Equistar Chemicals of Houston is rolling out resins for next-generation MDO films to capitalize on growth in thin films, laminated pouches and labels.
The new materials - first commercialized in late 2005 - include new grades of bimodal high density polyethylene, enhanced linear low density PE and metallocene PE, research specialist Steve Imfeld said at Flexpo 2006, held inGalveston.
Films made via the MDO - machine direction orientation - process have higher strength in a single direction. The 30-year-old process has been used to make films for diapers, hygiene products and tapes.
But Imfeld said there's plenty of life left in the MDO market, especially in ``next-generation'' products that are well-suited for thick films in heavy-duty shipping sacks and other uses.
Stand-up pouches increasingly are being used in food and beverage packaging. They represent about 25 percent of the $4.6 billion North American laminated pouch market, but are growing at an annual rate of 17 percent, said Imfeld, who's based at Equistar's research and development center in Cincinnati.
In thin films, Equistar's new resins provide a balance of stiffness, tear strength, impact strength and clarity for bags, can liners, tags and labels, Imfeld said.
The label market also is seeing explosive 36 percent growth in the shrink sleeve category, which makes up 10 percent of all label sales. Pressure-sensitive labels lead the $12.9 billion North American label field with a 54 percent market share, and they are growing at a 5 percent annual rate.
Imfeld said that Equistar's Cincinnati location has North America's only pilot MDO line. The 12-inch pilot line features a series of rollers and is dedicated to product and structure development. The site also has equipment to do work in blown film, cast film and sheet.