Involved in Extrusion? We've Got You Covered With New Conference

By: James Callari 11. August 2015


If your company is involved in extrusion—be it film, sheet, pipe, profile, tubing, or compounding, or some combination thereof—The Extrusion 2015 Conference is for you. Developed by Plastics Technology Magazine, more than 60 presenters at this inaugural event will give you unprecedented access to new technology, tips and techniques, and best practices aimed at helping you boost efficiencies at your operation.


There will also be an opportunity to network not only with presenters, but with the more than 30 suppliers to the extrusion processing market who are exhibiting at this event.


Here are some quick links to provide you with more information about this event:


  • Click here to download a PDF of the complete agenda listing all the speakers, topics, and time slots. Note that the mornings of each day are devoted to general extrusion topics; while the afternoons will feature three concurrent breakout sessions.


  • Click here for information on pricing details. Register before Oct. 2 and receive a $100 discount. Take note of special pricing for companies sending three or more people.



  • And don’t forget to register at the hotel. Rooms are filling up fast. We’ve negotiated a special rate with the conference hotel: The Omni Charlotte. Click here to begin that process.


We look forward to having you join us at The Extrusion 2015 Conference…the one and only conference you’ll need to attend this year.

PE Film Market Analysis: Geomembrane Liners

By: James Callari 5. August 2015


In 2014, approximately 400.7 million lb  of PE resins were consumed in the production of geomembrane lining systems. With an average annual growth rate of 3.4%, total PE resin consumption for this market is expected to reach 442.8 million lb by 2017.


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


According to Mastio, geomembrane liners are typically divided into four major groups :


Waste containment: Waste containment applications include hazardous, industrial, and municipal waste. Hazardous landfills, landfill caps, chemical ponds, wastewater lagoons, and solid waste landfills are the most common applications for waste containment geomembrane lining systems. Toxic pollutants in household garbage come from chemicals in cleaning products, paints, oils, insecticides, solvents and other products. The PE liner layer protects surrounding soil and groundwater from toxic chemicals.


Liquid containment: Liquid containment applications include lining systems for aquaculture markets, such as potable water, recreational containment, water conveyance, earth dams, and lining tanks and ponds. The liquid containment market is growing steadily due to international reconstruction of water reservoirs requiring lining systems and floating covers.


Mining applications: Mining, also known as heap leach mining, utilizes synthetic liners to contain chemicals used in extracting minerals such as gold, silver, and copper from ores. The leaching process requires a liner to contain the ore which has been sprayed with cyanide or other chemicals to extract the minerals. The chemical extract is then drained into a holding pond where the minerals are removed from the solution by an electrolytic process. Blast hole liners are used for lining blast holes in the mining industry. As the liner is lowered into a blast hole, the pointed shape of the lower end tends to center the liner in the hole. Upon reaching the bottom of the hole the weighted pocket sags to one side of  the hole and allows later added explosive material to be received at the very bottom of the hole.


Specialty/other applications: These consist of decorative pond liners, tunnels and irrigation canals, cutoff walls, dams, vapor barriers, highway construction, and additional temporary and lightweight lining applications.


Geomembrane lining systems typically have a minimum thickness of 20 mils and a maximum of 120 mils, Mastio says. However, custom liners can range in thickness from 4 mils to 300 mils. The most common gauge for geomembrane liners is 60. Due to the thickness of this product, geomembrane liners are typically referred to as sheet rather than film.


Most geomembrane liners must be over 20-mils thick to insure longevity. Only a small portion of geomembrane liners are less than 20 mils and are recommended for specialty applications, such as water barriers for potable water and non-potable water. 


Geomembrane liner dimensions vary according to the application and the gauge, states Mastio. Geomembrane liner widths range from 15 ft to 34.5 ft  with a typical width of 22 to 23 ft. Liner length varies according to the gauge and weight of the liner. The dimensions of a typical 60-mil geomembrane liner are 23-ft-wide by 500-ft-long totaling an area of 11,500 ft².


Geomembrane liners are extruded and shipped in rolls, Mastio notes. Roll weights vary from 2500 lb up to 7500 lb depending upon liner dimensions and thickness. The roll weight for a typical 60-mil, 23-ft-wide by 500-ft long liner is approximately 3400 to 3900 lb, with a core weight ranging from 40 to 70 lb. Geomembrane liner rolls are shipped on flatbed trailer trucks. Rolls that are shipped overseas are transported in open or closed top containers. Typically, up to 12 full rolls can be shipped per truckload or container.


Geomembrane liners are specifically designed for prolonged exposure to elements in which they are intended. HDPE resin is the most common PE material used in the production of geomembrane liners.



According to the Mastio research, geomembrane liners are typically made from materials such as HDPE, LLDPE, PVC, chlorosulfinated PE, chlorinated PE , and PP, which are designed primarily for containment, water treatment, and protection. Several critical properties, such as flexibility, high strength, durability, puncture resistance, UV stability, and chemical resistance are expected of a high quality lining system.



During 2014, the most common process utilized in the production of geomembrane liners was blown film extrusion, accounting for 72.7% of PE resin consumption. Sheet extrusion accounted for the rest,

Blown film extrusion requires very large dies to manufacture geomembrane liners, normally 86 in. dia. A roll width of 22.5-ft can be produced with a 1:1 blow-up ratio. Widths up to 48 ft. can be achieved by increasing the blow-up ratio, but the increased widths decrease the number of rolls that can be placed on a flatbed truck, increasing transportation costs.


Both monolayer and coextruded structures are produced for geomembrane liners. In 2014, multi-layer coextruded PE film  accounted for 52% of the market. Usually these are two- or three-layer structures.

PE Film Market Analysis: Frozen Foods

By: James Callari 27. July 2015


Last year, polyethylene  resin consumption for frozen-food packaging reached 343.5 million lb. This market's consumption of PE is expected to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 5% over the next three years, boosting it to 397.8 million lb.


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


Industry analysts estimated that U.S. retail sales of frozen foods were flat and amounted to approximately $44 billion in 2012 (most recent figures), with nearly all dollar sales gains resulting from inflation or new products. Previous forecasts that this market would expand aggressively did not come to pass due to the nation’s slow economic recovery, changing consumer eating patterns, demographics, and shopping patterns, according to the Mastio report.  Retailers are expected to continue focusing on the “freshness” factor and promote fresh foods, due to competition from prepared fresh foods, shelf-stable foods, and restaurants; thus hurting frozen foods and frozen foods packaging sales.


PE film used in frozen foods is limited to packaging some, not all, of the frozen foods sold such as vegetables, fruits, pizza, pastries, potato products, appetizers, and some breakfast and side-dish items. According to several industry analysts, U.S. product shipments of frozen fruits and vegetables reached $11.1 billion dollars in 2011 (most recent figures). A little more than 72% of the product shipment value amount was captured by the frozen vegetables segment, and the remaining by the frozen fruit segment.


PE frozen food film is typically sold as rollstock, but some companies manufacture finished bags. Rollstock frozen food film varies in width and length depending upon customer specifications. Typically, widths range from 6 in.  to 40.0 inc., but can be as wide as 90 in, Mastio’s research reveals. The gauge of this film ranges from 0.5 mil to 6.0 mils, with 1.5 mils and 2 mils being the most typical. Institutional (food service) rollstock is typically 1.5 mils to 2 mils, and retail (consumer) rollstock typically has a gauge ranging from 2 mils to 2.5 mils.

According to the study, finished bags are commonly 12-in. wide by 12- in. long . Smaller bags are commonly 8-in. wide by 15-in. long. The largest (institutional) finished bags are 48- in.-wide by 60-in. long. Finished bags are generally 2.25 mils and typically come in 9-, 16-, 20-, 32- and 40-oz capacities, says Mastio


Some performance specifications for frozen food film include the following: sealability, strength, puncture resistance, moisture barrier, odor barrier, oxygen barrier, toughness, cold temperature resistance, opacity and appearance. Because of the damaging ultraviolet rays from fluorescent lighting in grocery store freezers and unsightly ice crystals which surround frozen foods, many manufacturers blend titanium dioxide (TiO2) in the film structure to produce opaque film.


Zippered closures have been accepted in the frozen food packaging market. Zippered bags have been used to package fish, battered chicken strips, and various other appetizers. Zippered closures enable the consumer to use a portion of the product, reclose the package, and return it to the freezer with the food product protected from possible freezer storage damage. Although the zippered closure offers convenience, added value, and product freshness; it has yet to completely penetrate the market, primarily because it is more expensive than traditional frozen food bags.



Other materials, such as biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film, PP film, polymer-paper structures, polyester film, wax paper, and extrusion coated paperboard cartons, all compete with PE film for frozen-food packaging, says Mastio. Although alternative packaging is commonly used in the frozen foods market, PE film is the preferred material because of its superior moisture retention properties. Over time, frozen produce packaged in extrusion coated paperboard cartons loses moisture and become brittle, while PE bags retain the natural moisture in frozen foods. When frozen foods film producers were asked what the advantages of PE film were, responses included: cost effectiveness, good sealant properties, ease of disposal, source reduction of packaging, and ease of recycling, Mastio says.



Frozen food packaging is produced via blown and cast film extrusion processes. That said, according to this report, approximately 99.1%  of the PE film for this market was processed via blownfilm.


Frozen food packaging can be either monolayer or multi-layer coextruded in construction. Approximately 46.1% of PE film utilized in the frozen food packaging market was monolayer in construction. More frozen-food film is multi-layer. Participants in the Mastio study reported producing 2-, 3-, or 5-layer coextruded films; several companies have capabilities of coextruding up to 11-layers.


Mastio & Co. profiled 32 North American film extrusion companies in the frozen food film market during 2014. The five largest producers of frozen food PE film are: Bemis North America; Sigma Plastics Group; Apollo Management, L.P. (Berry Plastics Corp. Div.); EPC Industries Ltd. (Polycello Ltd. Div.) ; and Sigma Plastics Group (ISO Poly Films, Inc. Div.). Collectively, they consumed approximately 51% of PE resin this market gobbled up last year.



“Millennials” (the generation born between 1982 and 2001) will play a strong role in determining the future of this market. By and large, they  are less brand-loyal and are more willing to purchase organic and locally produced products and meal solutions. As millennials move into their peak earning years, this growing consumer segment will spend nearly 50% of their food budget on ready-to-eat solutions, such as take-out food and restaurant meals. Millennials buy fresh food more frequently and eat immediately versus the older generations that buy, store and eat later.


That said, some PE film processors are predicting and hoping for growth through innovative products and packaging, population growth, and the fact that companies such as Nestle S.A. and ConAgra Foods, Inc. are improving efforts to reinvigorate this sluggish food segment.


One other point: unlike higher-volume PE markets, the major players in frozen-food film hold a strong yet not overwhelmingly dominant position in the market, suggesting there is room for processors with innovative solutions to either enter the market or grab market share.


PE Film Market Analysis: Cheese Packaging

By: James Callari 14. July 2015


Cheese packaging is designed to contain three major cheese types including natural cheese, powdered cheese and processed cheese. Natural cheese is manufactured from pasteurized milk with no secondary processing. Natural cheese is aged by manufacturers and continues to age on the shelf. Powdered cheese is natural cheese which is dehydrated and powdered for use as a flavoring in snack foods and other food products. Processed cheese is produced by squeezing natural cheese solids, which are ground and cooked with whey, water, salt, and emulsifiers to enhance shelf life and stability. The cooking process also pasteurizes the product and stops the aging process.


In 2014, 232.2 million lb of PE were consumed by processors making cheese packaging. Withan average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 4.4%, the cheese film market is projected to consume 264.3 million lb of PE resin by 2017.


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


Natural cheeses require packaging with greater barrier properties than processed cheeses because natural cheeses are highly susceptible to outside aroma transfer and spoilage from exposure to oxygen, Mastio reports. The type of film utilized for natural cheese packaging depends on how long the cheese will be aged. Longhold cheese remains in packaging film for 60 days or longer during aging. Short-hold cheese requires greater gas barriers to help slow the aging process.


An exception to this is Swiss cheese, which is very gassy, so the film must allow gas to escape. Excess gas in Swiss cheese packaging will not harm the cheese, but consumers prefer that cheese film fits tightly around the cheese. Natural cheese film ranges in gauge from 2-5.0 mils, with 3 mils being the most typical, according to Mastio’s research.


Processed cheeses do not need a gas barrier because they are not aged; however, processed cheeses do require a grease barrier because of the emulsifiers used. Flex-cracking and hermetic seal requirements are less rigorous for processed cheese films than for natural cheese films. Some processed cheeses do not require refrigeration. Processed cheese film ranges from 1-3 mils in thickness, says Mastio.



In the past, polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) films were sometimes used in the cheese packaging market, but in 2014 there was no reported usage of this material. PVDC films have higher hot fill capabilities than PE films and provide good gas barriers. However, as Mastio points out, PVDC resins are often more costly than PE resins, and do not always process as well as PE resins.


Oriented polypropylene (OPP) film is another polyolefin material utilized for this market and is often used for its moisture barrier properties. Additionally, oriented polyester film is substituted for OPP film when gas flushing is not a requirement. Processed cheese slices are often packaged with polyester film.

Foil substrates are also used in this market, and are often laminated to PE films, which add flexibility and strength.


During 2014, approximately 84.1% of the PE film for cheese packaging applications were manufactured using the blown film extrusion process, according to Mastio. The remaining 16.9% of PE cheese film was manufactured by the cast film extrusion process.


Coextruded film is most common in this market representing 81.1% of resin consumption. The number of coextruded layers can be as high as eleven, however, three-layer and five-layer structures are most typical for cheese film. In coextruded structures nylon and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) resins can be used with PE resins because they provide the required oxygen and gas barrier properties necessary. More sophisticated coextruded structures may consist of PE/tielayer/nylon/EVOH/nylon/tie-layer/PE resins. In this market, PE films are typically laminated to other substrates, including oriented polyester, OPP, cellophane and PVDC films.



Among those film processors profiled by Mastio, three of them—Bemis North America; Winpak Ltd. (Winpak Films, Inc. Div.); and Sealed Air Corp. (Cryovac Div.)—collectively held 76.4% of the cheese-film market in 2014. These are considered by many to be among the elite in film processing. This is a fairly small market and, ironically, improved economic conditions can actually adversely impact it. That's because when the economy is good, people tend to eat out more and thus buy less pre-packaged food,

PE Market Film Analysis: Converter Film

By: James Callari 29. June 2015


Last year, approximately 1. 073.1 billion lb of PE resins were consumed in the production of sheet and tubing film, also referred to as converter film. With an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3.6%, PE resin consumption for the production of sheet and tubing film should reach 1.194 billion lb by 2017.


Several processing companies are periodically involved in the sheet and tubing market,manufacturing sheet and tubing on an “as needed basis” to fill capacity during slower periods of demand for other traditional PE film products. Other PE film extrusion companies reported manufacturing sheet and tubing intermittently according to specifications by film converters or end-use customers. Some participants in this market extrude film only, while others extrude film and also convert film into various packaging products.


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


According to Mastio research, during 2014, the six largest sheet and tubing processors that participated in the company’s study were market were: Sigma Plastics Group; Apollo Management, L.P. (Berry Plastics Corp. Div.); Next Generation Films, Inc.; Emballages Polystar (Polystar Packaging Canada, Inc. Div.); Inteplast Group Ltd. (IBS Div.; Lone Star Plastics, Inc. Div.; Niaflex Corp. Div. & Trinity Plastics, Inc. Div.) and Inteplast Group Ltd. (P&O Packaging, L.L.C. Div.). Collectively, those processors gobbled up close to 50% of the material consumed in this market.




Overall consumption of LLDPE-butene, LLDPE-hexene, LLDPE-super hexene, LLDPE-octene, and mLLDPE resins have outpaced overall consumption of LDPE resin for the sheet and tubing market, according to Mastio research. LLDPE resins yield greater impact strength and puncture resistance in lower gauges than LDPE resin. High-clarity grades of LLDPE resin allows manufacturers to produce films with high optical properties in thinner gauges than was previously possible with LDPE/LLDPE resin blends. This has further eroded LDPE resin’s dominance in this market.


LDPE resins were the second most utilized material of choice for the production of sheet and tubing, either utilized alone, in blends, or in multi-layer film coextrusion. LDPE resin’s characteristics of high clarity, ease of processing, low relative costs, and adaptability of blending with other PE resins are some of the reasons for its greater use. LDPE-copolymers, such as LDPE-ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer (LDPE-EVA copolymer), LDPE-ethylene methyl acrylate copolymer (LDPE-EMA copolymer), and LDPE-ethylene acrylic acid copolymer (LDPE-EAA copolymer) resins will continue to be utilized in blends or in multi-layer film coextrusion with other PE resins.


Medium molecular weight-HDPE (MMW-HDPE) and high molecular weight-HDPE (HMW-HDPE) resins are extruded solely, in blends, or in film coextrusion with LDPE and LLDPE resins. HDPE resins allow even further downgauging, while providing even greater film strength than LLDPE resins. HDPE resin is also utilized as an additive in blends with LDPE or LLDPE resins, or as a processing aid to add stiffness and increase bubble stability in blown film extrusion. This is especially helpful in bubble diameters greater than 80 in. Additional benefits of utilizing HDPE resin are added barrier properties, excellent environmental stress crack resistance (ESCR), and greater ease for converting the film into finished bags or sacks. However, when implementing HDPE resin, some film clarity is sacrificed.


Other resins reported in the market during 2014 included the following: medium density PE (MDPE), polypropylene (PP), nylon, and ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer.




During 2014, the 99.7% of film for the sheet and tubing market was produced utilizing the blown film process, accounting for 1,069.6 MM lbs. (99.7%) of resin consumption, states Mastio.  Cast film accounted for the rest. Monolayer sheet accounted for about 60.3% of PE resin consumption, with coextruded sheet representing the rest.


Improvements in both film coextrusion and PE resin technologies have greatly increased the sophistication of PE films. A greater variety of film characteristics are now possible, such as a three-layer form, fill and seal sheeting with different levels of coefficient of friction (COF). The film can have outside high cling, inside high slip, and a sandwiched layer of linear low density PE (LLDPE) resin manufactured using the metallocene single-site catalyst process (mLLDPE). The high cling side helps prevent the packaged product from shifting or slipping after being stacked. The one side high slip allows greater ease of inserting the product into the package. The inner layer of mLLDPE resin allows faster production rates by affording greater hot tack strength than conventionally produced PE resins.


Film downgauging is another advantage of film coextrusion technology, by allowing film processors to combine low density PE (LDPE) resin with stronger LLDPE or high density PE (HDPE) resins. Coextruded sheet and tubing film ranged from two-layer to seven-layer constructions, with the three-layer structure being the most typical.




Converter film is one market where complex film structures will continue to be developed as processors seek a means to distinguish their products from competitive offerings. Today’s three-layer structures will be tomorrow’s five-layer configurations, as suppliers of both materials and extrusion technology continue to push the envelope in product development. Another trend to watch is development of new equipment technologies that help processors switch from one product to another to minimize waste and allow them to more ready deal with lower-volume runs.

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