OPENLab: The place to share. Sustainable steps towards the future.

In occasion of the 2022 Earth Day, IMA Group officially launches OPENLab: our network of technological laboratories and testing areas, dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies and production optimisation processes.

IMA has been prioritising Sustainable Development since many years, with the publication of a sustainability report that the Company started to release annually many years ago, which includes the best practices already in place, plus those that are being developed. The Group strongly commits to reducing its environmental impact in industrial manufacturing and to implementing its sustainable steps towards the future.

On the 22nd of April, in occasion of Earth Day, the Group officially launches OPENLab: IMA’s network of cutting-edge technological laboratories and testing areas, dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies and production optimisation processes.

OPENLab represents a concrete part of the Company’s IMA ZERO project and it is part of the NoP Program (No-Plastic Program) that is one of the four categories in which the IMA ZERO project is declined. IMA ZERO is the evolution of IMA’s commitment to Sustainable Development: its ultimate goal is to minimise environmental impact in industrial manufacturing, while promoting and creating a working and living habitat that always puts people and biodiversity at the centre.

Whether they are recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, paper-based materials or ultra-thin films, OPENLab analyses and finds innovative new solutions before they even hit the market, offering to customers innovative solutions ready to be tested on specific packaging lines.

Thanks to the implementation of the most modern digital infrastructures, together with think tank spaces, environments dedicated to the generation of ideas and the prototyping of materials, the Group aims at building a connection between knowledge and skills coming from machines, packaging manufacturing and customers. Moreover, thanks to this project, IMA intends to boost its support towards the territory, increasing its economic attractiveness and developing research projects and collaborations with private and public entities, universities and multinationals in the sector.

OPENLab’s goal is to merge studies, experimentation and industrial development activities on materials including all laboratory phases, from design to engineering, of products and processes. A service offered to customers and partners of the Group in all the business sectors served by the company (pharmaceutical, food, dairy, baby food, coffee, tea & herbs, tissue & nonwoven, cosmetics, and so on).
The program includes the on-site material testing on dedicated machines under the supervision of Group engineers and researchers, not to interrupt the customer’s production cycle, simulate real manufacturing conditions, avoiding costs related to production stoppages.

The team

OPENLab’s team of experts has a specific background in materials, machines and packaging processes; a trained staff is constantly dedicated to the activities of the Laboratories, supporting tests and trials.

They are able to help customers to test new materials directly on the machines dedicated to this activity and constantly available in the different testing areas.

Moreover, this excellent staff with all-round skills and experience can study and evaluate any technical failures that prevent materials being used correctly on the packaging machine. Whether it is a different material composition or a mechanical failure, the team is able to make a diagnosis and restore optimum performance accordingly.

The numbers

Thanks to OPENLab, over 3.800 film structures were analysed and over 400 films tested in the period 2017-2021: with these figures, IMA Group has its sights set on the future. The goal is to create a powerful database containing compositions and performances of all materials in relation to different machines.

Operational sites – OPENLab has 4 operational sites:

OPENLab Bologna (IT)

OPENLab Bologna is a laboratory dedicated to research and testing with an area of 100 m².

Built with green building materials and equipped with the latest digital infrastructures, the Lab is located at the headquarter premises in Ozzano dell’Emilia (Bologna, Italy). In this way and thanks to the geographical proximity of most of the production sites of various IMA divisions, it is possible to quickly perform tests on dedicated machines on site, facilitating the whole network and analysis process.

Not only does the Lab conduct the entire experimentation process under the guidance and supervision of skilled engineers as well as researchers from IMA Group, but it can also offer laboratory analysis and production tests that simulate real-life conditions. Such service leads to avoid the interruption of customers’ production cycle and costly mistakes. 

OPENLab Lugano (CH)

With over 400 m² of total surface, OPENLab Lugano is equipped with an analytical lab integrated into a testing area/show room. 

In the testing area, different horizontal form fill seal machines are available (rotative, Long Dwell, D Cam, Box motion etc.), which are fully dedicated to conduct tests and supervised by skilled IMA technicians. In particular, they are available for internal experts’ activities such as prototyping, R&D and technological innovation; for clients, to perform tests on new materials or new upgrades; for packaging producers, to carry out processability tests on new packs before entering the market.

The laboratory also has a dedicated showroom area, where the newest machine models and technical developments are displayed to allow clients to find out more about IMA’s latest solutions.

OPENLab Arezzo (IT)

OPENLab Arezzo boasts a test area of 200 m², where vertical form fill seal lines are available both for internal analysis and for customers’ tests.

Further to this area, the OPENLab is also equipped with a 50 m² cold room test area (minimum temperature 0°C product continuous feed), where IMA’s experts carry out tests on machines at very low temperatures. This area is extremely important to examine whether the machines are suitable for particularly cold environments or when dealing with frozen products.

OPENLab Lowell (USA)

The OPENLab in Lowell is still work in progress, but it will be characterised by a strong focus on the USA market. It will be equipped with a lab and a test area.

The laboratory will aim at finding new sustainable materials that will be specifically suitable for the American market, thereby guiding IMA’s partners towards materials’ evolution.

The testing area will allow the experts to find the perfect combination between materials and machines, intended to obtain the best possible performance. Not only internal operators, but also customers and partners will be able to perform tests on machines in such area.

Through OPENLab’s studies and research, IMA had the opportunity to build remarkable partnerships. The Company collaborated with important film and sustainable materials’ producers, such as Les Crudettes and Mondi, but also with fundamental players in the coffee market such as Caffè Borbone and NatureWorks for the development of compostable pods, or with Colussi Group, Sacchital, Novamont, Ticinoplast and SAES Coated for the development of an innovative compostable packaging, and many more.

OPENLab is definitely the best place to network, where new ideas and projects about sustainable solutions take shape and bring us closer and closer to a common goal.

Written by Dominy Jones