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Article by Nampak 4 June 2013

Nampak Flexible's new technology guarantees a more competitive edge

Speed to market gives Nampak Flexible, Africa’s leading flexible packaging company, the competitive edge. To enhance this advantage and ensure that customers get more, they have recently made two strategic investments for their future: a seven layer co-ex film extruder and a laser scoring machine.

With global markets demanding specialty films and an increased shelf-life for products, there has been a trend towards packaging companies converting to three-layer extruders to produce stronger and more functional film with the right polymers in the right place. While world trends are towards high barrier films and superior moisture vapour, five-layer machines can’t do laminates and high barrier films at the same time. However, the new seven-layer co-ex, the first in sub-Saharan Africa and the most advanced machine of its kind in Africa, allows Nampak Flexible to manufacture to world-class standards on high barrier films.
While wanting to drive pouch and liquid bag developments in Africa, the initial investment in the Windmöller & Hölscher co-ex film extruder was motivated by Nampak Flexible reaching capacity in its production of traditional three-layer co-ex film and having to contract work out. A further consideration behind acquiring the co-ex for the NP Flexible plant in Pinetown is that it produces at a rate of 550kgs per hour with an exceptionally high precision of gauge control.

The Pinetown plant had to be physically modified to accommodate the towering 18 metre tall machine. The height is to ensure that polymers, that are 200° Celsius when leaving the extractor, can cool down by the time it reaches the apex of the machine. The machine started production on time and within budget in the first week of December 2012.

Meat and cheese products are currently packaged in seven-layer packaging but till today all of this material has had to be imported. Nampak Flexible is the first company to produce seven-layer packaging in South Africa and the use of EVOH and nylon prevents any ingress of moisture and oxygen, which can increase the shelf life of the product from 2-3 days to up to 6 weeks, depending on several variables. This can be hugely beneficial in African countries where refrigeration is an issue.

The seven-layer extruder can use high barrier film which is more environmentally friendly. This barrier film is more recyclable than the existing multi-layered barrier structures currently posing a challenge for the waste separation streams. In addition, the gauge of the film can be optimized to provide more even, high quality packaging.

The second strategic investment made by Nampak Flexible is in a Micro Laser Perforation System, which allows for easy opening of pouches, stick-packs and sachets. Easy opening goes to the root of packaging functionality and is an enhanced product feature that allows for the opening of a packaging without any tools. Flexible packaging film structures vary dependent on the product requirements and the complexity of these structures often makes ease of opening a challenge. The introduction of laser perforation and scribing helps address this problem.

This patented micro laser perforation system can puncture up to 1.000.000 holes/second with a hole diameter from 50µm ->–300µm. The laser technology ensures a non-contact processing tool with minimum thermal influence on the film. There is also constant depth of laser on the scribing/scoring line and scoring may be set to however many layers are required e.g. two layers for a four layer laminate, without damaging the barrier of the packaging structure.

Clinton Farndell, MD of Nampak Flexible, says, “These two investments by Nampak Flexible in new technology, open up huge possibilities within the flexible packaging industry in South Africa and ensure opportunities for growth across Africa.” Back to top ^