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Articles from 2014 In August


Pet food packer’s refurbished machine shrinks a bottleneck

Pet food packer’s refurbished machine shrinks a bottleneck

Merrick Pet Care’s innovative new multipacker with proprietary New Twist technology  wasn’t the only change on the tray-packing line (see A twist on multipacking turns up cannery’s capability). Another made four years earlier downstream also positioned it for higher throughput. Downstream of the multipacker and around the corner on a U-shape conveyor section is a shrink bundling system and integrated shrink tunnel from American Packaging Machinery that was installed in spring 1998 and refurbished in the fall of 2010.

“It constantly needed a mechanic’s attention and it almost seemed we had to replace parts daily on it,” plant manager Michael Myers recalls. “It had become the bottleneck on the line.” 

To bring it back up to speed and with higher throughput (31 trays per minute at the time), the shrink-wrap system was transported from Texas to APM in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to refurbish it over a week-long holiday shutdown.

One of the key upgrades was the replacement of the mechanically driven seal-frame carriage with a servo-driven carriage that uses Emerson components.

The software on the Rockwell Automation Allen-Bradley Human-Machine Interface (HMI) was reprogrammed so that the servo operation mimicked that used for the mechanical operation. With the upgrade, the carriage operated in continuous motion to match the conveyor speed and was programmed for a return stroke at twice that speed to be positioned for the next tray pack. The changes greatly reduced the amount of chains, gearboxes and sprockets versus the all-mechanical system, Myers notes. The improvement also required a beefier support frame for the carriage.

APM also replaced several photoelectic sensors, installed new safety doors, provided standard maintenance and cleaned the machine.

“This was done at half the cost of a new machine,” says Myers. “The machine was returned as close to ‘plug-and-play’ ready as I have ever seen in a rebuild project. APM was great to work with and provided awesome customer service and technical support.”

How I found a filler that fits my ‘growing’ needs

How I found a filler that fits my ‘growing’ needs
Rani Bookvich, owner, Rani's NutraFoods Inc., with her new filler.

As a natural-food entrepreneur, I was able to conquer new market territory by upgrading to an automatic filler I found at Pack Expo.

I attended Pack Expo for the first time in 2012, and I can’t wait to discover new technologies and network with more experts in the food manufacturing industry at this year’s show.

My whole life changed with the birth of my son. It wasn’t just about me anymore. I needed to feed him with food I believed in that was nutritious, delicious, fast and fun…so I made it for him myself.

After my family and friends praised my wholesome and delicious granola recipes, I decided to turn my passion for wellness and food into a business.

My products, Rani’s Yummy brand of grab-and-go granola, come in convenient, single-serve packs for the busy consumer. I have first-hand experience with an on-the-go lifestyle. I started Rani’s NutraFoods Inc. as a new mom in 2010.

My vision and drive led me to my local Whole Foods store with just a product and a concept in hand. Whole Foods, which thrives on bringing new products to the market and opening doors for small vendors, was impressed with my 18 granola flavors.

To stand out among strong national-brand competitors, I needed to create a compelling new package design for my granola. Rather than following the popular pouch format, I created the first loose-granola single-serving snack pack. The new packaging idea set the product up for success by standing out on store shelves.

In April of 2012, Rani’s Yummy line of granola launched in the Ann Arbor, MI, Whole Foods store in 13 different flavors. But that was only the beginning for my fledgling company.

Soon after I launched the Yummy granola brand at Whole Foods, another major retailer expressed interest in my product: Kroger.

Demand for the product grew rapidly, and I needed to move away from manual packaging operations to automated equipment that would support the demand and my company’s growth by enabling me to supply product quickly to retailers.

Because the single-serve packaging format was unusual for granola, finding the right machinery to handle and fill the 2.5 x 7-inch bag was a challenge. I needed exposure to the latest innovations in packaging and, being completely new to the food manufacturing business, I searched online for events that would help me do that. It was then that I came across Pack Expo International.

At the show, I met with experts in processing and packaging, and engaged in valuable conversations about the latest technologies and the food manufacturing business.

As a business owner, Pack Expo opened the door to a huge network of resources and solutions that I needed to advance my company.

After considering several of the potential partners I had met at the show, it became clear that Dura-Pack’s filling equipment would be the best fit for Rani’s Yummy granola.

To streamline the manufacturing of my 13 granola varieties, I bought a Model DL-115 Single Feeder Net Weigher filling machine. It’s designed specifically for small, free-flowing products, and has a precision load cell with advanced 20-bit A/D.

Dura-Pack’s machine is user-friendly, accurate and efficient. It measures 1.2 oz of granola with high accuracy, which avoids waste. If a measurement is off by even a gram, it can cost the company a lot of money.

The machine is not only accurate, but fast, able to complete 5 to 20 cycles per minute. With its help, I was able to distribute Rani’s Yummy granola to Kroger—and to expand nationally, adding 50 stores to the Rani’s NutraFood distribution network within the last two years.

Staying connected

With an eye on future growth, I’ve already marked my calendar for Pack Expo International 2014.

Last time, I left Pack Expo feeling like an expert. This year, I’m excited to connect with the industry once again and see the latest technologies that will help me continue to grow my business. For brands looking to advance their business, Pack Expo is a must-attend event.

Dura-Pack, 313-299-9600

www.dura-pack.com

Filler uses digital data for fast and accurate weights

Phillip Harrison, controls engineer at Dura-Pack, explains how the company’s Model DL-115 filler ensures accurate weights.

“The 20-bit A/D receives the input from the load cell and converts it to a digital value that can be used by the PLC to determine the current weight. The heart of any weight-based filling system is the load cell and peripheral components that convert the load cell signal into a usable weight. It’s important that this component produces a high-resolution value as quickly as possible, and that the data is pumped digitally into the PLC as fast as possible. 

“Many other systems utilize analog signal conditions and other low-resolution methods to bring weight data into a PLC. Although more cost-effective and easier to implement, this has a dramatic negative impact on the overall accuracy of the system. With our approach, we’ve found that we often achieve five times the scale resolution when compared to competitive units.”

Thinking up a dimensional label for kids’ bath products

Thinking up a dimensional label for kids’ bath products

For Added Extras LLC, which markets licensed and private-label cosmetics and personal-care items, switching to a think4D label has boosted packaging consistency for a new line of Sesame Street bath products and yielded operational benefits.

The “6 Piece Bath & Body Set,” a Sesame Street licensing project, will roll out in Walmart stores during the 2014 holiday season. The line includes Elmo and Cookie Monster versions.Added Extras, based in New York City, is owned by Li & Fung Ltd., Hong Kong.

Each Sesame Street box set includes several products, including an empty 16-oz, blow-molded, PET pump bottle. This bottle, or decanter, is the item decorated with think4D technology, in the form of a pressure-sensitive label. The labels are made of similar PET material.

Think4D prints the labels on its high-definition flexo press—red for Elmo and blue for Cookie Monster—and then applies a UV coating. Next, the labels are thermoformed, with a shallow draw, in the shape of the characters’ faces. After thermoforming, pressure-sensitive adhesive (plus liner) is applied to the back of the sheet and the labels are die cut.

When Added Extras developed similar Star Wars- and Batman-themed box sets for the 2013 holiday season, the pump bottles were molded with the characters’ features and finished with hand painting. In addition to being labor intensive, this decorating approach led to variability.

“It was a hand-painted item, so there were variables and defects with the painting,” says Dianna Ruth, Added Extras’ director of brand management and product development. “There were issues with the overall standards,” she adds, which is a serious issue for any licensee. “The painting wasn’t consistent.”

To solve the problem without sacrificing the look and feel of a molded decanter, Added Extras completely changed its approach. It simplified the bottle design, leaving a flat space on the front panel for application of the tactile think4D label, and eliminated the painting. The labels are manually applied by Added Extra’s packaging vendor in China.

With the tactile label, Ruth says, “the consistency has been great—there’ve been no variables. Cookie Monster [always] looks the same. We can pull the first one or the twentieth one, [and] it’s consistent.”

The change also has made decanter manufacturing more efficient. The numerous steps required to create a custom bottle mold, including licensor approvals, takes about 30 days, Ruth says, adding that the cycle is significantly faster for think4D labels.

And while think4D is making the labels, the Chinese vendor is manufacturing the decanters, which also saves time. The time line “just matched much better,” Ruth says.

Read more about the think4D technology in "Pick-me-up packaging adds new consumer 'touch' point"

think4D, 877-732-0202 x370

www.think-4d.com; jeffreyh@think-4d.com

Pick-me-up packaging adds new consumer ‘touch’ point

Pick-me-up packaging adds new consumer ‘touch’ point
Jeffrey Hayet, president of sales, think4D Inc.

A technology that combines high-quality, registered printing with thermoforming lets brand owners add tactile interest to blisters, bottles, cartons and more.

Something’s happening in a small Canadian town that’s shaking up the packaging industry. It’s a technology from converter think4D Inc.  that merges the visual pop of high-definition flexography with the fingertip appeal of thermoformed details.

The touch-friendly technology can be used to create clamshell packaging, plastic folding cartons, plastic rigid cartons, pressure-sensitive labels, sleeves and point-of-sale materials.

The think4D process evolved from a long-standing focus on print excellence and a knack for manufacturing innovation at think4D Inc.’s parent company, book manufacturer Friesens Corp. Friesens was founded more than 100 years ago in Altona, Manitoba, where the company’s 300,000 sq ft of manufacturing space remain today.

Jeffrey Hayet, president of sales at think4D Inc., answers questions from Packaging Digest’s technical editor Rick Lingle about the patent-protected think4D technology.

In short, what’s all the hoopla about with think4D?

Hayet: The think4D process brings a package “to life” by decorating it with detail, texture and color previously unachievable.

Consumers and consumer-goods companies are looking for more highly decorated and tactile packaging. They like to touch and see the product or, at minimum, an excellent graphical representation of the product. A well-designed think4D package makes this possible.

Our goal is to leverage our ability to create tactile and highly decorated packaging products, cost competitively. We do this through an integrated manufacturing process combining several packaging solutions under one roof. With our in-house printing and thermoforming capabilities, we can preprint blisters and then thermoform them, all in one plant.

Two capabilities distinguish think4D:first, thermoforming to the register of print, and second, high-quality print/decoration—special effects, that is—on paper and plastic packaging.

With regard to thermoforming and print registration, for a blister package, we can preprint the material and then accurately thermoform the material, registering graphics to shape. Depending on the package, registration variation is almost always less than plus or minus 0.5mm. There are lots of decorated blisters in the market, created either by applying pressure-sensitive labels on an already formed blister or by preprinting a blister. Both methods are designed so there is little or no registration required.

We can also include special effects on a think4D package, in-line with printing, using tactile inks like MBoss, MiraFoil coating, glitter or grit features, Cast and Cure coating, cold foils, embossing, scratch ‘n’ sniff and contrasting coatings. Through our print experience and use of the best equipment available, we can deliver these at competitive costs, bringing them within reach for brand owners.

In the case of a plastic folding carton, we can create incredible printed effects that support the brand owner’s need for differentiation. And we can then thermoform the carton with a lower draw than a blister to give the package a unique tactile effect.

What industry drivers does your technology address?

Hayet: Feel is the real driver. It’s also where our name comes from. 4D refers to the fourth dimension: touch! Every time I present our samples to new customers, I’m deliberate about watching what they do. Almost every time, the same thing happens. They look, they pick up, they run their fingers over the texture and they say “wow” or “cool.” We call this the Wow Factor.

To test how well our packages do in this regard, we have conducted a great deal of research, including studies with major brands as well as independent studies. Our packages have gone through several consumer trials with at least two of the largest consumer-goods companies. The favorable results have strengthened our relationships, because the brand owners believe what we do strengthens their messages and brands.

We’ve also had our products studied by Rochester Institute of Technology. The objective was to understand the perceived quality and difference in worth of items containing images created with think4D forming technology. The research showed:

• Participants, on average, would pay 50% more for a product presented in a think4D package.

• 80% of the time, participants believed think4D technology added value.

• 96% of participants chose a think4D product as a thank-you gift for participating in the study.

How important is texture in your business proposition, as a way to engage consumers and for brand equity?

Hayet: Brand owners are always looking for differentiation and shelf appeal. Based on our customer feedback, texture is very important. Our customers view our technology as filling a void in the packaging space today. Certainly it’s not for everyone, but judging by levels of interest in tactile packaging, we believe there’s a large need and a strong alignment to what we can deliver.

We have a slogan: “Liberate your senses and touch the moment.” Consumer spending is often triggered at the emotional level, and we help brand owners engage consumers at the sensory and emotional levels.

Every brand owner wants consumers to pick up and handle its packaged product. After it’s in their hands, the brand owner is a long way down the consumer’s decision path. We want to help the brand owner drive the consumer to that decision point.

What are the basics of the process, and what’s required on the part of customers?

Hayet: The think4D technique connects with customers on sensory and emotional levels by using the power of multidimensional printing, tactile inks, and metallic and holographic effects. We are a packaging converter, and we use cutting-edge technologies like HD Flexo, UV inks and environmentally responsible substrates.

The process depends on the type of package receiving a think4D application. On a conventional, clear blister, the process generally starts with our team receiving or creating a model of the package design, followed by prototyping, tooling and production. But for a think4D blister, the process is more complex. It again starts with package design but requires development of a 3D model and associated graphics.

Next, we Sculpt the part, adding the think4D forming treatment that creates the tactile effect. We can give our customers a view of this with a DigiProof. This is a soft proof that electronically shows the shape, graphics and application of the think4D Sculpting. We can supply various prototypes, depending on the customer’s needs. After these are approved, we work toward being production-ready, including the necessary print preparation and tooling.

How would you characterize the current level of interest and the number and types of applications we’ll see in 2014?

Hayet: We had an initial vision of who our customers would be, but we very quickly adjusted our vision because of the strong interest from much larger customers than we had imagined...and many of them. Most of our discussions focus on blisters, clamshells, folding cartons, point-of-purchase display work and tip-on labels.

We believe we have spent money wisely on equipment that meets the needs of these customers, for the volumes they require. Our equipment includes the most state-of-the-art flexo press currently in North America.

Because of our combination of printing capabilities and patented thermoforming process, the interest level from many market segments, for diverse applications, is growing continuously. The segments showing the most interest for packaging applications include cosmetics, personal care, outdoor recreation, pharmaceuticals, food and liquor.

Editor’s Note: Read more about the think4D technology, including its sustainability message, turnaround times and costs—“The more decoration required, the more cost competitive we are,” Hayet says—in Part 2 of our Q&A.

In coming days, we’ll also post case studies of how product manufacturers are already using this technology.

Read how Added Extras LLC, which markets licensed and private-label cosmetics and personal-care items, boosted packaging consistency for a new line of Sesame Street bath products and yielded operational benefits.

877-732-0202 x370

jeffreyh@think-4d.com

Thinking up a dimensional label for kids’ bath products

5 emerging packaging design trends for 2014

5 emerging packaging design trends for 2014
1. Food for Health: Target’s wellness foods brand Simply Balanced uses a vibrant teal as the dominant color, with appealing photos of ingredients or the products inside. Nutritional information is prominently displayed on the front of the package rather than the back or side.

Never in history has product packaging had more influence in buying decisions, which are increasingly being made at the shelf—both real and virtual. Just one in four U.S. consumers now buys based on brand reputation, as noted in a sweeping international survey by Ernst and Young in 2011, which cites digital technology, in particular, as a disruptor of how we shop and buy.

The “chameleon consumer” who is ascending and defying conventional marketing segmentation, notes Ernst and Young, is “hard to read—and even harder to please.” In my experience as Tetra Pak’s vp for marketing and product management, this consumer is open to persuasion from one shopping trip to the next and not only wants, but expects, it all: product innovation, price and quality—all wrapped in a package that fits his or her lifestyle.

For many of these “brand promiscuous” shoppers, package design and marketing are one and the same. From its size, shape and graphical elements, the package is a consumer’s first and last impression of a product, whether life-sized in a brick-and-mortar store or reduced to the size of an icon on a smartphone. That’s why differentiation is so important: Standing out on a crowded shelf or tiny screen with novel shapes, arresting graphics and color will draw the eye. But to close the sale, it’s increasingly important to impart an on-trend message, whether it is serious, aspirational or, increasingly, humorous.

As part of Tetra Pak’s service to its customers, we offer a range of package design services from market insights and trend research to ideation, concept visualization and graphic design consultation and creation. Through that practice, we’ve identified five important, emergent trends in the food and beverage industry that savvy brands are injecting into their packaging to appeal to consumers:

1. Food for Health

For a subset of consumers, healthy eating has been popular for a long time. But studies released this year by the USDA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirm that there has been a sweeping shift in the U.S., with an extensive part of the population eating healthier foods and, on average, fewer calories. Yet there’s a new way of communicating healthier food and beverage options without stale and off-putting design cues: Packages boast slender silhouettes and sport graphical bathroom scales and measuring tapes. Now “healthy” has a hip demeanor, and design that conveys nutritional benefits without feeling “diet-y” is on trend. Target’s wellness foods brand Simply Balanced is a good design example: The dominant color is a vibrant teal, with appealing photos of ingredients or the products inside, and nutritional information is prominently displayed on the front of the package rather than the back or side. Novel packaging silhouettes are particularly appealing for differentiation in this space.

2. Safe Choice

With ever-more-sophisticated traceability in food processing, retailers now know every step a product took on its path from farm to shelf. And today’s consumers want to be added to the knowledge chain so they know precisely where their food comes from and that it’s safe for their families. This is now possible by adding a secure quick response (SQR) code to a package design that permits shoppers to know with a smartphone app precisely which farm produced their milk. In a similar vein, last year, the Washington, D.C.-based Black Restaurant group launched an SQR-coded menu that allows diners to trace the origins of their dinners, right down to how the fish were caught.

A desire for safe food is also one of several elements driving the powerful local foods movement.. But in addition to safety, consumers also buy local for two reasons: (1) They crave healthier, fresher food and (2) are looking for emotional intangibles, such as feeling connected to the land and to place. Local foodies are attracted to designs that feature farms, pastures, plants and content-looking animals. U.K. manufacturer Butler’s Pantry took a literal approach with design and marketing, prominently featuring farm scene drawings and walking the consumer from farm to table, as noted in retail design firm Artica’s retail design blog.

3. Engaged Experience

If we think of previous generations as loyalty shoppers on autopilot, pushing their carts from one trusted brand to the next, many of today’s consumers are restless wanderers, roaming the shelves and looking for the next new product or flavor to draw them in.

“Every time they go into the store they are looking for something different,” says Kristina DeVerdier, Tetra Pak senior brand manager in packaging design. “There is a company making ice cream flavored with tomatoes now.”

These “wow me” shoppers are persuadable through effectively differentiated designs. That might be a clean, white, simplistic label, as with J Lally’s doodled packages, or one with bright colors or patterns, as with Melgarejo Selección’s olive oils wrapped to look like presents. The packaging becomes a storytelling device, and humor can be an effective tool to help cement the narrative.

4. Green Worriers

This group of shoppers, known as green worriers, is on the leading edge of a growing general awareness that products should be produced and packaged sustainably.

“In general, consumers start feeling guilty if they’re not being responsible,” notes DeVerdier. “But even though they believe this is a very important issue, they rely on the companies to make the decision easy.”

Tetra Pak has a good example of this with its Tetra Evero Aseptic and Tetra Top Aseptic carton bottles, which combine the lighter weight of a paper-based carton (made from sustainably managed forests) with the recloseability and pourability of a plastic bottle. In addition, new bio-plastic caps made from sugar cane represent the most recent move toward creating a carton that is 100-percent sustainably sourced. But it is not enough for brands just to use environmentally friendly packaging; they need to use design to communicate their green credentials. From a graphic-design perspective, brands should be bold and move away from the dowdy “brown paper bag” look that used to signal earth-friendliness.

5. 24/7 Lifestyle

The “constantly connected and always commuting” set is looking for products that are tasty, indulgent and have a home-cooked cachet.

“Many busy people feel bad for eating ready-made food,” DeVerdier says. “They feel like they should be cooking properly for themselves or their family.”

The product inside must back it up, but design can go a long way toward helping customers believe the ready-made food they buy is a good substitute for homemade—or at the very least, that it’s high-quality and great-tasting. Hand-rendered typography is one design device, as with Canadian brand Famoso’s Authentic Campania Tomato Sauce, which was recently featured in lovelypackage.com.

Given these trends, it’s clear that design and marketing are one and the same with today’s shoppers. And thanks to the ever-evolving, ever-growing reach and importance of technology, the cohorts coming up behind them show no sign of reverting to predictable and brand-loyal consumers of yesteryear. In formulating their products, food and beverage manufacturers are adept at tapping into consumer trends. But now, more than ever, it’s critical to communicate those on-trend messages by using smart design to express all the qualities—both timeless and trending—that consumers are looking for in the products they choose to take home.

Suley Muratoglu, vp, marketing and product management, Tetra Pak Inc. U.S & Canada, currently runs the company’s presence in core categories, including dairy, beverage and food. Further industry insights from him can be found at www.doingwhatsgood.us. Tetra Pak (tetrapakusa.com) is the world's leading food processing and packaging solutions company.

Print-and-apply labeler needs no factory air

Print-and-apply labeler needs no factory air

The new Videojet 9550 Direct Apply print-and-apply labeling system removes the need for complex applicators for mainstream top or side label applications, reducing the number of labels being incorrectly applied or mangled during application. Requiring no factory air, the new system prints and directly applies labels to cases and trays at high speed. The 9550’s print engine also incorporates Intelligent Motion technology for precise ribbon feed and printhead control, ensuring optimum print quality and improved performance. Through use of a clutch-less ribbon drive, the 9550 substantially reduces ribbon waste and improves printhead life. See this equipment at Pack Expo International 2014.

Videojet Technologies Inc., 800-843-3610

www.videojet.com

Pack Expo International 2014 Booth #S-2647

Skinnygrape wine crosses over to PET

Skinnygrape wine crosses over to PET

Andrew Peller Ltd.’s skinnygrape spritzers have made the crossover from glass with its recent adoption of a sleek-looking 330-ml PET bottle from Amcor Rigid Plastics. Previously, the popular 90-calorie spritzer was only available in a 750-ml glass bottle. The Canadian-based producer of quality wines is right on trend with its ready-to-drink (RTD) premium PET container as it offers convenience and portability.

Sarah Ripley, national brand manager for Andrew Peller Ltd., tells Packaging Digest that, while PET bottles are not new news in the category that ranges from PET to glass to cans, she feels the bottle design is the most feminine and the “skinny” shape lends itself well to the brand.

“The slender bottle is extremely comfortable to hold,” says Ripley. “Our consumers are mostly women and this bottle sits comfortably in their hand.”

Andrew Peller Ltd. moved to a single-serve size for the low-calorie spritzer based on an unmet demand for a wine-based low-calorie option in the RTD category. “We think the packaging is really fun and speaks to what our brand represents; and we believe our product offers consumers low calories without compromising on taste,” says Ripley. “From a consumer perspective, it boils down to brand, packaging and taste.”

The bottle also features an innovative barrier coating technology from Germany’s KHS Plasmax GmbH, which extends shelf life as it seals the container from the inside to guard the contents from oxidation and carbonation retention. The FDA-complaint transparent material is extremely thin (less than 100nm) and is resistant to cracking, abrasion and delamination. During the recycling process the coating is removed to avoid any contamination to the recycling system.

The company says that Amcor’s “cradle to grave” development process was key to launching the product quickly to market. From design concept development to unit mold sampling and third-party filling assistance, Amcor was able to help with a successful product launch. “Our new product launch was highly successful because Amcor brought us a full range of design concepts and followed the project from development to execution with a high attention to detail,” says Ripley. “Their technical expertise and market knowledge helped to quickly take the design from concept to store shelf.”

Todd Mastic, principal engineer and project manager for Amcor, says that “since Amcor is a market leader in this segment, we were able to bring industry knowledge and significant resources to bear on this project, thus keeping the development and commercialization costs and timing to a minimum.”

The case of the faulty filter

The case of the faulty filter

The blaat of my phone roused me from my slumbers where I had been dreaming of packaging machines. Ralph couldn't control his filling volumes and needed help now.

"On my way," I told him.

On the floor, he explained the problem. "We set the fill volumes and it seems fine. As we run, volumes gradually decline. When they go out of limits, we stop to check and adjust the settings and they are OK. When we restart, fill volumes are normal then start decreasing again.

"Fix it, please. It's making me crazy."

I watched the machine run, taking frequent samples and charting the volumes. Stopping the filler for short periods showed volumes returning to normal after about 30 seconds.

"Fiddlesticks on faulty fillers," I told him. "Your tank is the problem. Bring a manometer and I'll show you what's wrong."

The tank vented through a filter to keep it at atmospheric pressure. The manometer showed that the tank went into vacuum with the filler running. As soon as the filler stopped, it went back to ambient pressure. 

"Your problem is the vent filter," I told Ralph. "When the filler is pulling product from the tank, it doesn't allow enough air flow, resulting in vacuum in the tank. This vacuum restricts the flow of liquid to the filler infeed, causing underfills. The longer you run without a pause, the greater the vacuum, and restriction, becomes.

"Fix the filter and the filler will be fine."

Pick-me-up packaging adds new consumer ‘touch’ point: Part 2

Pick-me-up packaging adds new consumer ‘touch’ point: Part 2

In Part 1, we learned about a hybrid printing/thermoforming technology developed by think4D Inc. Here, we continue the conversation with Jeffrey Hayet, president of sales at think4D Inc.

How different are the inputs from brand owners to make this happen; how much more complex is this for them vs procuring standard thermoforms?

Hayet: When it comes to larger brand owners who are familiar with package design (solid models and graphics), the inputs are much the same. They are used to supplying Solids files and InDesign or PDF files for graphics.

One of the differences from a conventional blister is that there is a graphic proofing process required. We are really combining the two worlds of shape and graphics. Like most packaging projects, there are prototyping and production test-run requirements.

What is a “typical” turnaround time for a project? Cost premium over conventional thermoforms?

Hayet: It’s like most manufacturing—we can do some jobs very quickly, but we can’t do every job quickly. To answer the question on turnaround and cost, let me use two product examples again. The two products are differentiated by depth of draw.

Blisters have an increased depth of draw. In addition to adding proofing cycles for graphics and Sculpting, there is a longer development cycle. The other big factor is quantity. So, to simplify the answer on turnaround, let’s talk about development time to first parts. This is the larger effort than producing, say, a few hundred thousand parts. Getting to the first parts might take about 10 weeks, then getting first parts might add another two to four weeks, depending on volume.

One of the most exciting things about think4D technology for blisters is its affordability. The closest alternative package would be a preprinted blister or one decorated with a pressure-sensitive label. Compared with these products, our price is similar. In addition to being cost competitive, we provide the advantages of:

• The ability to add decorations that are not normally affordable.

• Exceptional print quality, compared with most preprint and labeling processes.

• And of course, most importantly, the ability to add the think4D texturing technology.

Formed folding cartons have a shallow draw. Products that require big differentiation but less draw, such as folding cartons and point-of-sale pieces, require less time to develop. Generally speaking, this would save about one to two weeks of development time to first part. After that, manufacturing time is similar and, again, depends on quantities.

Carrying on with the example of plastic folding cartons, there are lots of nicely decorated plastic cartons in the market today. But imagine the difference it would make to add shape to their panels. Most buyers know the differential to get from a paper folding carton to a plastic one. Like other plastic folding-carton manufacturers, we don’t cost-compete against paper. If someone is looking for a plastic folding carton, we can provide this with or without the think4D technology. There is only a small differential to get to the think4D treatment.

What we have found in all of our packaging products, regardless of whether they are blisters, blister cards, folding cartons, rigid cartons or point-of-sale products: The more decoration required, the more cost competitive we are.

What is the most frequently asked question about your technology and what is the answer?

Hayet: Two questions come to mind most often when talking to customers. The first is: “Is this commercial?” The answer is yes. All of the samples we show our customers are produced by think4D. The think4D technology is proprietary. Although we frequently get inquiries about licensing, in our hearts, we are manufacturers. We love creating and making things. We spent several years developing the technology to get it to where it is today. About two years ago, we commercialized and went to market. During the last two years, we have continued to refine and improve the technology. Perhaps at some point licensing might make sense, but for now we just want to grow the business and see more think4D packages in the market.

The other common question is: “Where is it made?”Many people assume it’s made outside of North America. Actually, we are located in central Canada near the U.S. border. All our manufacturing is done here in Altona, where we have been in business since 1907. We have deep roots in our community, with one of our visions being the creation of local employment. We have always been able to do this in a cost-competitive manner, even on conventional products.

What aspects of think4D can be considered “green”?

Hayet: Our location creates somewhat of a “natural” (no pun intended) sustainability story. Manufacturing requires a significant amount of energy. There’s no secret about that. However, here in Manitoba, we are in the heart of hydro-generated electricity. The energy created and consumed here is from the Nelson River Watershed. This is a clean, self-renewing source of energy with zero carbon.

We are a strong partner with Manitoba Hydro (a large exporter of energy), which works with customers like us on motion-controlled lighting in our plants, energy-efficient temperature and humidity systems and other more efficient manufacturing requirements such as centralized vacuum, and air. We have one of the largest wind farms in the country.

We try to look at all aspects of sustainability. In addition to energy, this includes materials, consumables and plant infrastructure. This can include everything from the best plastics available all the way through to waterless systems in restrooms, plus everything in-between—such as UV inks and reduced polymers in plates. All of it is important and can be addressed.

What options are available for materials, printing and other variables? What “green” options are available? What new options in these may be available by year’s end?

Hayet: Let’s start with available materials. This is generally driven by brand owners that follow the direction of the large retailers. On conventional products such as clear blisters, we can use conventional products as PVC. However, as much as possible we have been driving PET materials. They work well in our printing and forming processes. More than 90% of the materials we are using are in the PET family.

Going forward, we expect the demand for recycled PET (rPET) will continue to rise and that we will qualify this material as an option for our customers, as well.

On the paper side of our business, there are many “green” options. However, the challenge often is cost. Many recycled papers cost more and therefore keep the demand low. We are also certified under the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).

What is possible—how complex of a project can currently be done?

Hayet: We have often joked that nothing we do is easy. The process was challenging to commercialize. Once commercialized, the types of jobs we have been doing further challenge us. However, this is what characterizes us as an organization.

When we talk about complexity, we generally evaluate it based on print complexities and forming complexities. Some projects are more complex in printing and decorating, and others are more challenging to form.

We are currently working on a challenging print project. You will see this part in the market late this year. It has a complex design. There is so much print and decoration on this part that we need to run it through our press in two passes. This adds further challenges to an already challenging design. However, the results have been astounding, and we are very excited about seeing it come to market.

We are a younger organization when it comes to forming. However, the complexity of the process and nature of forming projects has forced us into a steep learning curve. This has been great for us organizationally. Although challenged, we have not come across a project we were not capable of producing. We are entering development on a project right now that will determine the limitations of our capabilities. It involves more decoration in areas usually not considered possible. A comparable example would be a tub. Image a thermoformed tub and printing on the walls. Any thermoforming company could appreciate why in-mold labeling (IML) is a good fit for this, and why it is not. We are going to see how far we can take this.

What’s next—where do you see this technology going?

Hayet: This has been one of our biggest challenges. We have had great opportunities to show our product to many of the large consumer-goods companies. We often enter these meetings with a focused application. However, we are re-directed when they show interest in various other ideas for applying the technology.

We have seen how the technology could go in more directions than we have the ability to manage. Although we thrive on these challenges, it’s also important to continue focusing on where we have developed core competencies and strong pricing fits. At the same time, we will maintain a pipeline of new ideas and applications.

What else would you like to mention that’s of benefit to our audience of packaging professionals?

Hayet: There are several things, but let me focus on one: How think4D can create game-changing packaging for various types of packaging used regularly today.

You may be familiar with a study that Klöckner and Clemson conducted supporting clear packaging, with visibility to the product. This study on retina tracking emphasizes a few key points about clear packaging vs completely opaque packaging (such as a paper folding carton) that include:

• Increased number of fixations on a product.

• Increased duration of the fixation on a product.

• Increased number of purchases.

Although we agree with this study, note that none of the packages focused on is simply a clear blister or clamshell with a product inside. All of them are what I would call semi-transparent. What I mean by this is that both transparency and graphics are critical in packaging. Packaging with the right visibility to the product, enhanced by branding graphics on blister cards or insert cards, is promoted in the video.

Let’s take this a step further by applying the think4D technology to this thinking on various types of packaging:

Blister/Blister Card—Traditionally this has been a clear blister sealed to a printed solid-bleached sulfate (SBS) card. Rather than putting the cost of printing on the card, what if you used a blister/blister card combination? This creates product visibility while better utilizing the surrounding real estate to bring excellent value by forming it using the think4D technology. In addition, you could decorate it with tactile inks, foils, Cast and Cure, MiraFoil or other decorations. All this can be done in a single pass through our press, creating a game-changing blister.

Folding Cartons—Using the same concept of graphic design complemented with product visibility, folding cartons have two options today:

1. Die-cut Paper—Begin with an opaque substrate but add a window to create product visibility.

2. Plastic—Begin with a clear substrate and add printing where opacity is required. Here’s the game changer with a think4D plastic carton: In addition to great graphics or decoration, the panels can contain the think4D forming technology. We can create visibility where required and print where visibility is not required.

 

Platform technology gives one machine multiple formats

Platform technology gives one machine multiple formats

The G. Mondini Trave enables a single-sealing machine to produce multiple packaging formats. Some of the packaging capabilities include below-the-flange skin; protruding and super-protruding skin, stretch seal, darfresh on tray, MAP of both high and low O2, die cut, and double decker packages. Also included are aluminum and crimpled aluminum trays. No film scrap is generated between packages, and there is no wound on scrap mandrel, as the exact amount of film is used to cover the tray and product, resulting in reduction in package costs, increased output, and flexibility of tray types, materials and formats. See it in action at Pack Expo International 2014 in Booth #S-3752.

Harpak-ULMA, 508-884-2500

www.harpack-ulma.com