AWA Reports on Release Liner Seminar

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS | AWA Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) reports that its Label Release Liner Industry Seminar, held just before Labelexpo Europe 2015 in Brussels, Belgium, highlighted key issues facing that segment of the industry. It represented an opportunity to discuss a combination of leading-edge processing and converting practices, the status quo in recycling of spent label release liner, and the product identification and decoration technologies that today compete with pressure-sensitive labeling. 

Corey M. Reardon, president and CEO of AWA, provided an overview of the global release liner market. “The release liner industry is characterized as consolidated on the supply side and highly fragmented on the demand side, he said, making it challenging for companies on the demand side to have any influence on market dynamics.” P-s label stock commands a 49% share of global release liner usage, with food and beverage together representing 37% of the end-use market.

Release liners are continuing to adapt to efficiency requirements for modern converting, said Mikko Rissanen, business development director of UPM Label Papers. Rissanen showed how the company is currently exploring nanocellulose Biofibrils technology, which promises several benefits for the future.

The benefits of linerless p-s labels were the subject of one panel discussion, and the overarching issues of release liner recycling and end-of-life solutions were the topic of a second panel discussion moderated by Calvin Frost, chairman, Channeled Resources Group. Frost said it is the label converter who is in the front line when it comes to creating the problem of release liner waste for the brand owner customer—he delivers the self-adhesive labels. Frost and the panel looked in depth at the current solutions base and the many challenges raised by organizing collection schemes and identifying the right personnel in end-user companies who can instigate such schemes. There are already valuable supplier-instigated schemes in place for the re-collection of their own spent liner but creating an overarching solution remains on the wish list.

Robyn Buma, global procurement director, Paper, for Avery Dennison, looked at paper and film release liners in labels and graphics applications, globally, in terms of product quality. Covering multiple suppliers across all regions, her three-year research identified some key trends: Paper liners showed a moderate improvement in the top quality issues experienced—wrinkled, damaged, dirty material, and silicone release issues, for example—during the period. Film liners, however, exhibited a significant improvement trend across the same parameters. Buma adjured suppliers to apply the highest standards of quality control and robust and systematic problem solving processes and actions. She added, “Our customers expect the same from us.”

The installation of automatic inline optical inspection was noted as a route to achieving quality p-s film labels.

Silicone coatings were the topic of a third panel discussion, which identified key advances, both today and for tomorrow, and members expressed the industry’s prime mission: “to create as stable as possible a release liner for our customers’ needs.” Moderator Reardon posed the question: “What are the alternatives to silicone?” Another member said it would require a massive investment to develop a new chemistry. Reardon moved on to question the use of platinum as the cure catalyst, in the light of current cost concerns.

The advent of UV silicones was mentioned as good news, but the downside is the cost of the silicones themselves. Different silicones may be used in the future, emulsion and solvent for films, for example. Also, a low-temperature silicone cure already exists. Another available option is activatable adhesives.

Dan Muenzer, VP of marketing for Constantia Flexibles, reviewed label technologies that are today competing with p-s. He offered examples of how brand owners are using the label to communicate and to differentiate their products, presenting examples that included advances in variability in print, exemplified by the Coca-Cola campaigns and Heineken’s multiple label designs on Indio beer. In-mold labeling; flexible packaging; and direct-to-container print are all taking their toll, said Muenzer, but he had good news as well, including the conversion of Budweiser from cut-and-stack labels to p-s, using a metallized film, to make efficiency increases and reduce the total applied cost. The p-s label industry is also contributing real innovation in terms of non-contaminant label stocks for application to PET bottles, Muenzer added.

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