Consumer awareness and the demand for ‘green’ products has been on the rise in recent years. A polylactide (PLA) injection moulding solution with IML decoration saves resources and gives the packaging a premium look. “Visually appealing packaging with IML gets biocompatible,” says Nick Lewis, Beck Automation Americas.
Coffee tastes good when made from an environmentally-friendly coffee capsule. Now it looks good, as well. IML, when combined with PLA material, offers a new way to reposition disposable coffee capsules and to enhance the appearance of the product.
Renewably-sourced, PLA offers a way for customers to better achieve their sustainability goals. Low moisture absorption ensures easier storage and high UV resistance, as well as flame resistance are practical properties for a variety of applications. In general, PLA has good mechanical good properties such as high surface hardness, rigidity, and high modulus of elasticity (tensile strength), but only moderate impact resistance.
American premiere at the NPE 2018 in Orlando
With this increasing demand in mind, Swiss-based Beck Automation set about developing an IML machine for high-quality plastic coffee capsules. The new machine premieres in the US when it is presented to the public at the NPE 2018. Nick Lewis, Beck Automation Americas: “The result is a highly dynamic, precise and operator-friendly machine for IML decoration. This way, the disposable coffee capsules are both more environment friendly and look more premium, too.”
The exhibit at the NPE 2018 trade fair in Orlando is a four-cavity IML machine. The machine architecture shows that machines with much larger numbers of cavities are also possible for higher output rates. For example, in 2016 Beck Automation successfully commissioned several solutions for 32+32 stack molding machines, followed by a 32-cavity IML Single Serve Capsule machine in 2017. Nick Lewis, Beck Automation Americas: “With such small packaging sizes, the challenge lies in label inserting precision, as well as an operator-friendly concept. We are talking about very small labels and ultra-lightweight components with extremely high production volumes.”
Strong global Partners of Beck Automation
The coffee capsules shown are inserted into a four-cavity mold from Fostag Formenbau in Switzerland. Nick Lewis from Beck Automation Americas gives a target cycle time of 6 – 7s.
The Polylactide (PLA) labels are produced by Verstraete, the Belgian IML label specialists. The IML-system also includes a quality assurance module to perform barrier checks from IMDvista. This turnkey option opens a high level of quality and improved added value. A high-precision and fast Netstal ELION 1200-250/55 serves as the injection-molding system. It is fitted with servo-electric drives for all components and is absolutely clean and quiet in operation. Its compact design, high shot weight precision, rapid closing speed and reproducibility, make it a perfect match for Beck Automation’s IML machines.
In the US, which is a huge market for disposable capsules, the trend towards environmentally friendly products is already well-established. It is more than a trend, which also attracts attention in South America. Suppliers are therefore looking for alternatives to the high quality, yet environmentally problematic aluminium capsules or simple plastic solutions, which are unable to convey the lifestyle aspect of the product. Beck Automation solutions have been very well received by the company’s first customers in the USA and Switzerland. These pilot customers are pleased with the functionality, look and environmental performance of the capsules, which they believe suit market demands. The output of a high-performance IML machine from Beck Automation also enhances added value.