The traditional joint meeting of members from Australian Institute of Packaging [AIP] and the Technical association for the pulp and paper industry of Australia and New Zealand [APPITA] was held in Melbourne in August this year.
Two presenters were co-opted to bring information about packaging trends that are related to the activities of members belonging to the two special interest groups. A commendable sixty professionals turned out to pay attention to the addresses by Russell Allan of XQ Innovation and Rodney Urquart CEO of CRC Smartprint.
Russell Allan with a solid background in paperboard packaging formed XQ Innovation and has developed technological advanced methods of determining aspects of paper used in packaging that are still somewhat on the dark side.
Allan contends that, although paper as a packaging material has many advantages over other forms of packaging, it suffers from variability in its manufacture and processing into corrugated boxes.
The extent of the strength variability in the paper due to run of mill variation and to the boxes during corrugating and subsequent conversion has the effect of increasing the weight of this packaging component by up to 40% over its strictly necessary weight.
The acceptance of this level of variation by the packaging industry leads to negative commercial and environmental impacts and XQ Innovation can assist both paper manufacturers and converters to make productivity gains.
Shear stiffness of corrugated boxes underpins the opportunities to manufacture and convert paper that is more even in both cross and machine direction.
A number of kaleidoscopic graphs gave stunning evidence of the messages that Russell was delivering. Field research findings debunk the consideration that the paper converted to corrugated fibreboard shippers need the weight that now comes off the machines.
What XQ Innovation findings reveal is that, despite constant paper weight and thickness, the variation in strength of paper and the conversion damage occurring to boxes in their manufacture mean that nearly all boxes do not meet their full performance potential.
By using the company BQM and PQM machines it is possible to determine the strength of the paper as it comes of the machine and also to determine degradation of the corrugated material during box manufacture.
An image showing square metre sections across a sheet of paper gave an indication of the different paper strengths that are able to the calibrated.
The strong square metre compared with the weak by using XQ testing indicates that as much as 25% is added to the cost. [A square metre is typically the face area of paper used to make a standard box]
Variation in strength from a number of manufacturing processes were compared and as often is the case nature wins hands down.
A spider’s web is +/- 0.5% while a corrugated box can be as much as 40% with competitive materials well below. Aluminium and steel range around 1% and polymers in the 5% region.
As Russell Allan said, answering his own question, “why do we accept this variation?” it is all about control of variations in manufacture. He contends that end users and their suppliers accept performance criteria that are not based on any conformance standard.
While the findings of XQ Innovation may be debatable the conclusions to date are obviously beyond the consideration stage as the Intellectual Property rights to develop in-line versions of the instrumentation have been sold to an international instrument maker.
If all have the strength to persevere some significant cost savings in paperboard packaging can be achieved.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Functional Communication Surfaces, also known as the CRC Smartprint, operates its corporate office from Monash University’s Clayton Campus in Victoria.
The Centre engages both local and international students and researchers through its four research nodes - Australian National University, CSIRO (ensis), Monash University and University of Wollongong and is controlled by Rodney Urquhart, CEO
The Centre is engaged in conducting pure and applied research into various aspects of printing; including printable materials, printing processes and materials used within industry.
CRC Smartprint is focused on developing new products and manufacturing processes in the rapidly expanding area of enhanced communication surfaces for the knowledge economy.
In essence Cooperative Research Centres exist to put industry and academia together and after hearing Rod Urquhart’s message there can be no doubt that the CRC Smartprint has achieved the mission.
Again much of the message was delivered with coloured graphs and images, but the results are good.
The exponential growth of digital printing has grounding in the work done by CRC Smartprint and as Rod stated “is taking chunks out of lithography” but is really in its infancy.
Many research activities revolve around new techniques for digital printing, but the traditionalists can take comfort as research into other applications, including lithography is also in train.
De-inking of newsprint is an exciting research program that results in improved separation of the printed inks and paper fibres and also the recovery of separated particulates.
Other innovations being developed are time and temperature indicators as well as freshness and tamper evident sensors all of which will simply be printed onto the package.
Members were told about smart barcodes where it was possible to surcharge a consumer for value adding. The example was bottled wine where it was possible to determine at the point of sale if the consumer had selected a chilled or non-chilled bottle.
Much of the research is locked in commercial in confidence agreements but Rod Urquhart was able to provide enough evidence to prove that the CRC Smartprint has been more than proactive in the years since formation in 2001.
After the question time, the proceedings closed with a gift for the presenters delivered by Llewellyn Stephens National Chairman of AIP. David Vercoe the Victorian Chair of APPITA attended but as just another audience member.