The adhesives segment of the packaging sector is something of an unsung hero. An integral part of the wider packaging mix, adhesives need to balance form and functionality while adhering to stringent environmental guidelines and requirements. Tim Sheahan looks at some of the latest developments
The global market for adhesives and sealants is big business. Europe and North America account for around two-thirds of the global market, but emerging economies are also expected to increase their consumption in the coming years. While sectors such as construction account for the largest consumers, packaging is a major player in the field. In an economic period in which efficiency savings in day-to-day production are a key means of improving the bottom line, it is integral that packaging converters get the most from their adhesives.
Much like heavy printing machinery, prepress software and finishing equipment, the right choice of adhesives can give the end-user a competitive edge over their rivals. The build quality of a package is arguably as important as the stringent environmental demands placed on the packaging converters by their customers.
As a result, adhesives end users are protective of the particular formulations, product lines and manufacturers they side with, so as not to reveal such cost-effective secrets to their converting competitors.
"Manufacturers are notoriously protective of their customer relationships in this field," says John Murdoch of the British Adhesives
and Sealants Association. "Once they are willing to discuss a new product, it has already been in the field for months, and is
therefore no longer new in that respect."
However, this does not mean that the European adhesives market for packaging is static. Quite the opposite: innovation in the
sector is rife, with manufacturers developing new ways for end users to create packaging products that couple high build quality with
cost, environmental, and efficiency demands.
Investing in the future
Speaking to Converting Today, Stuart Jenkinson, business director for converting and graphic arts at HB Fuller, says the group’s recent changes in Europe will help increase its growth and ability to develop new products for the packaging segment.
"Since acquiring the industrial adhesives business of the Forbo Group last year, we have been making organisational changes to
support its growth and profitability strategy in the EIMEA region," he says. "This is in line with its commitment to investing in products
that really meet customer and industry needs." For the customer, this will manifest itself through new adhesives emerging from its hot melt plant in Lüneburg, Germany.
The group is investing around €70 million, which will help develop the largest plant of its kind in the region, while its sites in Blois and Nienburg will also receive upgrade to production facilities. "The strategic plans support a commitment to improve EBITDA margin to 15% by the year 2015, a North America integration plan and similar plans for Asia Pacific," adds Jenkinson.
HB Fuller has also expanded its portfolio of laminating adhesives for flexible packaging converting with the addition of its Flextra Fast
SF8700/XR1000 products, said to offer "ultra-fast cure time and ultra-fast time to fill" when used with food-filling and other applications
such as barrier-to-barrier laminating.
The SF8700/XR1000 adhesives can also be used to enable packaging converters to laminate barrier films together at faster speeds
than other solventless adhesive systems, the manufacturer claims.
According to HB Fuller, the new Flextra Fast adhesives were designed with speed, safety and performance in mind: they can
accommodate line production speeds up to 1,200fpm and up to 800fpm when used for barrier-to-barrier laminations. The company
says that packaging is safe for filling with food products 24 hours after the pack is laminated.
With flexibles proving to be a major growth area in packaging, it is perhaps unsurprising to find major a manufacturer such as Henkel investing heavily into flexible adhesives. The German firm used its presence at the ICE Europe International Converting Exhibition earlier this year to introduce new additions to its adhesives and coatings range for the flexible packaging industry.
Central to this was the introduction of new solvent-free laminating adhesives to its Liofol LA 7777 range. Henkel has specified these
products for use with high barrier films that require low CO2 formation from the adhesive used. The manufacturer claims thatconverters can cut the risk of primary aromatic amine (PAA) formation by using Liofol LA 7777 owing to the adhesives’ reduced monomer content. Due to the reduced monomer content and the design of the new adhesives, converters can minimise the risk of primary aromatic amine (PAA) formation, as well as the time required for primary aromatic amines decay.
The manufacturer also used its showing at ICE Europe to exhibit a new water-based heat seal lacquer designed for food applications.
Liofol HS 2210-22, which activates at less than 100°C, is available for a range of applications that include banderoles, soap packs and coffee packs.
According to Henkel, the lacquer can be applied on film, foil and paper and allows users to leverage heat seal technology and
incorporate this into their converted products, but without any investment in hotmelt application technology itself.
Much like HB Fuller, Henkel has focused extensively on hotmelt adhesives in the past 12 months. Earlier this year, the company
announced that it was partnering with bioplastics firm DaniMer Scientific in a bid to develop a new range of hotmelt adhesives for
use in the consumer packaging market.
Still in its infancy, the collaboration aims to couple Henkel’s expertise in hotmelt adhesive formulation with DaniMer’s knowledge in the field of biopolymer science, with the aim of creating a new range of bio-based hotmelt adhesives for labelling, frozen food and other
One range of products that is currently commercially available, however, is Arocure – UV-curable hotmelt pressure sensitive adhesives from Ashland Performance Materials. Designed for specialty tape applications, Arocure is a range of 100% solids that can be melted and then applied at temperatures exceeding 100°C, with the adhesive film then cured by UV exposure, which the Ohio, USA-based company claims to help boost productivity due to higher coating line speeds.
David Hatgas, Ashland global director for packaging and converting adhesives and coatings, says UV-curable pressure-sensitive
adhesives remain an important facet of the wider adhesives industry. "By adding the Arocure 100% solids UV-curable hotmelt PSAs
to our product offering, we have greatly expanded the technical capabilities for our customers and provided them with greater
range of solutions for their business," he adds.
Away from hotmelt adhesives, UPM Raflatac has made two adhesive upgrades in migration safeguards, in line with the recent
EU 10/2011 regulation. Its new RP 36 FG and RP 36 ML adhesives are said to improve nonmigration characteristics and further reduce the "slightest possibility" of food contamination. Categorised as infant and baby safe, the adhesives have been approved
for direct food contact and are claimed to achieve good results in a Sensory Analysis for Indirect Transition of Flavour according to the
EN 1230-2 Robinson test. The RP 36 FG and RP 36 ML products also have improved UV resistance, which results in a longer shelf life for laminated and converted labels.
In coating, flexo technology group Tresu announced in June that it had acquired the rights from Stora Enso to both manufacture and market a new flexo coating system. This can be integrated into sheet-fed folding carton converting lines that feature the digital printing technology in the process.
According to Tresu, the Digital Sheet Coater will allow carton converters to target segments such as confectionery, gift and pharmaceutical by coating and printing short run folding cartons.
Søren Maarssø, chief operating officer at Tresu Group, has high hopes for the new technology. "With its capability to offer a
competitive means of meeting the demand for shorter production runs, the digital process is important to us and our customers," he says.
"The Tresu Digital Sheet Coater will enable folding carton converters to smoothly transition to the digital process, and to capitalise on this growth by offering a raft of innovative value-added coating solutions," adds Maarssø.
Elsewhere, US firm Graco recently announced the development and commercial availability of a new tank-free hot melt delivery system for both case and carton sealing applications.
InvisiPac has a tank-free design that is said to "significanty reduce" the char that is produced by conventional hotmelt systems while also offering start-up times that are "around two-thirds quicker" than normal systems.
A fully specified InvisiPac system comprises an in-line melt chamber, vacuum feed system, heated hose and applicator. The
integrated vacuum system is designed to feed adhesive pellets to the in-line melt chamber. Integral to InvisiPac is a sensor that monitors adhesives in the chamber and therefore adds extra pellets when required.
Distributed in the UK by KMS Adhesives, InvisiPac has an "efficient" heat transfer design that is said to match the throughput
capabilities of conventional hotmelt tank systems. Nick Long, product marketing manager at Graco, says the system was designed to alleviate the cost and set-up issues normally associated with tank systems that require adhesives reaching temperatures exceeding 350°F. "Without a tank attached to the system, InvisiPac reduces char and nozzle plugging, eliminates the need for constant tank scraping, and ultimately lowers the end-user’s maintenance requirements," he says.
Activity within the innovation and development facets of the adhesives sector is as buoyant as other perhaps more glamorous
elements of packaging. But the role these products play is more prominent than ever, with manufacturers and converters alike
investing heavily into the field.
With an area as important as flexible packaging set to grow by a CAGR of 4.1% over five years to 2017, for end users there has
never been a better time to invest.