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SPE Thermoforming Roll-Fed parts competition rolls out some winners

thermoforming
The Roll-Fed parts competition at the recent SPE Thermoforming Conference was loaded with great new ideas, primarily for packaging consumer goods, deli containers and even one application for building and construction, oddly enough.

The Roll-Fed Consumer Gold Award went to think4D (Altona, MB, Canada), a company that specializes in four-dimensional printing technology. The Gillette Venus Swirl packaging incorporated think4D's multi-dimensional technology to print and form the silver FlexBall on the package. When the packaging first came out in 2014, some called it a "thermoforming breakthrough." Production challenges include the need for very tight tolerances on every packaging component and custom ink formulations that can withstand the stresses of the 400°F heat-sealing process without splitting or cracking. Heat-sealing flat lids to an arched surface is very challenging and traditionally has higher scrap rates.

The Venus Swirl package reportedly is automation-friendly and runs consistently on Gillette's global packaging lines. It is made from PETG, rPET and paperboard; all pre-consumer waste is recycled and the final package is completely recyclable.

The Silver Award in the Roll-Fed Consumer category went to Placon of Madison, WI. Another Gillette package was the winner here: the Fusion ProGlide razor, also with FlexBall technology. The package is thermoformed with a 360° perforation outlining the periphery of the package and a pull-tab for easy opening to separate the blister from the paperboard. Produced using complex, matched metal tooling, a three-cavity, multi-level trim up the sidewall of the blister was created for the perforated outer trim; the multi-level final trim is manufactured in only two presses.

The Roll-Fed Food Gold Award went to Plastic Ingenuity (Cross Plains, WI) for its Sargento two-compartment, yin-yang tray design with hermetic seal that allows the cheese to stay moist, and the fruit and nuts to retain their texture. The PET trays that make up the unique packaging required advances in equipment design in order to transport the tray from filling to sealing, as the tray has a unique geometry. Also critical to the success of the primary package was consistency in the opening feature.

Innovative Plastech
Innovative Plastech won the Roll-Fed Recycled
Gold Award for this pallet that holds 40 soda
bottles for shipping, distribution and display
at big-box stores.

The use of recycled materials is high on the list of considerations for new products, and the Roll-Fed Recycled Gold Award went to Innovative Plastech (Batavia, IL) for its Half-Pallet Sell-Stock Soda Bottle Dunnage Tray. This new tray holds 40 2-liter bottles of soda for shipping, distribution and display in warehouse stores or price clubs without the use of shelving or other structures other than the single 40 x 48 in. pallet.

Formed from 0.070-in. clear rPET, the tray's design was critical to the product's success. Design considerations were given to sections of the sidewalls, where straight walls were necessary to keep the bottles upright. However, sections in between have draft so that the tray is more easily thermoformed. These walls of draft/no-draft create a rib-like appearance that has the additional advantage of stiffening the deep-drawn walls. Each bottle pocket has five sections that match the "feet" of 2-liter bottles so that they can't easily spin in the tray, allowing the product label always to face front. Additional V-shaped features that form the deepest surfaces of the tray serve a dual purpose: They form the outer ring that nests over the bottle caps, and serve as a strong surface for the bottom.

The Recycled Silver Award for Roll-Fed Recycled product was captured by Plastics Ingenuity. The clamshell housing for Flonase allergy spray features coined-hinge technology for repeatability during robotic closing. Patent-pending heat-seal tooling technology was designed and developed to seal on a contoured/non-planar surface for this application. The clamshell is made from 17.5-mil PETG comprised of 40% post-industrial recycled material.

For a different Roll-Fed application, OMG of Via Torino, Italy, designed and developed a brick wall panel for a building and construction application. Typically produced using heavy gauge sheet or injection molded, which is more costly, OMG found a solution to meet customer requirements for a paintable, more-lightweight product. The PVC has a starting thickness of 1.5 mm (0.6 in.) and the panel is produced using a thin-gauge forming machine. Forming, cutting, bending and punching can be done in a 30-second cycle.

To view a slide show featuring the winners of the Heavy Gauge Parts competition at the SPE Thermoforming Conference, click here, and for an overview of the progress that thermoforming has made over the years, read "Thermoforming gives injection molding competition in durable goods."

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