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Processing Trends: Blowmolding

Stretch blowmolding on stage at Pack Expo, Emballage shows

Tony Deligio

January 15, 2009

8 Min Read
Processing Trends: Blowmolding

Stretch blowmolding on stage at Pack Expo, Emballage shows

Stretch blowmolded packaging drew plenty of attention at two packaging trades shows in November 2008—Emballage in France and Pack Expo in the U.S. Speaking with MPW at the latter event, officials at water bottler Ice River Springs (Feversham, ON) said the firm would continue its vertical integration. Ice River Springs’ main plant, which covers 600,000 sq ft, this month added captive closure molding with a Husky machine it acquired, and in the coming months will add in-plant polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling using a system supplied by Krones.

Gott said Ice River Springs, which is the largest private bottler in Canada, was the first bottler in that country to start captive injection molding of preforms.

In addition to vertical integration, the company has a strong emphasis on sustainability (and material savings), taking its water bottles’ weight from 16.8g in 2003 to 9.8g this year, adding the aforementioned Krones technology, applying geothermal chilling, and planting 14,000 trees in 2008, among other measures.
Also at that show, stretch blowmolding machinery manufacturer and filling-line supplier Krones announced it has expanded its Franklin, WI, site to so that it can offer moldmaking and bottle development, with an initial annual tooling capacity of 800 molds and the ability to expand to 2000 molds/yr. The company has also made the commercial jump into the PET recycling market, selling three of its systems in 2008, with one each in Asia, Europe, and to Ice River Springs in North America. The technology, which keeps the recycled PET in flake form, creates food-grade level recyclate, while reportedly using one-third less energy than competitive technologies by eliminating the melting/filtering steps.

David Raabe, director of blowmolding technology for Krones Inc., told MPW that Krones continues to expand its global moldmaking presence, and had added the capability in Beijing earlier in 2008. Krones hired Adam Stowitts to head up mold and bottle development in Franklin. The new moldmaking operation features four CNC milling machines, including Mazak and Mikron units, with two designated for cutting cavities and two for component fabrication. In addition, the lab will offer Unigraphics 3D modeling with photorealistic 3D rendering; a coordinate measuring machine; burst, top load, and automated thickness and dimensional testing; and dimensional wall-thickness scanning.

Krones’ booth at Pack Expo featured a new Contiform H8 stretch blowmolding machine with a redesigned linear oven that will be installed in Franklin after the show. In the past, Krones blowmolding machines have been rotary in design. Raabe said the new linear heater design officially launches in January 2009, with testing undertaken throughout 2008. Modular in design, the system can be expanded to increase production changes without the addition of new machines. Raabe said the new design would be extended to all Krones lines going forward. Nine of the systems have already been sold, with five of those in North America.
At the Emballage packaging trade show in France, injection/blowmolder PDG Plastiques (Malesherbes, France) was awarded the ‘Oscar de l’emballage’ (packaging Oscar) for its work in development of PRElactia performs and market introduction of bottles blown from these. PDG’s injection molding machinery supplier, Switzerland’s Netstal, Spanish moldmaker Molmasa, PET supplier Novapet, and dairy cooperative LSDH also shared in the honor.

The PRElactia overmolding process is said to guarantee the light barrier required in UHT milk bottles. Molding of the preforms begins with injection an inner, grey layer, which is then overmolded by a second, white layer. These performs weigh just 21g for 1L milk bottles, about 7g less than the standard for this size UHT milk bottle.

PDG Plastiques was Netstal's first PRElactia customer, molding the performs on a Netstal SynErgy 2400-2150/900 equipped with a Molmasa mold.

Eastern Europe’s beer market prompts new Combi development

French stretch blowmolding machinery and beverage filling machinery manufacturer Sidel (Le Havre, France) has redesigned its Combi blowmolding/filling/capping unit so that it now also can be used in beer filling lines. Sidel introduced its Combi line in 1997; previously only water, carbonated soft drinks and dairy products could be run on these machines, with output rates up to 61,000 bottles per hour (bph) for half-liter bottles.

Three Sidel Combis for beer already are in commercial use: two since last summer at SABMiller Group breweries in Hungary and Romania, with a third unit installed this fall at a URBB Group brewery in Romania.
Sidel’s development was prompted by rapid demand growth in Eastern Europe’s beer market, where PET bottles already account for about 9% of the market. PET-bottled beer there is not necessarily aimed at connoisseurs: it includes no barrier, is filled in large bottles, often 2.5L (about 2.64 quarts), and the beer has a shelf life of two weeks or less. Because of these market dynamics, glass and barrier PET bottles are often too costly. 

The blowmolding end of the Combi unit was not changed for the beer-capable units; only the filling station needed to be altered. Volumetric filling using magnetic flow meters ensure filling accuracy. Beer is filled through a long tube that reaches almost to the base of the bottle. Once the tube’s end is submerged in the beer, filling is turbulence-free, which reduces oxygen absorption. This is followed by CO2 flushing to reduce the amount of air in the bottle. (More on the Combi units in MPW, March 2003.)

The Combi redo for beer packaging came soon before Sidel released results of an independently reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA) of beer packaging, based on specific customer data and commissioned by the Sidel Group.  Using data from Martens Breweries in Belgium, the study assesses the environmental impact of beer production and packaging, from growing and harvesting of the raw ingredients to the packaging and delivery of these to retail outlets. The LCA specifically looked at the impact of the production of 100 liters of beer in 0.5 l packages in terms of energy consumption, global warming, air acidification and water consump¬tion. Four package types were considered: glass longneck bottles, aluminum cans, steel cans, and PET bottles with Sidel’s Actis plasma coating, used to bring a longer gas barrier to the plastic. 

The results of the case study show steel cans and PET bottles contribute least to global warming and air acidification. The production of steel cans uses the least primary energy and water, while glass is the highest consumer of these. In terms of environ¬mental impact, primary packaging and beer production have the greatest affect, while transport and secondary packaging have relatively little affect. Where aluminum can recycling rates are high, aluminum may be a good choice for packaging beer, according to this LCA. The study also finds that if the weight of a 0.5l PET bottle can be at or below 20 grams, PET is the preferred overall choice in terms of climate change.

As a result of the study, a new ‘LCA User’ tool was developed and is available through Sidel to help beer brewers determine the most environment-friendly packaging solution for their products based on different scenarios.

The LCA was performed by RDC-Environment, with independant review handled by an LCA expert at the Dutch institute TNO and by an independent LCA consultant with packaging expertise, Yvan Liziard.

When the market deals you lemons …

Regardless of macro-economic picture, weight savings are always welcome in blowmolded applications.

Blowmolder Amcor PET Packaging (Manchester, MI) was able to shave 10g off the package weight of the Lemon Top 32-oz. polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles it recently redesigned for private label juice bottler Cliffstar Corp. The weight loss was realized through the new bottles’ design, said Amcor in answer to an MPW query. Bottles come with lemon-peel texturing and a lemon-shaped top. 

“The new package,” says Jason Krause, Cliffstar’s Director of Marketing, “requires no change in our filling lines or other processes.  And, what’s important for our customers to know is the base package area remains the same – the same label panel, same label, same application process. It is a seamless transition, simply by substituting the ‘Lemon Top’ for our previous package.” Amcor also blowmolded those previously used bottles, which weighed more than 21% more than the new version. Although long the cheaper alternative to brand labeled products, increasingly private label packaging also is being designed to give a chain store’s private label its own ‘personality.’

Wilmington delivers another SB rotary line

Wilmington Machinery (Wilmington, NC) has delivered another of its high output coextrusion SB (Small Bottle) turnkey systems, selling a 50-cavity, 6-layer coextrusion system capable of more than 2000 lb/hr of throughput and 18,000 bottles/hr depending upon the size. The 1.5-ton clamp force system, which can process bottles from 250 to 500 ml, was delivered to an unidentified customer with multiple sets of molds, bottle conveying, and de-molding.

The machine technology, which was launched at the NPE 2006 trade show in Chicago, is a rotary style machine that uses a single-parison, single-cavity process to mold large quantities of single-serve multilayer containers from 80 to 500 ml containers for dairy, juice, food, and liquid yogurt applications. Wilmington stresses the energy savings of the machine design, saying that by utilizing a small electrical motor to drive the machine, instead of the hydraulic systems found on many shuttle and reciprocating screw-style machines, the SB can reduce energy costs.—[email protected]; [email protected]

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