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Sustained strong demand for lightweight packages with high functionality

Efficiency a big talking point in injection moulding

In the production of injection-moulded packaging materials, thickness reduction and savings of material are also big talking points as well as optimising cycle time and boosting efficiency. This will be very evident at this year’s K when Netstal Maschinen AG from Näfels in Switzerland, for example, is exhibiting a high-performance an injection moulding machine with an electric welding unit that outputs over 43,000 round lids per hour with a weight of 7 g per item. In-mould labelling (IML) has long been one of the well-known decoration methods for injection mouldings. Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH in Schwaig is exhibiting its El-Exis SP 200 - probably the fastest machine for the production of decorated cups with a cycle time of less than 2 s.

A process for making injection-moulded packaging items even thinner and lighter is injection compression moulding (ICM), which is becoming increasingly established in the industry. This process differs from conventional injection moulding in that shrinkage is compensated for without injecting additional material in the holding-pressure phase. Instead, the ICM process makes use of a compression cycle, i.e. displacement within the mould. This makes savings of material of up to 20% possible. At the fair, Netstal will be demonstrating the production of a PP margarine package weighing just 10.7 g.

Industry demonstrates immense innovative powers

As already mentioned, it is impossible to cover all the trends and news in a single article, but here are a few all the same:
  • It is important not to overlook the growing interest in the production of food packages with biodegradable plastics - new products are coming increasingly onto the market here.
  • Direct printing is a process in which plastic packages as well as their lids can be printed directly without a sleeve or label. In digital printing, the printed image can be modified and applied directly at the press of a button - so individualisation is writ large in this area. Each item could be given its own print.
  • At K 2016, several injection moulding machine manufacturers will be showing an application for injection blow moulding, a technology with which an injection moulded preform is blown directly in a multi-station mould and, if desired, overmoulded as well. Highly attractive package solutions can be produced in this way.
  • For injection-moulded and deep-drawn packaging items, the ibt process of Cavonic GmbH in Engen is a way of applying a glass-like layer in the low-pressure plasma process and thus improving the shelf life of foods such as fruit spreads, baby food and dairy products in transparent mono trays.
  • With the appropriate machine equipment, deep-drawn IML trays can be more cost-effectively manufactured than injection-moulded ones. Illig Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG in Heilbronn builds thermoforming systems capable of producing lighter trays faster and thus generating production costs of EUR 43.80 for 1,000 units compared to EUR 51.60 for the same trays manufactured by IML injection moulding.
Those interested in packaging materials can expect just as many new ideas at K 2016 in October as the packaging industry at interpack 2017 six months later.