It's a Holy Grail of plastics: Clear, coinjection molded containers to replace metal cans, the common “tin can” produced by the billions each year.
You can see it in action at NPE 2015: The Klear Can from Milacron LLC, at Booth W2703. And when Klear Cans finally appear on grocery shelves, you'll be able to see the food inside, too.
“The simple ‘wow factor' is being able to see the food inside the can and to see how bright and fresh it looks,” said Russell Bennett, Milacron's director of sales and marketing for coinjection systems.
In other barrier-injection-molding news for NPE 2015, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. will introduce its in-house designed coinjection molded PET preform — although Husky will not display a machine in Orlando. Husky is at Booth W2117.
Milacron LLC introduced the multilayer Klear Can 10 months ago in Germany, showing samples at the Interpack trade show. But NPE 2015 marks the first time Milacron has ever molded Klear Cans at a trade fair.
“We'll be showing a complete production line for manufacturing the Klear Can,” Bennett said. A robot will remove the parts, and Milacron is setting up a device that views the barrier layer inside the container.
Milacron will be molding the Klear Cans on a Ferromatik Milacron press with 280 tons of clamping force, running a four-cavity mold on less than an eight-second cycle. The cold half of the mold was built by StackTeck Systems Ltd.
Klear Can was developed by Kortec Inc., which Milacron acquired in early 2014. Milacron also owns Mold-Masters, the hot runner manufacturer, as well as DME mold bases and components.
That diversity gives Milacron a strong position, according to Steve Morris, vice president of coinjection systems. The company can support new product development engineering, he said.
“We have a totally dedicated team for meeting our customers' needs, both technically and economically,” Morris said.
Morris said Milacron has more than 90 barrier-molding presses in the field, 70 of them for making PET containers. Applications include preforms, thin-wall packaging, medical and products for laboratory testing. Ferromatik Milacron has expertise in rotating-cube molding technology, he said.
The straight-sided Klear Can is designed to run on metal-can filling equipment. The plastic cans have the integrity of the double-seam, to allow the can's flange to accept traditional metal can lids.
Shelf-stable metal cans are an enticing market: Bennett said 50 billion food cans are used every year around the world, holding everything from green beans to fruit to peas to soup to baked beans. SpaghettiOs. Pears. Spam. (OK maybe not Spam.)
Bennett said Klear Can meets the two-to-three-year life the packaged food market wants.
The barrier layer goes 360 degrees around the can, including across the base to the flange. The barrier layer is less than 0.001-inch thick.
“You've got 100 percent of the can covered by the barrier material,” Bennett said.
Bennett said Milacron has made 20,000 Klear Cans at Kortec's facility in Rowley, Mass., for testing and evaluation by food manufacturers, fillers and packaging makers. Seven brand owners are studying the can — six making people food and one that makes pet food.
The brand owners have done market research on the see-though cans, he said.
“They tell us their customers want to see the quality of the products before they buy it,” Bennett said. “What the brand owner wants is to really show that quality.”
Of course, Milacron will show many other technologies at its 25,000-square-foot booth.
At NPE 2015, the Cincinnati company is unveiling its new logo and integrated product portfolio.
Coinjection molding plays a key role in that integrated portfolio, said Milacron's Chief Technology Officer, Bruce Catoen.
“The technology can be applied to injection molding and blow molding applications,” Catoen said. Coinjection, barrier-layer expertise “allows us to custom engineer a solution for a customers' application,” he said.
One early blow molding example is the partnership between Uniloy Milacron and mold supplier Big 3 Precision Products Inc. The companies are developing hot runner and coinjection technology for the injection blow molding segment.
Catoen said the Klear Can is a great product to prove Milacron's expertise — since the material is demanding to mold into the can, and the tough requirements for the high-speed canning industry.
Husky introduces barrier solution