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Plastics packaging: Thermoformed bottles showcased at upcoming trade show

At the interpack trade show this coming May, French machinery manufacturer Agami will unveil its "Roll N Blow" thermoforming machine, a roll-fed thermoformer optimized for processing of plastic bottles. According to the company, the unit can form bottles with capacities between 100-500 ml that weigh significantly less than comparable blowmolded bottles.

Matt Defosse

March 18, 2011

2 Min Read
Plastics packaging: Thermoformed bottles showcased at upcoming trade show

Agami is a start-up partially owned and funded by packaging machinery manufacturer Serac, which makes filling machines for bottles, cups and trays. A French engineering school graduate, Stylianos Eleftheriou, established Agami in May 2009. Dominique Ledru, communication manager at Serac, told PlasticsToday her company has only a 10% stake in Agami but has worldwide exclusive distribution rights for the Agami machines.

According to the two companies, the new rollfed thermoformer is designed to produce bottles much more inexpensively than blowmolding, and that are much lighter. The tall, round bottles produced can be used for packaging of fresh dairy products—yogurt drinks in particular—as well as fruit juice manufacturers.

Thermoforming of bottles is not new-attempts were made in the 1930s- but it has never reached broad success. There have been attempts in the past to develop and market such machines widespread use has not followed. In June 2003 we reported on Oyster ERCA-Formseal, which that year introduced a form-fill-seal (ffs) machine for bottle processing, filling and sealing. The company still markets these as part of its Open Mould range of technology.

The principle, though, makes good sense. Extruded sheet can easily include a barrier or other functional layer. A thermoformer runs on less energy than a blowmolding machine, especially if PE is being processed and two machines (perform molding and stretch blowmolding) are needed. Agami's process relies on rolls of plastic sheeting, which are cut into strips. Each strip is shaped into a tube around a blowpipe. Each strip is then welded longitudinally. The resulting plastic tube is then heated and blown into a mold in order to create a bottle. The company says its machine can process all standard thermoformable packaging materials, including PS, PP, PLA, and PET.

What's the bottom line? According to Agami, purchase savings alone, by using sheet instead of buying granulate, could be as high as 30-50% per bottle. Using reels of plastic sheeting as the base material reduces transport and storage costs, as well as the costs of handling the bottles or empty preforms before they are blown. Agami's reckoning figures that whereas previously 25 trucks were needed for supplying actual bottles or 5 trucks for supplying preforms, now only one is needed for supplying the reels of plastic sheeting. Required to process a comparable amount of bottles.

There are energy savings in the processor's plant too as the thermoformer's blowing is carried out at low pressure (less than 6 bar) and at low temperature (under 150°C).

The Roll N Blow thermoforming machine that will be on display at the interpack show can produce up to 7000 bottles/hr. The interpack 2011 show will be held in Düsseldorf, Germany from May 12-18. Ludru says the one at interpack will be running during the show. As yet, there are no commercial customers. —Matt Defosse

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