By Maria Pilar Clark
Although most of the equipment used to produce new packaging remains the same, modifications to improve productivity have been made.
By responding to industry trends, Toray Plastics (America), Inc. has become a leading manufacturer of polyester and polypropylene films used in packaging, graphic, industrial and magnetic applications. The company also is the only United States-based domestic producer of both polypropylene and polyester films and it offers many film solutions that can solve even the most challenging design issues. In addition, Toray is ready to handle current trends in packaging.
“There are three important trends,” explains Eric Bartholomay, product development manager. “The first is a trend to use thinner films wherever possible. The concept is to have thinner films that perform as well as or better than thicker products and that offer a lower cost per MSI. Two examples would be to use a 45G metallized OPP (polypropylene) instead of a 50-gauge, or to use a 36G PET (polyester) film instead of 48-gauge.”  
Increased functionalization in films is another growing trend. Bartholomay cites as an example the development of films that are printed for ink adhesion on one side and that are tack sealable on the other.
“Another important ongoing development trend is to produce higher clear barrier films,” Bartholomay adds. “This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including modifying the basic polymer to provide higher barriers, vacuum depositing clear high-barrier coatings, and coating the film (either on- or off-line) with new innovative high-barrier coatings.”
As innovation in the field advances, many new materials are being used to provide customers with the latest technology available in packaging materials.
“For functionalization, new polymers are being development that can be co-extruded with classic film polymers,” Bartholomay says. “With barrier coatings as well, there is much development using aluminum and silicon oxides, as well as organics coatings, to provide improved barriers.”
Although much of the equipment used to produce new forms of packaging remains the same, he adds, some modifications have been made to improve productivity.
“Some of the new film laminate designs allow food packagers to slightly modify processing equipment to produce new forms — for example, producing stand-up pouches on a machine originally designed for bags,” he says.
To date, Toray has made significant advancements in the development of films. The company says its capacity to bring polypropylene and polyester innovations to market has grown exponentially. Toray also has invested more than $650 million in its U.S. operation.
The company also recently unveiled a newly redesigned Web site that allows its customers to peruse its “Film Selection Wizard,” a unique new feature that enables all users to quickly identify their preferred film and read about the film’s properties and applications. Updated data sheets also are available.