Updates from TAPPI, SPI & the Industry

This year’s TAPPI PLACE conference in Fort Worth, TX, on April 11–16, was an exceptional event. There were many papers from different aspects of the industry, including polymerization developments, machinery updates, processing, and sustainability.

For example, Dow Chemical announced a new tubular reactor resin technology that produces polyethylene resins with a molecular weight distribution similar to traditional autoclave-produced low-density polyethylenes (LDPEs). Autoclave polyethylene resins naturally have a combination of molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, and chain branching that lends itself very well to film extrusion operations, in particular extrusion coating and cast film. The resins made with this new tubular polymerization technique process similarly to traditional resins, with no additional motor torque load, neck-in, or edge-weave seen with them. This is important because there are no new autoclave reactors announced, and the capacity to supply the industry will become tighter as the years pass.

Big Development!

On the machinery/processing side, Alpha Marathon of Toronto presented further development of the Schirmer 82-layer blown film coextrusion die. This is a BIG DEVELOPMENT!!! Hank Schirmer, with whom I worked at Cryovac in South Carolina many moons ago, developed this die over the years, and Alpha Marathon has chosen to

Photo by Tom Bezigian

commercialize it. Experiments have proven that clay-filled nanolayers reduce by 50% the amount of polyamide needed to achieve the desired level of oxygen and moisture permeability in food packaging films. A line is being prepared for shipment as of this writing, and can be seen to the right.

There is much more to report, but space is limited. For example, Cloeren presented two excellent papers on coextrusion and dynamic rheology, Hydro Aluminium Rolled Products, and Ineos reported on adhesion to foils, and much more. I suggest visiting TAPPI’s website to access all the presentations.

On the new equipment side, Guardian Mfg. has announced the launch a completely new patented ozone generating system called the Peak5X. Jake Cahill, former owner of JD Cahill in Hampton, NH, and now consultant to Guardian, said, “Prior to this, there have been few choices other than the corona treater suppliers for ozone generators. We have developed a turn-key system that provides precise ozone applications to provide the benefits of ozone technology, that has improved adhesion at higher line speeds while adhering to the OSHA standards for employee safety. In my view, Guardian fills a void between the ozone equipment producers and established vendors by providing turnkey systems at an affordable price."

The SPI Flexible Film and Bag Conference (May 11–13 in Houston, TX) was interesting. By my recollection, this is the first time SPI has directly addressed sustainability as an issue. Studies prove that flexible packaging actually is helpful to the environment, and SPI has taken this on directly. I will be presenting a paper at the AIMCAL Fall Technical Conference (Oct. 9–12 in Memphis, TN) on this very subject, quantifying the benefits of flexible versus rigid packaging.

The SPI had excellent keynote speakers who discussed demographics and other trends, but to me the most interesting and fascinating was the five-year forecast of oil and resin prices. In addition to a billion tons of announced capacity increase by the major suppliers, there is an excess of oil now, and oil and resin prices will be depressed until 2018. Beginning in 2018, demand is expected to approach supply, and the price of oil is expected to rise until 2020, at which time the price of oil is expected to be double the price that it is now. Resin prices will also increase, but not in the same proportion as oil prices.

On the industry side of things, I will be presenting a 3-hour primer at the AIMCAL Fall Technical Conference (on Sunday, Oct. 9, 8:30 A.M.–12 P.M.), on the use of coextrusion to improve barrier properties for flexible packaging. This will be an in-depth look at coextruded structures and packaging science to predict and model the performance of a film structure. Look for specifics at AIMCAL’s website: www.aimcal.org.

For those readers in Asia, I will be presenting a two-day extrusion coating conference in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Chennai, India, this December. Visit: technobiz-group.com for more information.

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