Riding the Technology Wave

The technology wave of development and/or acceptance doesn't always come from Europe to North America, although it often seems much does come from that direction. Certainly, we're creative enough here, in the US particularly, to force more than the occasional reverse technology tide. My belief is that sometimes it just depends on the level of pain we feel on either side of the big pond to force new developments.

We certainly don't have to look far back into North American converting history to find it is littered with inventiveness and ingenuity on practically all levels. But in part, the luxury of cheaper energy (in comparison to that of all Europe, though the US is “finally” catching up) and largely open physical space has granted us an advantage that actually sometimes works against us when it comes to creativity.

It's that pain factor again that early on pushed Europeans to find less wasteful (to reduce energy costs), more environmentally friendly products (because of fewer landfills per capita as well as more congested land space generating greater air pollution).

It didn't take long for North America — and now Eastern Europe is also following the wave — to catch on because we're all connected on this Mother Earth ship despite our distances. As well, the US developed its own set of peculiar environmental problems as the world's largest economy, perhaps heightened by our awareness of European difficulties and regulatory mandates.

This month's issue has a European focus that highlights trends we may discover will migrate west once again. For example, while the first injection in-mold label was developed by Cerbo (Sweden) in the 1970s, the US almost simultaneously developed blow-molded IML for bottles with Procter & Gamble as the first commercial user. While our technologies grew separately, largely based on the efficiencies of each technology for the markets they served, adoption in Europe was faster. Executive director Ron Schultz of the In-Mold Decorating Assn. (only recently formed in 2006 here in the US) explains that European injection IML was associated with a higher quality product. Here in the US, product quality was a given, so dry offset-decorated containers — while not as glamorous — were perfectly acceptable.

Our story “Elegance & Speed” on p34, featuring Tadbik Group of Israel, describes the success the company is making in both blow-molded in-mold label and shrink sleeve label technology with the help of a Drent Goebel combination offset/gravure press. President Leslie Gurland of Tadbik's Logotech subsidiary in Fairfield, NJ (one of five Tadbik global subsidiaries), predicts increasing demand in North America, explaining that shrink sleeve is now hitting its stride in North America, but we should be ready “for a surge of interest in in-mold and blow-mold labels” because in Europe and Israel, people are simply “blown away by the look and feel of in-mold labels.” She claims dry-offset simply will “never look good enough again.” She expects the North American market eventually will “catch up with overseas — and consumers are going to love it.”

Gurland may be right, but Schultz states in the US, 85% of in-mold labels are blow molded with only 15% being injection molded. Europe runs approximately 97% injection with only 3% for blow mold, largely because runs are so short and efficiencies for injection simply make “dollars and cents” sense. Who knows what twist on technology in North America may occur to make her prediction a reality.

Another repeat exclusive performance by PFFC contributor Stan Sacharow reports on European converting on p38. Featured on this month's cover, the new Cyclero flexible stand-up pouch, converted by Huhtamaki Ronsberg in Germany, may represent the newest wave of technology to make its way west (and east). Winner of the 2007 German Packaging Award, the round flexible package reportedly has considerably less environmental impact than returnable bottles and aluminum or tin cans. But to learn more on the European technology trends, see Stan's observations on p42.

My friends call me…

What do you see as the next new technology wave? Write to me at yolanda.simonsis@penton.com.


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