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Multilayer films 2005

Rapra International Conference
8th-9th November 2005, Brussels Belgium


Multilayer film applications

Plastics films are used in the broadest range of end-uses and activities. In general, the largest industrial uses of plastics films are in packaging, and in decreasing order from the more commodity to more specialty, building construction, agriculture, consumer goods, automobile, medical and hygiene, electrical/ electronics and many other industries of lesser volume importance.

Packaging demand for films, present and future, is to continue being fuelled by the already strong base, the fast developing “rest of the world”, the growing preference for flexible packaging over rigid, with sachets, pouches, and stand-up flexible presentations, and the constant innovations and launching of new and clever materials and solutions. Films certainly are the most alive activity in the plastics industry.

In general, for most films, the main end-using industry is packaging. However, the other end-uses may be quite important for some films, like, magnetics, optics, telectronics for PET, consumer goods, medical for PVC, automobile and construction for PVB.

In packaging applications, in earlier days, the very first flexible multilayers, with paper and foil, were developed for biscuit and butter, back in the thirties. Then the concept developed for all sorts of packaged foods, in parallel with the development of self-service stores and super markets, starting in Europe in the sixties, and, later on, in the eighties/nineties, with the overwhelming change brought by ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook prepared foods.

High barrier films are used for CAP, controlled atmosphere packaging, MAP, modified atmosphere packaging, for all kinds of longer shelf life packaging under gas flush.

The coextruded barrier films, the dominating and still fastest growing segment at the moment, are used in:

  • Bag - in - box for wines, fruit juices, milk, tomato paste, medical products, from 2 to 1 000 liters.
  • Wrap for processed meat, delicatessen packaging
  • Packages for the keeping and aging of cheese
  • Controlled atmosphere flush packs for supermarket fresh meat cuts.

The true success for barriers in the association of a shallow tray and a barrier lid film came from the tremendous success of prepared dishes, with the concept of single portions, microwaveable. A number of segments have thus appeared, along these main lines:

  • Shelf stable, 3 months to one year, high barrier plastics using PP/EVOH or CPET/EVOH.
  • Chilled dishes in trays of HDPE, PP, CPET, with or without barrier.
  • Chilled dishes either in pouches of barrier films, high or medium barrier, put into a carton, or in thermoformed trays. The chilled dishes, now the most popular presentation for prepared recipes, can either be pasteurized or vacuum cooked.
  • “Fifth generation” of cooked vegetables, with a shelf life of 10-12 days.
  • And many others…
Metallized flexible films are a niche of their own

The total market for metallized films is estimated at 25 billion m² worldwide in 2005, or 500 000 tons of metallized films, paper and other materials, with at least 80 % of plastics films in this total.

The range of the main applications, those that together account for 80% of the total consumption of metallized films is very narrow, compared to the much broader variety of the other multilayer film applications.

Both in the case of the metallized PET film and of the metallized OPP film, there only are three or four major applications, all in foods and beverages (labels), namely:

Metallized PET: Coffee, frozen foods, powder and dehydrated foods
Metallized OPP: Snacks, chips, confectionery
Metallized OPA: Fresh foods, processed fish
Metallized PVC: Sweet package twisting, decorative paper

There are no real large volume new applications for metallized films, the growth of consumption has been fueled both by the intrinsic growth of the products put into metallized films, and most importantly, by the replacement of aluminium foil and other flexible materials.

Metallized PET films are mostly used for barrier, eventually combined by the marketing appeal of gloss, and metallized OPP is mostly used for marketing lower cost reasons. The outlook for growth of metallized films is definitely optimistic, and particularly for metallized PET films. The expected average annual growth ranges from 5% to 10%, in all cases faster than the general growth rate for flexible packaging films.

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