Hong Kong-based injection molder Viva Group churns out more than 2 billion optical-media cases a year at factories around the world, and by its own estimates, has a significant share of the U.S. market for those CD and DVD packages.
Now, it hopes to turn that experience in mass production and plastics in a new direction: The company said it has developed a new way to injection mold personal-care packaging tubes and decorate them with in-mold labeling, rather than the traditional extrusion and printing process.
The company, which has 400 injection presses in factories in Hong Kong, mainland China, Canada and Poland, is investing in molds and new equipment for the tubes at its factories in Hong Kong and Toronto, and plans to start production in March.
The process is less complicated than extruded tubes, said Alfred Choi, general manager of Viva Healthcare Packaging (HK) Ltd., the company's subsidiary for the tube project. He was interviewed at the CosmoProf Asia show, held Nov. 10-12 in Hong Kong.
We have always been looking for opportunities in the health-care market, he said. The company also hopes to market the tubes in the cosmetics industry and other markets, he said.
Viva has worked for about a year on the process of molding the tubes with in-mold labeling, Choi said, and believes it will have advantages in both package appearance and manufacturing flexibility. He said the company believes it is the first to use in-mold labeling in a molded tube.
According to Viva, in-mold labeling is more reliable than the offset printing process used on extruded tubes, and injection molding allows for faster changes of production runs. Shorter runs could lead to smaller runs and faster lead times, and eliminates separate printing steps since the tube can emerge from the molding machine fully decorated, he said.
As an injection molder, we just change the designs very quickly, we just change the mold, he said. I don't think [extrusion firms] can change the design so quickly.
All of the parts the tube, cap and printed label can be made from polypropylene, also potentially making the final product more recyclable than an extruded tube, Choi said.
He declined to detail the investments the firm will make to set up production for the tubes. He said the product is not commercialized yet, but the company plans to produce it in several standard sizes.
Privately owned Viva was started in 1973 in Hong Kong and employs 2,000 around the world. Its global sales are $330 million, and its largest production base is in Toronto, Choi said.
In addition to its presence in the North American optical-media market, the company claims about 50 percent of the market for optical-media cases in Europe, he said.