Friday, April 12, 2024

Biaxially oriented film – a journey from manual adjustments to digital precision

10th Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2023

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Sanjay Chincholikar, business head, technical films and rigid packaging, Cosmo Films, at the ElitePlus 2023 Conference. Photo: The Packman

During a panel discussion about disruptive technologies on the second day of the ElitePlus conference, Sanjay Chincholikar, business head, technical films and rigid packaging, Cosmo Films, shared his extensive experience in the biaxially oriented film industry, spanning nearly 37 years, beginning with the inception of the first polyester line in 1960. He reminisced about the early days when the line was a modest three meters wide, producing a meager 150 to 200 kilos per hour. Fast-forward to today, significant progress has been made, with the industry achieving an impressive output of up to 10 tonnes per hour, reaching speeds of 600 meters. Remarkably, 10.5-meter machines are currently in operation, and they are in the process of collaborating with partners to develop the world’s largest 12-meter line, a remarkable feat indeed.

Chincholikar attributed these advancements in the packaging film industry to its evolution. As packaging film shifted into a commodity in the late 1990s, the demand for wider lines and increased speed grew. Consequently, the focus shifted to productivity, prompting innovations in various aspects of the industry.

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He emphasized that when people typically think of disruption, it often carries a negative connotation, suggesting disturbances or impending problems. However, he pointed out that disruption has also been a catalyst for innovation in their field. Technological advancements have significantly improved productivity and efficiency. Modern design has evolved from merely controlling machine parameters to a more comprehensive process control approach.

Chincholikar illustrated this point by discussing film temperature regulation. In the past, manual adjustments to machine parameters were necessary to achieve the desired film temperature, resulting in variable quality due to seasonal temperature fluctuations. Today, technology enables precise control of parameters such as film temperature, ensuring consistent quality.

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Moreover, dosing and feeding systems, as well as thickness control systems, have become exceptionally reliable, eliminating the need for manual measurements of film thickness, which used to involve checking nearly 100 points on a 6-meter array. Quality, efficiency, and productivity have undergone a significant transformation.

Chincholikar highlighted the fortunate aspect that most machines can be upgraded and modified to keep up with these advancements, ensuring that the industry remains at the forefront. Looking ahead, he emphasized that the future of the industry revolves around artificial intelligence and machine learning. Processes are becoming increasingly streamlined, safety measures are on the rise, and both product reliability and quality are improving, making digitization the next frontier.

However, as machines become wider and production output increases, the design of these machines must be exceptionally robust. This underscores the importance of involving engineers, not limited to digital experts alone, in overseeing manufacturing processes.

Shifting focus to products, within the realm of biaxial orientation, Chincholikar noted that traditionally there are typically three main types – BOPP (Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene), polyester, and nylon films. Chincholikar expressed his belief that in the near future, through collaborative efforts between equipment manufacturers and raw material producers, HDPE-based BOPP will gain prominence. This shift is primarily driven by sustainability considerations, circular economy principles, and the market’s preference for monolayer structures. Consequently, approximately 40 to 50% of applications are likely to transition to HDPE-based BOPP. Simultaneously, equipment manufacturers will ensure that their machines are versatile enough to handle both polypropylene and polyethylene, adapting to the evolving industry landscape.

Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika has served as the Editor of The Packman since 2017, demonstrating an impressive decade-long expertise in the field of writing about the printing and packaging industry. In his leisure time, he indulges in his passions for music, travel, and watching movies.

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