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Barrier packaging: Tuna fish moving from metal to plastics

In an interview with PlasticsToday during the Medtec trade show in Stuttgart, Germany, Wolfgang Czizegg, CEO at Waldorf Technik, which makes robotics and automation for injection molding cells, confirmed his company is part of a team tasked to create an injection molding cell for an as-yet unnamed brand owner that wants to test whether its tuna fish can be packed and marketed in plastics packaging rather than in metal tins.

Waldorf and the other companies involved-co-injection molding technology supplier Kortec (Ipswich, MA) and Intravis, a supplier of quality assurance vision inspection systems, just delivered a molding cell at an unidentified processor, who will run a 32-cavity mold for the brand owner as part of its production trials and for initial marketing purposes. "This will be a huge market," said Czizegg. If the packaging proves suitable, as Czizegg predicts, then the brand owner will order another nine large molds to convert its production from metal to plastics.

As we reported earlier this year, these three companies claim to have developed an injection molding system and Q/A equipment allowing for high-volume molding of polypropylene containers with an EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) barrier in which the barrier layer's consistency can be 100% verified in-line. EVOH, a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl alcohol, is often used as a barrier material to prevent oxygen ingression and CO2 egress. The 3-layer tuna fish packaging structures are retortable. The package relies on polypropylene with an EVOH barrier layer.

The novelty is not so much the co-injection, but rather the claim of 100% proof that the EVOH barrier layer in every container is perfect throughout the complete body of the container. Waldorf calls the technology its Check´n Pack EVOH system. Waldorf claims its system allows 360° rim, 360° side wall, bottom and injection point inspection. A shelf life of up to two years can be promised even for sensitive products such as fish, meat, fruit and pet food.

Switching from metal containers to plastics packaging could lead to significant savings in production and logistics for the brand owners, claims Waldorf. Plastic containers also of course offer more design options. —Matt Defosse

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