Sticky fingers

20 March 2017

Sticky fingers

Sticky fingers

Choosing the right adhesive for a packaging application is a vital step for converters to get right. As packaging advances, adhesives are more important than ever. Dave Howell reports.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global adhesive market will reach $56,309.79 million by 2021, at a CAGR of over 5% during the forecast period, 2016–2021. As a cost centre, adhesives that are petroleum-based will see their price differential continue to be volatile, as the global price of crude oil remains in flux.

The increasing demand across the packaging industry will see healthy orders. However, converters need to be aware of the expanding and strict environmental regulations regarding VOC emissions and how their customers’ focus could change as emerging markets continue to expand.

Steve Ringsdore, vice-president for Americas Adhesives, HB Fuller, says: “Brand-owners typically do not work with their converting partners when it comes to specifying adhesives. HB Fuller works with the entire supply chain from the paper and board manufacturers, and case and carton suppliers, to the brand-owners who use the packaging.

“We proactively test new board stocks and new papers to ensure that our adhesives will meet customer needs, and communicate these results to our existing customers,” Ringsdore continued. “If a packaging customer is considering a change in their packaging or packaging supply chain, they often request that we test the new packaging before they start using it to ensure they will not get any surprises using their current adhesives.”

Converters are also conscious that choosing the right adhesive for their applications is always vital. “In the EMEA market, we see a strong growth for the use of solvent-free adhesive technologies,” Jaroslaw Jelinek, EMEA marketing manager for adhesives at Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, tells Converting Today.

“There are known technical limitations to performing demanding applications where high thermal and chemical resistance are required. Nevertheless, the technology brings favourable economics for converters – with no solvent or water evaporation, and simpler machinery. In addition, it is this technology that leaves the lowest footprint among the three most common ones – many times this is a vastly important aspect for brand-owners.”

Jelinek concludes: “This trend is well reflected in the number of solvent-free solutions available in the market today, and we also notice it by the strengthening position of our MOR-FREE product line. Last but not least, we believe that our latest joint development with Nordmeccanica, which has resulted in the new lamination machinery concept Duplex1Shot from Nordmeccanica and breakthrough adhesive SYMBIEX from Dow, will be comparably as disruptive as the introduction of solvent-free lamination 50 years ago.”


Diverse developments

What has become abundantly clear over the past few years is that packaging diversity has continued. Converters are being called upon by their brand customers to innovate with packaging form factors. This has meant parallel innovation and development with adhesives and other sealants.

The rise of pouch and flexible packaging substrates is a sector that has craved new sealing techniques. Markets and Markets forecasts this sector to reach $125.66 billion by 2021, at an estimated CAGR of 5.11%. Here, double-sided, pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) have been shown to be highly effective.

Herma Self-adhesive Materials has also developed 52C, a UV-reticulating acrylate contact adhesive, ideal for many resealing label applications. “The combination of properties it offers is probably unique," comments Dr Ulli Nägele, Herma's head of development. “We are in a position to develop these characteristics thanks to the massive investments we have made recently in the production technology for speciality products of this kind.”

The pharma sector continues to be a development focus for adhesives. A good example is the recent adoption of Baumer hhs tamper-evidence solution by GE Pharmaceuticals. The combination of cold glue and hot melt enabled the brand to develop its highly effective security solution.

Dr Günter Datz, managing director of GE Pharmaceuticals, says: “The electric application heads of the Baumer hhs tamper-evidence solution reliably apply the adhesives at very high production speeds and in excellent quality. At the same time, the monitoring of glue application with the Baumer hhs glue sensors allows us to inspect 100% of the packaging we produce on the new lines.”

Staying with pharma, in late 2016, Avery Dennison Labels and Packaging Material Europe released details of its S788P adhesive, which makes it clear if a box has been tampered with. Converters in the pharma sector have always focused on security applications, but with the rise in counterfeit drugs, these innovations are being sought by more pharma brands.

Ricardo ten Velden, global segment director for pharma and healthcare at Avery Dennison Materials Group Europe, says: “We are committed to strong growth in this segment, and that means not only giving converters a large and growing range of product choices, but also giving them comprehensive technical support, so they can be confident they are complying with evolving regulations.”


Sealing fate

The choice of adhesives being used by converters is now critical. The global moves to reduce waste and increase recyclability have, however, not impacted the demands being placed on converters, as HB Fuller’s Steve Ringsdore explains: “Biodegradability is not a vital issue when it comes to adhesives. Adhesives are typically less than 1 percent of the content of any packaged product. Adhesive alone in most cases will not be the limiting factor for biodegradability.”

Ringsdore continues: “The water-based adhesives used in paper-board laminating or in the manufacturer’s joint will not prevent the package from degrading in most of the industry-standard tests. Hot-melt adhesives used to seal cases or cartons are usually filterable in the paper-recycling process, making them more environmentally friendly, but not necessarily biodegradable. Currently, there is not a lot of demand from brand-owners for biodegradable adhesive solutions because they would have limited or no impact on the biodegradability of the total package.”

This kind of shift can also be seen from companies including BASF. Last year they reported on their eco-efficiency analysis conducted by BASF and COMEXI, a leading supplier of converting solutions for the flexible-packaging industry.

The analysis revealed that water-based adhesive systems by BASF have a clear ecological advantage over solvent-based systems due to the use of water instead of organic solvents – therefore they have a lower environmental impact over the whole life cycle. Water-based Epotal adhesive systems meet the food-packaging regulations of the EU and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As they contain neither organic solvents nor aromatic isocyanates, production risks are reduced to a minimum, and health and safety in the workplace is improved.

“Converters and brand-owners, as well as the general public, are increasingly looking for more sustainable and safer solutions for flexible food packaging,” explains Dr Axel Weiss, head of marketing dispersions for industrial adhesives Europe at BASF. “In the packaging-production process, choosing the right adhesive technology can be an important step towards meeting these demands.”

Dow’s Jaroslaw Jelinek also comments: “We need to look beyond the most obvious level of reducing the environmental footprint at the stage of adhesive production, for instance, by creating more energy-efficient processes or constantly improving supply-chain processes. It is important to look further down the value chain and think of how our solutions can positively affect converters and brand-owners. The right adhesive solution can help reduce film waste or allow converters be more energy-efficient.”

Converters that are continuing to innovate with the packaging form factors they offer to their brand clients will always need to consider the adhesives that they use. More adhesive lamination is clearly a growing area here.

The continued drive for lightweighting and the use of pouches for a widening range of foodstuffs and FMCGs is driving the need for high-performance adhesives. Fast curing and bonding are now vital to deliver efficiency on the converter’s production line. Often overlooked, adhesives across the converting industry are literally the glue that holds the industry together.

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