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DuPont invests in packaging development lab

November 30, 2012

CHICAGO (Nov. 30, 1:45 p.m. ET) — DuPont Co. is adding new equipment to its Packaging & Industrial Polymers’ development laboratory, housed at company headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

A pilot-scale, nine-layer blown film line will be up and running by the first quarter of 2013, said Ann Hriciga, DuPont’s global application development manager, in a presentation at Pack Expo 2012, held Oct. 28-31 in Chicago.

The nine-layer line is designed for flexibility and intended for developmental work, not commercial production. It can make film 1 to 10 mils thick and has nine separate extruders, so users have the ability to put nine different materials into a structure. Not all of the extruders are identical – some are tailored for specific materials – but they can be moved around, giving the user the flexibility to run a line of “a-b-c-d one day and d-b-c-a the next day,” she said.

By using the pilot-scale line, customers can test out different structures quickly and use less material, she said.

“For our customers, it’s always a balancing act of performance, of cost, and, increasingly, sustainability,” Hriciga said.

The development lab aims to help customers prioritize and balance those requirements, whether it’s working with a new polymer, formulating a new compound or designing a new packaging structure.

In addition to the nine-layer line, the lab has a variety of pilot-scale equipment, including a high-pressure autoclave, multi-layer film lines, and downstream equipment that allows customer to try out different packaging structures without interrupting production, she said.

It also houses testing capabilities that are open to customers both when developing new structures and when problems arise. If a company has a DuPont material as part of their structure, DuPont will help them understand what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again, Hriciga said.

DuPont has used modeling tools to address packaging problems for more than 20 years. The company traditionally ran the programs in-house and shared results with customers, but it’s now offering more and more of them online, she said.

For example, DuPont customers can use online applications to evaluate sealants and tie resins, she said.

Along with its development programs, DuPont used Pack Expo to highlight the company’s focus on global challenges, namely food safety and shortages, increasing energy demand, and the need to keep people and the environment safe.

“It’s vital for people around the world to be healthier and safer,” she said. “We think we have some strong reasons to focus on delivering that.”

DuPont has a hand in many areas, including chemistry, material science and biology, so it can quickly put people in different functions together to come up with innovations and solutions, she said.

Tackling a major challenge like feeding the world requires focusing on every aspect of the issue, from seeding planting to packaging, she said.

In DuPont’s case, that includes developing disease-resistant strains of grain, developing food ingredients that make people healthier – like salmon that have been fed Omega 3 oils to give their meat more protein – and working with local value chains to ensure that food can make it market without spoiling, she said.