the installation and process set-ups of each type. We have done a great deal of training and planning to overcome the differences.

 

PT: What are some of the reasons Extreme Molding has been able to reshore jobs? Is this trend continuing?

 

Moon: We have been competitive in our pricing, and emphasized quality and delivery as well as volume flexibility. We receive probably 3-5 calls a week from companies producing overseas eager to transition to the states. The most vulnerable group is in infant and female healthcare products, where material integrity is such a concern. The trend is increasing.

 

PT: What is the biggest challenge associated with over molding, particularly mixing materials?

 

Moon: The biggest challenge with over-molding is the temperature and processing parameters of the two materials. The second biggest challenge is bonding of the two materials.

 

PT: Given when Extreme was founded (September 2002), and the market challenges that plastics in particular and manufacturing in general have seen since that time, what have been the keys to the company surviving and succeeding?

 

Moon: Extreme has always focused on markets that were less “commodity pricing” focused, and we have been very fiscally conservative. The economic black cloud was seen by us, and we started doing contingency planning and really reigning in our expenses. We turned down several opportunities if they were not a good fit with our material and molding expertise and could not yield the level of gross margin we needed to be profitable.

 

PT: In the ‘old boys club’ of plastics, has it been difficult to succeed as a woman-owned business?

 

Moon: Just the opposite—many of the customers for the markets we serve prefer dealing with women. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we can deliver to our customers a quality product, at an affordable price, on time.

 

PT: From a process and technology standpoint, what are the keys to serving the medical/healthcare market? 

 

Moon: The process and technology must support a repeatable process with very little variation in specification and quality. We perform statistical quality control as well as 100% inspection on all the products we ship. In addition, impeccable material and lot traceability is critical to our customers.

 

PT: What new technologies is Extreme most excited about and/or interested in?

 

Moon: We are most excited about new techniques for imbedding electronics into substrates, new over-molding techniques and new materials, such as the evolution of TPE/TPU grades. We are also intrigued with a new class of fast cure silicones as well as fiber reinforced silicone.

 

To learn more about Molding 2015, visit the event’s website where you can view the full agenda and register.

Italian Equipment Makers Aim For U.S. Expansion

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 12. May 2015

 

I had the terrific opportunity to attend last week’s Milan Plast 2015, held at the Fiera Milano (Rho) fairgrounds which hosted three satellite shows: Rubber 2015; 3D Plast—3D printing and related technologies; and, StartPlast—innovative startups.  In my visits among the more than 1500 exhibitors, I got a strong sense from some Italian equipment manufacturers that their current global expansion plans are focused on the North American market. Here are four examples:

 

  • Sandretto S.p.a. a long-time manufacturer of injection molding machines, unveiled a range of heavy-duty industrial 3D delta-type printers, which makes the company the second injection molding machine manufacturer entering the additive manufacturing arena after Arburg, which launched its Freeformer two years ago. These machines use 1.73mm filament and have been tested with PLA, ABS, TPU, HIPS, SEBS, PET and PETG. By the end of the year, they expect to have a new list of materials, including granulated plastics, according to Roberto Moretti, COO Additive Manufacturing Division.

 

 Meanwhile, CEO Fausto Ventriglia told me the company will be participating in IDTechEx’s 3D Printing USA 2015 in Santa Clara, California, Nov. 18-19. “For the USA market, Sandretto will set up a direct branch for additive manufacturing—which will cover Canada as well, by the end of the year. Afterwards, we will use a distribution model based on agents for each state.”

 

 • Termostampi s.r.l. ‘opened up’ its U.S. office six month ago in Elkhorn, Wisc. Franscesco Faluomi, sales area manager for USA-East Europe-Russian Federation, explained that the site is part of thermoforming, extrusion and in-line systems maker OMV USA.

 

Termostampi, maker of precision molds and product development for thermoforming of food packaging is part of the Elkhorn Tech Center—a unique co-operation of independent companies combining their expertise in thermoforming to provide customized solutions in today’s marketplace. Also included are WM Thermoforming, maker of precision plastic thermoforming machinery and TPM-USA, maker of pulp and fiber forming machinery.The company is working with owner of OMV USA Kent Johansson, known for his expertise in the thermoforming packaging industry. Initial projects are focused on customized prototypes but the company has plans to produce its molds here within a year.

 

Bausano & Figli S.p.a, manufacturer of a wide range of single- and twin- screw extruders is currently in the midst of negotiating with Italian manufacturer of chillers Frigo Systems Srl. to share space in the latter’s U.S. site in Columbus, Ohio. Says sales manager Alessandro Robotti, “We are working with them to share the location there within the next year—possibly with a couple of other Italian plastics equipment manufacturers.”

 

Comac s.r.l, a 37-yr old family-owned manufacturer of co-rotating extruders and complete compounding lines for the production of a broad range of masterbatches, according to export coordinator Pietro Zanotto, is now looking for “more consistent, long-term representation in the United States”.

 


 

NYC Hit With A Lawsuit Over EPS Ban

By: Heather Caliendo 12. May 2015

 

A New York City ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam packaging is set to go into effect July 1. It’s hard to think a city like NYC (of all places!) may soon be without the use of EPS foam foodservice packaging. 

 

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City. We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio back in January. “By removing nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from our landfills, streets and waterways, today’s announcement is a major step towards our goal of a greener, greater New York City.”

 

But supporters of EPS foam packaging are not going down without a fight.

 

Dart Container Corp. joined with the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC, members of the recycling industry, and the city’s restaurant owners in filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the city's ban on foam foodservice items. Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Department of Sanitation, and DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia are named as respondents in the petition, which was filed against the commissioner’s determination that foam cannot be recycled. The group says that determination flagrantly violated Local Law 142.

 

The suit, which was filed in New York Supreme Court, called the decision to ban foam “arbitrary and capricious,” and asked the Court to reverse the commissioner’s determination that foam is not recyclable and order DSNY to implement rules to recycle foam.

 

“We put together a plan that even the city’s recycler supported that would have removed all polystyrene foam, and not just foodservice articles, from the city’s waste stream. Our plan represented sound environmental policy, but they opted for a politically-expedient ban,” said Michael Westerfield, Dart’s director of recycling. “The City Council set forth very specific criteria for the DSNY to evaluate, and we met or exceeded every one. What we didn’t know is that City Hall had a hidden agenda that would not be swayed by facts or common sense. We are taking a stand today to protect the thousands of businesses that will suffer if this ban is allowed to stand, as well as manufacturers and recyclers who oppose this ban.”

 

Based on the evidence presented to the Department of Sanitation over the last year, the commissioner is statutorily required to recycle EPS, not ban it, the group said in a news release.

 

For instance, the group says that market demand for recycled EPS is so “robust” that a single buyer, Plastics Recycling Inc. (PRI), readily committed to purchase all of New York City’s recyclable polystyrene (both solid and foam), with a right of first refusal over other buyers. PRI further assured the commissioner that it already has “enough demand to handle a 100% recycling rate for a city five times the size of NYC.” PRI even provided the commissioner with a list of buyers. Despite that, the commissioner continues to repeat that there are “no economic markets in existence” that would purchase and recycle the city’s EPS.

 

As stated in the complaint, the Coalition, Dart Container and other named petitioners in the suit have asked for the Court to lift the ban on foam and require the Department of Sanitation to recycle it.

 

Clearly, there’s a lot of misconceptions out there regarding EPS foam and recycling. So it’s important for companies like Dart to take a stand to show the general public that EPS is recyclable and it’s happening.

 

For a great take on EPS recycling, be sure to check out Tony Deligo’s article on ACH Foam Technologies.




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