PouchLab Turns Two: Results and Future Goals

PouchLab is a R&D Excellence Centre set up by Volpak in 2019 to support customers and partners in optimizing their flexible packaging solutions. In the past two years, this area has been a hub for different companies in developing sustainable pouch solutions, combining knowledge and experience in machine and materials.

Several machines are currently producing recyclable pouches (paper, mono-material) using Volpak equipment and the company aims to raise this number more and more.

How to design a waste-free future together with customers

Volpak, a Coesia company, in the past years has put strong efforts in developing solutions complying with the upcoming worldwide regulations, which aim to reduce the waste and the carbon footprint of packaging processes. This was possible also thanks to the support of the “Coesia Centre of Expertise Sustainability”, which was set up to centralize data gathering, support green strategy setting and accelerate existing initiatives across Coesia companies, such as the creation of the PouchLab. The Lab has been fully operational since June 2019 and has proved to be a key asset in partnering with key customers and suppliers to co-develop new packaging solutions.

PouchLab: who is it for?

PouchLab is dedicated to brand owners who need to set standards for their packaging, aiming to optimize the package size, need to consider downgauging packaging or aim to explore new materials for their products. The Lab is also meant for those industry players who need to compare the behavior of different structures, test machinability, double check the performance of their film, develop new sustainable solutions or new re-closable features for flexible packaging. The structure is a strong asset not just for Volpak customers, but also for manufacturers of film converters, caps and zippers, technological centers and raw material suppliers, who could take advantage from the numerous/variety of possibilities that are offered by the lab.

PouchLab: where is it and how can it be used?

The laboratory is located in a special area within Volpak premises, which ensures maximum confidentiality and dedicated closed boxes for material storage. The area hosts a state of the art pouch-forming machine, based on HFFS technology, and complete testing equipment, which customers can rent and use at their discretion to analyze their material, make pouches and test their quality. All takes place in a controlled environment, which also relies on Volpask’s technical expertise, since the company further supports users thanks to its long-standing experience and unique know-how in pouch processing and machinability of packaging materials.

Inside the PouchLab: how is it made?

The pouch-forming equipment provided by PouchLab, namely a new generation HFFS machine, serves for both flat and stand up pouches. Customers can control and monitor seal temperature, seal pressure and seal time, while also supervising film tension and monitoring film elongation throughout the whole machine process. Other tools provided by this area include an electrostatic charge measure tool, which can measure any material with utmost accuracy and calculate its electrostatic charge, a stress test machine, to obtain clear, accurate and manageable information about pouch stress resistance, a high speed camera to investigate the root cause of any issue, and a powerful microscope to analyze seal quality.  A 3d printer is also used for rapid prototyping the parts to be tested.

The first two years of PouchLab: trends and achieved results

During the last two years, there has been a general improvement of tested products; films are becoming much better, showing a positive evolution of their physical properties and better functioning on the machines. This is due to a substantial improvement in the processes adopted by suppliers and converters already with full PE film that behave very well in terms of sealability, mechanical properties, and spout application. Today, beside Paper structures, the industry is heading towards Full-PE and Full-PP films. Future challenge will be to enhance their performance and barrier properties.

Regarding sustainability and full Paper materials, PouchLab also played a primary role in developing the sealing process for a full paper recyclable stand up pouch we can now find in the market place currently produced on Volpak equipment.

The challenges

Many challenges still need to be addressed between all stakeholders in the pouching industry in their path towards a complete offering of sustainable solutions in all market segments and applications, but thanks to the research and technological centers like PouchLab, still the industry is well in advance the existing infrastructures of recyclable streams, and the consumer compromise and behavior for a sustainable world.

For more information go to www.volpak.com.

Written by Kevin Gambrill