Single-Serve Package Reduces Carbon Footprint By Over 30%

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 29. September 2016

The Freshpack is tailored to workplaces and reduces emissions from raw material extraction by 40% by eliminating aluminum.


Increasing concerns in the coffee industry and beyond on the environmental impact of single-serve plastic pod packaging are bringing about innovative design alternatives that aim to minimize that impact.


One such example is the film-based new-generation Freshpack, recently launched by Mars Drinks, a business of Mars, Inc., headquartered in West Chester, Penn. The company’s exclusive focus with its single-serve business is offices and other workplaces globally. Its single-serve packaging is designed to work with Mars Drinks brewers.  


The company produces the Freshpack packaging at its LEED-certified West Chester, Penn. facility using a horizontal form, fill and seal process. They are made from purchased extruded film, including PP, PLA, and PE, and have the following dimensions: for coffee and instants, 70 mm (2.76 in.) wide and 101 mm (3.98 in.) tall; for tea, 50 mm (1.97 in.) wide and 101 mm (3.98 in.) tall.


The company achieved a 31% carbon footprint reduction in its single-serve packaging. This has been verified by ISO 14044:2006 Life Cycle Assessment—which analyzed environmental impact across all production stages—from raw material through distribution by Montreal-based engineering firm WSP Parson Brinckenhoff.


According to the company, “upstream” environmental factors were key to the new design’s creation. As part of that approach, Mars Drinks reexamined the entire Freshpack production process and identified the raw material extraction of aluminum as the most significant contributor to the carbon footprint of the raw materials in the original pack design.


The removal of aluminum resulted in a 40% emissions reduction from raw material extraction in the new-generation Freshpack packaging. This, according to the company, while maintaining its predecessor’s benefits, including proprietary brewing technology to preserve freshness and eliminate flavor cross-over from one drink to the next.


Meanwhile, the company also continues its Recycle Your Freshpacks program, offering its North American customers and easy way to divert 100% of Freshpacks from landfills. (Mars invested in a Texas-based wind farm that reportedly generates the equivalent amount of energy required to power all its U.S. operations, including Mars Drinks West Chester campus.)


Said Samantha Veide, Mars Drinks’ global director, corporate sustainable solutions, “Customers have told us their number one sustainability issue when it comes to workplace drinks solutions is solving the packaging challenge. That’s why we placed such a priority on rethinking our Freshpack design.”  As guided by its parent company’s sustainability commitments, Mars Drinks is focusing its 2016-2020 sustainability initiatives in three areas: sustainable agriculture, sustainable operations, and sustainable solutions.


Bill Gates Invests in Low-Carbon Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. September 2016


Pioneer for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic sugar technology can now start to move from lab into commercial use.


Earlier this year, startup Renmatix, Philadephia, a leading licensor for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic sugar and a commercial partner of NewBio, patented its Plantrose Process that can lead to cost-effective production  of industrial sugars on a commercial scale as an alternative to petroleum-based polymers in a range of industrial  processes. (Led by Penn State University, NewBio is a regional network of universities, businesses, and government organizations dedicated to building robust, scalable, and sustainable value chains for biomass energy in the Northeast.)


Now, Renmatix has secured a $14-million investment from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, which will allow it to begin the technology’s transition from the lab to industrial use. Before the U.N.’s Paris climate talks earlier this year, Gates corralled 28 high-profile investors to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition and committed them to invest in low-carbon energy innovation to save the planet.


Said Gates, “To effectively address climate change, we need to develop an energy infrastructure that doesn’t emit greenhouse gas and is cost competitive. A critical component in this effort must be to decarbonize the industrial sector. Another is the possibility of cost-competitive biofuels. Renmatix provides and innovative process that is an exciting pathway to pursue.”


Menwhile, Belgium’s Total (U.S office in Houston), a global energy and back-integrated polyolefins and PS conglomerate, joined Gates in expanding its initial 2015 investment in Renmatix by signing a licensing agreement with the company for 1-million tons (2-billion/lbs) of annual cellulosic sugar production capacity, at Total’s discretion to build corresponding facilities.


The license represents significant revenue potential for Renmatix, extending over the agreement’s lifetime. “Our ambition is to become the responsible energy major. We want to make low-carbon businesses a profitable growth driver accounting for 20% of our portfolio in 20 years’ time. Meeting these goals in what has led to setting-up and expanding our collaboration with Renmatix,” Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne said.


Renmatix’s Plantrose process uses supercritical water to reduce costs in conversion of biomass to cellulosic sugars, the critical intermediary for second-generation biochemical and biofuels. With faster reactions and virtually no associated consumable-expenses, Renmatix’s supercritical hydrolysis is said to economically enable a multitude of renewable process technologies and help access the market for ‘high-volume, low-cost, broadly-sourced’ cellulosic sugars. From this industrial sugars’ foundation, the company is expanding its product portfolio with additional bio-building block intermediates, including Omno polymers and crystalline cellulose.


The new investment in commercializing Plantrose is expected to help in the drive towards the first wave of Renmatix licensees building Plantrose-enabled biorefineries in diverse global markets like Canada, India, Malaysia, the U.S. and elsewhere. In parallel, such activity will facilitate further market development in downstream bioproduct applications. Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton:


“This investment from Gates and Total together shows recognition of our technological achievements, and magnifies our commercial momentum. That acknowledgement and Total’s signing of the million-ton license are compelling indicators of our Plantrose technology’s maturation toward biorefinery scale.” 

Finnish Startup Gets In-Mold Structural Electronics (IMSE) Lighting Patent

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. September 2016


TactoTek’s newly-patented technology available for licensing.


An interesting technology from a Finnish startup that has a unique method for integrating printed electronics such as circuitry, touch controls and antennas, as well as discrete electronic components such as LEDs, into injection molded plastics has been issued a U.S. patent (9297675). Applications for the so-called “illuminated indicator structures for electronic devices” include automotive, home appliances, wearables and health care.


The new technology from TactoTek, based in Oulu, Finland (U.S. office in Cupertino, Calif.) reportedly enables sophisticated lighting in very thin 3D plastic ‘smart surfaces’. “This patent recognizes a key innovation for injection molded structural electronics (IMSE) technology—employing the plastic material that is the structure of a part as a light guide. Using this technique, we can create very bright, evenly distributed illumination within structures as thin as 2-millimeters (0.079 in.),” according to CTO and co-founder Antti Keranen.


For illumination, TactoTek’s IMSE technology consolidates printed electronics and LEDs within the 3D molded plastic part and uses the plastics themselves to conduct light. This, in contrast with traditional electronics designs, which typically include a cosmetic surface structure and use a separate light pipe structure to direct lighting to the surface from a flat, rigid printed circuit board (PCB).



TactoTek’s approach of using the molded cosmetic surface as a light guide removes design constraints that had previously prescribed thick, multi-part assemblies, explains head of product management Hasse Sinivaara. “As we remove parts, we remove design time, weight and minimize electrical and mechanical assembly—very appealing when considering form factor innovation and total cost of ownership.”


TactoTek’s patented and patent-pending technologies integrate a mixture of well-known production technologies into a unique approach that enables mass production of 3D structural electronics. These include flexible circuit printing, surface-mounting electronic components, thermoforming, in-mold labeling (IML), and injection molding.


The approach starts with an IML material. Decoration, if desired, is printed, followed by conductive circuitry, and in some designs, printed touch controls and printed antennas. Electronic components are mounted using standard high-speed pick-and-place machinery. Electronics can be as simple as LEDs or as complex as microprocessors and are affixed to the IML using specialized adhesives able to withstand the temperature and pressure of injection molding. With electronics in place, the IML carrier is used as an insert for injection molding.


According to senior v.p. of marketing Dave Rice, the company uses a range of plastics that are standard for high-pressure, high-temperature injection molding, including: PC, ABS, and acrylic for rigid structures; TPU and hybrids, e.g., TPU/silicone for flexible structures.


Here is Rice’s answer when I asked if the company plans to license its newly-patented technology:  “Our core business model is to help customers adapt their traditional electronics designs to TaktoTek IMSE technology and, develop mass production ready prototypes. For mass production, in some cases, we will manufacture parts ourselves; in most cases, we will license our technology and train a third party—typically an established Tier 1 supplier, to mass produce those parts.”


BOPET Films' Growth Prospects Look Very Good

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. September 2016

Market demand to be driven by significant use in both packaging and technical applications.


Biaxially-oriented PET film (BOPET) appears to have become one of the fastest growing polymer substrates, with demand expected to be over 8 billion lb in 2016, a growth of over 2 billion lb since 2010. This, according to a new report, BOPET Films—the global market 2016, by Bristol, U.K.-based AMI Consulting.


Check too our September issue’s feature K 2016 Preview: Extrusion and Compounding, and a recent blog on “biobased” BOPET film for solar-control-windows.


Driving this impressive growth is BOPET film’s extensive use in both packaging and technical applications due to its novel combinations of properties, excellent processability, as well as adhesion to coatings and adhesives. The report points out, however, how volatile this market has been, noting the rapid demise of BOPET-based magnetic tapes for music and video cassettes after the development of CD—an example of applications that come and go.


Yet, the AMI Consulting report discusses emerging applications such as photovoltaics—the fastest one, with a whopping 29%/yr growth since 2010, driven by an increased demand for renewable energy sources often supported by government initiatives. Another: display and optical films, which have seen double-digit growth by expanding sales of smart phone, tablets and flat screen TVs.


Moreover, in terms of absolute growth, packaging has grown the most, which AMI says is most evident in emerging markets, particularly in China and India. On the other hand, the AMI consultants note that the increasingly competitive and commodity nature of traditional packaging film markets is driving film processors to seek added value opportunities through either diversification into thick films, technical applications or investment in secondary processing such as metallization or offline coating.  The report indicates that new investments are more and more in hybrid lines capable of making a range of films that cut across the traditional supply divisions between thin films (<50 micron; 0.002 in.) and thick films (50-350 micron;0.002-0.014 in.) as companies look to diverse their portfolio.


It appears that in the 2010-11 time frame, there was strong growth in BOPET demand, which led to tight supply and relatively high margins; thus a boom in investment in the BOPET business. Over the last several years, this led to an explosion of new capacity, with some 4.8 billion lb installed since 2010. While global capacity was boosted by over 70%, demand only increased by half that rate, which has led to significant oversupply.


AMI notes that this “oversupply scenario”, combined with the falling crude oil prices, resulted in weak pricing and poor margins, making the operating environment for BOPET film processors increasingly challenging. “Much of this new added capacity has derived from high productivity low-cost operations with a focus on flexible packaging applications…This has put pressure on heritage businesses with older and less efficient assets particularly for the production of low-cost commodity grades in developed markets of North America, Europe, and North East Asia,” said AMI Consulting senior market analyst Marta Babits. The industry has seen many of these companies shifting their focus on specialized technologies and high-end value applications. At the same time, some, such as DuPont Teijin, have opted to shutter obsolete plants as part of cost-cutting measures.


The report characterizes this industry as becoming increasingly fragmented driven by new players entering the market in recent years. The top ten producers accounted for over 60% of the total production 10 years ago and less than 50% today while there are many more manufacturers holding smaller market shares. The largest producers worldwide include DuPont Teijin Films, Flex Films, Jiangsu Shuangxing Color Plastic New Materials, Mitsubishi Polyester Film, SKC Films, and Toray Films.


The BOPET demand forecast from AMI Consulting is for 10-billion lb by 2020, a CAGR of 6% from 2015-2020, but growth in some developing countries will be well above the average. “The industry will continue to bring value-added opportunities but to maintain market power, industry players need to anticipate change and formulate response strategies quickly and direct R&D investment accordingly,” Babits said.


Science Shows How Colors Affect Us

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 12. September 2016

Take a look at our September special supplement “Do You Do Color Right?”, and do explore on color science and so much more.


Okay, okay! So, editors tend to be among the population of nerds, those of us in the trade press perhaps even more (and plastics and composites reporters in particular). But, as a listener of podcasts while I take lengthy walks on Connecticut shores or while working out, I can tell you that I’m always learning something.


Sometimes I’m disappointed, but more often than not, I’m ecstatic and end up looking for further information on a particular issue or topic. In the spirit of ‘peace’, and I am a peaceful person, I will not mention politics. However, it is through a couple of interesting podcasts that address politics and science that I heard about


Okay…so they are not free (some are pretty costly), but not much is these days. But you might want to check out “How Colors Affect You: What Science Reveals”. It’s a $27.95 video download with six lectures delivered by design expert and University of Houston Professor William Lidwell who explores:


  • The history, science, and cultural importance of the six universal colors
  • How our brains have evolved to respond to colors without our conscious awareness
  • The key experiments that have shaped our understanding of how colors work
  • Ways to more effectively apply the science of color to achieve your personal or professional goals for a space.


The course will reportedly open your eyes to why your favorite products practically jump off the shelf; why certain logs are more memorable than others; why particular scenes in nature evoke peace, joy, or fear; and much more.


PT, released this month a supplement, “Do You Do Color Right?” Check out the column introducing it by my colleague, editorial director and assistant publisher Jim Callari. He starts it with: Color. Is it art? Science? Some of both?


Just last week, I blogged about the BASF Color Excellence Group and how they strived to come up with 2020 automotive colors by global region. I think I’d love that job as they travel to-and-from to come up with their ‘scientific’ predictions.


So, back to color course. It appears that scientists are uncovering secrets on how colors, beyond aesthetics, work on our eyes and our brain…how they influence the way we think, feel, and behave—often without our conscious awareness. The course description describes this as an exciting time in the scientific study of how colors affect us. It points out that knowing how colors affect us informs how we tap into their powers to create environments and achieve a breathtaking range of visual goals. Moreover, it lets us strike down popular myths and misconceptions about color that can easily lead businesses and companies to make costly mistakes.  Here are some examples:


• Black uniforms tend to increase aggression and intimidation in conflict situations.


• Red ties can give you an edge in confrontational negotiations, while blue ties can express a desire to collaborate.


• Fire trucks increasingly are painted yellow because that’s the color most visible to our eyes.


• Aligning the right colors to products, brands, and ads can make or break a business’s success.


• Pink rooms will not calm aggressive prisoners or sap the strength of opposing teams.


• Yellow walls in the nursery will not cause babies to cry more often.


• Blue tableware of kitchen walls will not suppress your appetite (although food that’s dyed blue certainly will).


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