Ball Corp. has high expectations for the Gamma-Clear technology that it acquired in 2006, as part of its purchase of Alcan Packaging.
The technology allows Ball to make multilayer hot-fill oriented polypropylene bottles that are nearly as clear as glass - a big plus that allows the company to target products like tomato and pasta sauces.
At K 2007 in Dusseldorf, one of Ball's long-time partners, Kortec Inc., revealed some significant news related to Gamma-Clear:
* First, that Broomfield, Colo.-based Ball is preparing to make a big investment in preform injection molding in 2008. The project will significantly expand Ball's efforts to make hot-fill OPP bottles.
* Second, that Kortec now has the rights to license the Gamma-Clear technology worldwide - although Ball still has the exclusive rights in North America.
Ball revealed a few details about its plans after the show. Jennifer Hoover, Ball's manager of marketing communication, said the company will make a significant investment in Husky injection molding presses equipped with Kortec's turnkey cells for making multilayer preforms.
The presses will be Ball's first for making injection stretch blow molded OPP containers. That's because when Ball acquired Gamma-Clear from Alcan, the technology used extrusion blow molding.
``We have a couple of small commercial applications now, for soup and tomato sauces,'' Hoover said in a Nov. 13 telephone interview. ``A main target is pasta sauces and that type of thing that require higher hot-fill temperatures than we can reach with PET.''
She said that when Ball acquired the Gamma-Clear technology, it set about looking for ways to make it better. Ball turned to Ipswich, Mass.-based Kortec, which already supplied Ball with equipment for making multilayer PET preforms.
Ball picked Kortec for the project in part because it has the expertise to make equipment capable of producing large-scale quantities of preforms.
The majority of Ball's plastic container business is making carbonated soft drink bottles for companies like PepsiCo Inc. Hoover said Ball is excited about the opportunity to push into new markets for custom OPP containers.
Hoover declined to say how many lines Ball is buying to make the hot-fill OPP bottles, or how much money the company is investing in the project.
Kortec, meanwhile, is excited about offering Gamma-Clear to its global customers.
``The marketplace is looking for a glass replacement for food products like sauces and pickles that require a higher temperature for filling than PET,'' said Scott Ludwig, Kortec's business development manager, in an interview at K 2007.
Kortec already has a global customer list, including firms in China, Japan, South Korea, European countries, Africa and Latin America.
Ludwig said Kortec's coinjection systems for making PP preforms is similar to its systems for making PET containers. One critical factor with PP, he said, is the ability to ensure that the barrier layer is distributed throughout the finished bottle, especially on the bottom.
Kortec expects initial high-output systems to be up to 48 cavities for wide-neck (63-70 millimeter) containers, such as 26-ounce packages for tomato sauces. However, it can offer systems with up to 144 cavities to make narrow-neck containers, such as 8-ounce retort packages for dairy-based drinks.
John Kermet, vice president for sales and marketing at Kortec, pointed out that Ball was Kortec's very first customer, back in 1999.
``They showed confidence in our technology back then by purchasing the first 48-cavity multilayer coinjection system for PET preforms,'' he said in a news release unveiled at K 2007. ``Now, they have shown confidence in us again, and we expect that we will be producing OPP multilayer systems for many years to come.''