The life of a tomato is not an easy one. Between the salads and sauces, it's hard to find any quality time.
But it's getting a little easier, thanks to Nova Chemicals, which has commercialized its UPES-brand additive resin in fresh produce trays made by thermoformer Tray-Pak Corp.
UPES is a polyethylene/polystyrene material that's made via Nova's patented Qinnex-brand technology. The material broadens the processing window of polymer systems and is easier to process than copolymer materials, according to Shelly Martel, UPES global business director.
Reading, Pa.-based Tray-Pak was looking for a way to improve its high density PE produce trays, which were experiencing warpage, inefficient processing and poor material distribution.
We were struggling with warpage and low production rates, said Kevin Gramley, Tray-Pak's executive vice president of sales and marketing. UPES answers a lot of key questions for us. We were able to reduce thickness and offer cost reductions to our customers.
Trays made using UPES in combination with standard HDPE were formed 33 percent faster, with enhanced part definition, shorter startups and reduced scrap rates, officials said. Using UPES also allowed for 20 percent material reduction and more-efficient machine usage, without increasing costs to customers.
Using thinner-gauge sheet for the trays also makes the product more sustainable, Martel said by phone Aug. 10.
Downgauging allows you to get more sheets on a truck, so you're shipping less and using less material and less energy, she said.
Tray-Pak produce trays using UPES already are available. Tray-Pak will have a second UPES product an institutional food tray for nursing homes and hospitals available by the end of the year.
Tray-Pak is always looking at alternate materials, and UPES was one of the more attractive ones we looked at, Gramley said.
The sheet used to make the produce trays was supplied by Richmond, Ind.-based Primex Corp.'s plant in Garfield, N.J.
Nova is based Pittsburgh, where it operates a large facility. UPES is made at a Nova production site in Monaca, Pa. Production this year is expected to be between 1 million and 2 million pounds.
Future application opportunities for UPES include film and foam products, officials said. Qinnex technology used to make UPES also is used in Nova's Arcel-brand PE/PS interpolymer, which has been sold into foam applications.
Tray-Pak employs about 300 at its facility in Reading, where the firm operates 44 thermoforming lines in nearly 200,000 square feet of space. Private equity firm Archbrook Capital Management LLC of West Conshocken, Pa., acquired a majority stake in Tray-Pak in late 2009. Tray-Pak doesn't disclose annual sales figures.
Food-oriented products, including bakery trays, are one of the largest end markets for Tray-Pak, which was founded in 1975.