Lindar pioneered the Simply Secure Tamper Obvious Hinged Package, now offered in both PET and PLA.
“We are really good in helping our customers find solutions, both in terms of new product development and for existing products that need upgrading. We are a ‘can-do’ thermoformer with the best team to make your product a success.” So says Dave Fosse, director of marketing at Lindar Corp., Baxter, Minn. Lindar is AIB and ISO 9001:2015 certified and prides itself in creating precisely designed, highly efficient thermoformed products ranging from food packaging to paint trays and tray liners.
Last year, the processor was recognized twice by the Thermoforming Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE). Lindar won a gold medal award in the roll-fed, thin-gauge food-packaging category for its Simply Secure Tamper Obvious Hinged Package, while company owner and CEO Tom Haglin was named SPE’s 2019 Thermoformer of the Year. Haglin’s career in the thermoforming industry is noteworthy for business growth, job creation, innovation and community impact. In accepting the award, Haglin attributed the success that Lindar has experienced in its 26-yr evolution to his company’s motivated and capable team that continues to drive the business forward.
Under Haglin’s leadership, since he acquired the company in 1993, Lindar has grown from 21 to 175 employees, with annual revenues exceeding $35 million. The company’s 165,000 ft2 manufacturing facility houses nine roll-fed machines, eight sheet-fed formers, six CNC routers, two robotic routers, one label line, and one extrusion line.
Attesting to Haglin’s commitment to innovation are a number of patented products and technological breakthroughs in packaging. Also, he aligned with Dave and Daniel Fosse of Innovative Packaging to create Intec Alliance, which has been fully absorbed into the Lindar business.
Lindar’s owner and CEO Tom Haglin was named SPE’s Thermoformer of the Year in 2019.
Entrée into Packaging
Prior to that partnership, Lindar was primarily involved in industrial custom and sheet-fed thermoforming for its customers. The Intec Alliance team, says Fosse, brought a new market opportunity to Lindar—a proprietary, thin-gauge, roll-fed food-packaging line that is now marketed under the Lindar brand name.
Lindar also acquired Lakeland Mold in 2012 and rebranded it to Avantech, with Haglin as CEO. A producer of tooling for rotational molding and thermoforming, Avantech was relocated to a new facility in Baxter in 2016 and has expanded its CNC machining capacity and added personnel.
In addition to the captive tool-building and maintenance, the company has made significant investments in secondary operations such as robotic part trimming and product assembly, as well as product design capability, inventory-management software, and complete supply-chain solutions.
Lindar is comprised of two main divisions—consumer and commercial. Accounting for about 60% of the company’s business, the consumer division includes paint trays and tray liners and food packaging. Included are quite a few stock parts, such as different-sized cupcake and cake containers and paint trays and liners. In addition, Lindar manufactures many custom-sized containers for food manufacturers or national retailers, ranging from fresh produce and baked goods to to deli containers.
Thermoforming paint trays and paint-tray liners for a large retailer is a stable part of Lindar’s business.
Materials used in food packaging are primarily PET and PLA, as clarity is key on retail shelves. “We were one of the first companies to thermoform PLA containers, about 18 years ago,” says Fosse. He says Lindar has used post-industrial recycle content for several years but they are also now working with some suppliers of post-consumer recycled materials. “We recently made custom and stock products that are 100% post-consumer PET, and we expect to see this trend grow. Requests for post-consumer PET are coming primarily from retailers as well as food manufacturers. It costs more to get post-consumer PET, but this is becoming a mainstream reality … the critical mass is nearly there.”
“We were one of the companies to thermoform PLA, about 18 years ago.”
Roll-fed, thin-gauge thermoformed food packaging boosted Lindar’s capabilities and offerings.
Lindar’s commercial and cut-sheet division does primarily custom thermoforming of cut sheet up to ½-in. thick and heavy-gauge parts up to 4 × 8 ft for tractor hoods and fan covers to filter casings for construction equipment. Materials used include PC, ABS, HDPE, LLDPE, TPO, and Kydex acrylic/PVC sheet from Sekisui SPI, used for medical equipment such as housings for sterilization units, wash basins, and electronics housings.
Last year, this division purchased two dual-arm robotic trim cells. Says Fosse, “There’s a learning process, but people love them, and there are significant productivity improvements on all parts, and the extent depends on part complexity.”
Also installed last year was new MAAC four-station rotary thermoformer, which can produce 2.8 times the throughput of standard shuttle machines. This investment allows the company to be competitive while also being more sustainable, using less energy to produce more parts. This machine, combined with the new robotic trim cells, is expected to dramatically increase the company’s throughput.
Custom thermoforming makes up the commercial and cut-sheet division, ranging from cut sheet up to ½-in. thick to heavy gauge 4 x 8 ft parts.
“It costs more to get post-consumer PET, but this is becoming a mainstream reality .. .the critical mass is nearly there.”
Innovative Product Pioneer
The company’s commitment to innovation has fueled its exponential growth, with sales having soared by 83% in the last five years, according to Fosse. Pioneering technology and patented products include last-year’s award-winning Simply Secure “tamper-obvious” containers made of clear PET. Lindar pioneered tamper-obvious, two-piece pie and cake containers, launching this intuitive design of easy-to-handle packaging in the fall of 2018. It features tabs that snap into place to secure products on store shelves; the tabs can be simply torn-off by the consumer, making Simply Secure user-friendly and readily identifiable as opened. Other innovations include:
▪ Single-serve cupcake and dessert packaging: Lindar reportedly was the first to produce individual cupcake containers and single-serve muffin packaging, which catalyzed a market trend for individually packaged food items. Single-serve containers are available in traditional and large sizes, include a built-in freshness seal, and are manufactured with recycled and renewable materials
▪ Biobased products: Lindar’s single-serve and Simply Secure packaging are also offered in Good Natured bioplastic (PLA) materials, which are biodegradable, reduce carbon emissions and minimize the release of hazardous chemicals into the environment. Says Fosse, “PLA posed some processing challenges but we overcame them.”
▪ Lenticular lens extrusion: Extrusion of lenticular optical lenses in plastic sheet creates a parallax—making an object’s appearance change when seen from different positions. Optica-brand products reportedly provide vivid, 3D-motion graphic images, creating eye-catching labels for use on salad containers, cereal boxes and other consumer products.
Retaining and Expanding Workforce
Lindar prides itself on the retention of its workforce, with several veterans from the company’s beginnings still on board and flourishing. Training is an ongoing process as new equipment and/or materials are brought in.
Fosse concedes, however, that finding good people has been a problem for quite some time, as attested by others in the industry. “we try to make this a better place to work and help people step up through training, particularly in automation. We also work with local technical schools, where we aim to get across that today’s manufacturing is not the manufacturing of our parents, with technology that makes it a more exciting venture worth exploring.”
Two recently developed technologies are said to make high-quality PET recycling more economical.
Alloys of polyethylene and recycled PET were the highlight of the annual SPE Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC) in Detroit in February.
Use of magnets for removing ferrous contaminants in an industrial environment began in the 1940s to help farmers trap and remove metal contaminants from their grain chutes.