AWA Sleeve Conference

Rosemont, IL | Some say we simply have too many conferences serving converters, which may be responsible to some degree for reported downward trends in a number of registered conference attendances. So could it have been the surprise entrance of good weather that drew nearly 150 delegates to AWA Alexander Watson Assoc.’s most recent conference? Or could it have been the exciting and popular destination of booming Rosemont, IL, on the perfect dates of May 12—14? My guess—and the attendance figures tend to support—that what drew curious interest was the subject matter: Shrink Sleeve Labels.

Global label demand in 2007 for the total worldwide market is at 40,900 million sq meters, Dr. Bill Llewelyn reported. Broken out individually, label technologies comprise 49.9% as glue-applied; 39.1% is pressure-sensitive; 7.9% is sleeving technology; 1.7% is in-mold label; and 1.3% is other types of labeling technologies.

By comparison, global sleeve label demand in 2007 was at 3,250 million sq meters (13.2% was roll-on shrink-on (ROSO); 19.1% was stretch sleeve; and 67.7% was for heat shrink sleeve labels). Llewelyn defines the following sleeve trends: slowing growth in developed North American and European markets; a focus in Europe, Japan, and Korea on environmentally sympathetic materials; rapid growth of shrink sleeve systems in South America, China, and Indian markets; an initial sign of commoditization in developed markets; and increasing numbers of sleeve label converters.

As for developments in the future, Llewelyn predicts improving labeling speeds; low cost, low quality developments in surface print of tubular materials, particularly in China and India; applications involving pasteurization; thinner films; higher levels of shrinkage; new label materials for heat shrink sleeves will include PLA, COC, TPE, and S-PET; and improved shrinkage in PP film offering for ROSO.

Challenges for sleeving technology will include recycling of sleeve labeled containers; the development of PLA; increasing numbers of sleeve label converters; and competition from alternative label formats.

The conference included a comprehensive workshop on sleeve labels and labeling prior to the conference, led by Gary Gates, CEO of Gates Packaging Consulting Services, and a full program of 20 presentations addressing critical aspects that included markets, materials, printing, finishing/converting, and perspectives on enduses. A table-top mini-exhibition was complemented by cocktail receptions hosted by Eastman prior to the first day and Omet at the closing of day one, a luncheon on the first day hosted by Stanford; and a lunch box and facility visit to Visual Pak Co. hosted by Comco upon the conclusion of the event.

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