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Metallized materials making an impact

Last month’s European Conference on Vacuum Coating and Metallizing concentrated on process oriented topics and the optimization of metallized materials to deliver the best possible performance characteristics. Its message was that converters can take advantage of the industry’s technical advances to provide innovative packaging solutions in terms of both functional and aesthetic qualities.

The conference in Amsterdam was organized by AWA Alexander Watson Associates and part-sponsored by the European Metallizers Association,

Many markets today are seeing strong growth in use of metallized films in particular, with flexible packaging representing 79 per cent of all applications. Fresh fruit and vegetables, medical and pharmaceutical products, household goods, confectionery, and chilled foods packaging are among the major successes.

Paper persists

However, the ‘new technology’ of metallized film pouches and other film based packaging has not ousted traditional metallized paper. While 19 per cent of the market is in cigarette packaging, 67 per cent is in labelling applications – and metallized paper still enjoys the lion’s share of the beer bottle label market.

Christiane Burger, of German specialty paper mill Schoeller & Hoesch, explained that beer labelling continues to be the metallized paper ‘flagship’ across the globe. Although beer as a product group is losing market share overall in western Europe, there are still major market development opportunities for metallized papers – thanks to the current fashion for ‘chrome’ finishes. This translates comfortably on to the packaging for energy drinks, non alcoholic cocktails, and alcopops. In China, Russia, and eastern Europe, beer is considered a ‘modern’ drink, taking market share from traditional hard liquor – and metallized papers are the preferred labelling.

However, the pressures on margins that are suffusing the whole European packaging market are also affecting metallized papers, which face increasing competition from alternative methods of achieving a metallic finish. Metallic inks – previously not competitive in price terms – now represent a viable choice because their use can contribute to considerable cost savings.

Used on conventional label papers, metallic inks can save on conversion costs (a white ink base is not necessary for pre-printing graphics, as on a metallized substrate). Labels on non metallized papers also require a shorter wash-off time from returnable bottles.

The versatility of metallized films means that they are enjoying growth over a much wider base than metallized papers, as Todd O’Reilly, of UCB Surface Specialties, outlined in his paper. Metallized films offer a broad range of aesthetic possibilities as well as extra functional qualities. They are currently on supermarket shelves in the form of flexible packaging such as coffee bags and pouches, and are valued for their barrier properties.

For labelling, they are currently popular in wet glue, sleeving, and wraparound applications – and, of course, for self adhesive applications, where the ability to add a security hologram is an additional feature.

Careful handling

A particularly interesting paper from Fabiano Rimediotti, of Galileo Vacuum Systems, dealt with rewinding and slitting of metallized films. Scratches and holes in the film surface can often be traced back to poor finishing, he warned. With such added value products, retention of the surface qualities of the film through the post-production conversion processes depends very much on good housekeeping.

Hueck Folien’s Lothar Zapf, current president of the European Metallizing Association, delivered the conference’s keynote speech.

He urged delegates to define common interests at all levels of the value chain; and develop and maintain a means of intense information transfer – “so that everyone, from vacuum metallizer to converter and end user, can continue to make the most of this highly functional, highly decorative material technology”.

For further information on the conference visit www.awa-bv.com