A unique masterbatch allows PET bottle makers and brand owners to run conveyor belts and robots at maximized speed, increasing productivity and yields—and without the need for a spray coating.
The new Sukano Mobility Aid addresses problems including release, scuffing, and sticking.
Bottles must rotate freely as they pass through the production conveyor, as forced rotation caused by friction can lead to jams on the line. The new solution, believed to be the first commercially available for this application, is provided as a solid PET masterbatch that’s blended with virgin PET or RPET material during molding or processing. Even at low concentrations, the masterbatch disperses consistently through the PET material, reducing its coefficient of friction (COF) and modifying the surface texture with a microstructure.
The product, from Sukano (Schindellegi, Switzerland), a global developer and producer of additive and color masterbatches and compounds for polyester and specialty resins, is formulated for Injection Stretch Blow Molded (ISBM) PET bottles.
Benefits versus spray coatings
This new masterbatch produces a silicone-like mobility aid effect in PET material, yet is engineered to preserve material clarity with minimal impact on haze. It is well suited to clear, translucent, and colored bottles produced for personal care, household and cleaning, cosmetics, as well as food and beverage applications. It is also widely applicable, as PET material containing the new masterbatch can be run on existing ISBM bottle production equipment without modification.
Sukano is assisting a customer in the U.S. optimize its production process.
"Our customer, a key and leading global player in the consumer goods industry, reported that PET bottle mispicks by their production robot decreased sixfold when using our Sukano Mobility Aid masterbatch," stated John Price, director of technology and operations in the U.S., in Duncan, SC.
The consistency and even distribution of the masterbatch lead to improved performance. The additive masterbatch preserves secondary processing steps that require adhesion, like labelling and printing. It also helps eliminate the cost and cleaning requirements associated with spray coatings, which can leave a waxy residue on bottles and packaging equipment that must be removed through regular cleaning. Additionally, the Sukano Mobility Aid masterbatch avoids the potential risk of microbiological contaminations of bottle surfaces by aqueous-based coatings, which may require additional additives or application in a clean-room environment.
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Expertise drives innovation
Significant effort was needed to engineer a product that combined the necessary properties with good thermal stability and performance-enhancing benefits to preserve material clarity and transparency. To develop the new PET additive masterbatch, Sukano leveraged its more than 30 years' experience with masterbatches for film extrusion in packaging applications into the bottle packaging PET application and broadened its expertise.
"Sukano Mobility Aid offers a valuable and safe alternative for bottle makers who, until now, have had to apply spray coatings to PET preforms and bottles to manage the production problems associated with ISBM production," said Michael Kirch, global head of R&D. "Bottle makers and brand owners can now run their conveyor belts without interruption and minimize the mispicks by production robots, thereby improving productivity and maximizing yields, allowing the highest efficiency rates. Our high-performance masterbatch technology is applicable to any conveyor system.”
Sukano's innovative mobility aid is formulated according to the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) guidelines for PET recyclability. These enable the industry to innovate and bring new PET bottle packaging solutions to the market without disrupting the existing clear PET recycling value chain, with special focus on bottle-to-bottle recycling.
Sukano is an active member of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and Petcore Europe, which recently joined forces with Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) to create the Global Plastics Outreach Alliance and publish a globally harmonized definition of plastics recyclability.