The present and future of flexibles

22 Sep 2015
The present and future of flexibles

Packaging Review looks at flexible printing and sealing technology, from locally developed inks and efficient bag sealers to a European experimental project featuring smart indicators for flexible packs.

Keeping food in flexible packaging fresher for longer relies on a number of factors, including a quality seal and clearly printed storage instructions.

A proudly South African solution

Primary Colour is the ink supplier to the flexible packaging manufacturer M-Tech Flexibles (M·Tech), which is expanding its operations to almost 350 per cent of its initial capabilities. With a production capacity of 110t of printing inks per month, Primary Colour is ideally placed to serve growing players such as M·.Tech in the flexibles market.

The Johannesburg-based company developed, and now manufactures and supplies the Rotolam ink system for indirect food contact packaging. It targets industries in South Africa and the African continent.

Rotolam is a solvent-based rotogravure printing ink developed for use on reverse printed thermoplastic films such as polyethylene, polypropylene and PET. With slight modification, the range can be used for flexographic printing. ‘The ink system displays good flexibility and shows excellent bond strengths when laminated to secondary films,’ comments Jason Jones, co-founder and partner at Primary Colour. ‘It also displays excellent printability to create aesthetic coatings on the specified substrates.’ He points out Rotolam is competitively priced and formulated to customer specifications, ‘Each formulation is carefully adjusted to suit press speeds, drying capabilities, printability and the environment in which the packaging is produced.’

The company adds value to its service by offering a short course in ink management. Training is aimed at educating users on efficient ink management to avoid unnecessary wastage and downtime.

Safely sealed

Buckle Packaging celebrates its 36th anniversary this year as a supplier of equipment for closing filled open-mouth bags. ‘No matter the product or material, we have a solution to closing bags by either heat sealing, gluing or stitching,’ explains Anthony Mason, Buckle Packaging managing director.

The company offers high-quality equipment backed by extensive product knowledge, support services and a full range of back-up spares for its machines.

The equipment supplier has differentiated itself from its local competitors through the addition of the Fischbein Saxon SH1000 continuous hot-air heat sealer to its range of solutions. The machine is said to offer cutting­edge design and reliable performance in the food industry. ‘The SH,ooo’s proven and unique hot-air continuous bag sealing method at high speeds has allowed it to become a heat sealer of choice,’ says Mason. Available in stainless steel, the unit has variable speed as a standard feature, which allows for simple and easy synchronisation of existing equipment. Temperature on the line is set by means of an Omron proportional­ integral-derivative controller.

Buckle Packaging also distributes Fischbein’s range of hand-held, entry-level bag closing machines and continuous in-line automatic bag closing systems.

A fresher flexible pack

Towards the end of last year, two researchers in Europe were awarded for their intelligent flexible packaging with freshness indicator for food. Chemistry professor Katja Heinze from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany and her cooperation partner, Dr Patrick Choquet from the Centre de Recherche Public in Belvaux, Luxembourg, received the Interregional Research Award.

The technology gives consumers real-time information about the quality of packed goods through a simple, but reliable colour change of the packaging film. The invention can be applied to transparent polymeric packaging foils.

‘We showed the general applicability of a novel coating process to form a sensing layer that utilises molecular functional dyes. These dyes can be used to detect volatile amines as food freshness indicators within packages,’ Dr Philip Heier, a member of Prof. Heinze’s work group told Packaging Review.

This is one of the first products to directly detect substances present in packaging as a result of microbiological activity in food. ‘This is in contrast to time-temperature indicators on the market. These indicators monitor storing temperature abuses, which may not have a direct effect on the food’s quality,’ adds Dr Heier. He points out there are other groups around the world working on similar solutions, but the problem has been the cost-intensive production processes of such coatings. ‘At this point, our project comes into play as it is focused on developing coating processes which can potentially be introduced into existing roll-to­roll production lines for packaging foils.’