The manufacturers of thermoforming machines have focused their research and product development on better packaging designs, energy efficiency and adaptability of molds.
As their technical expertise advances, the major companies in the industry also say they are committed to reducing their ecological footprint and those of their customers and their customers' customers.
Here are some of the highlights to be presented at the K 2019 show:
Illig Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG (Hall 3, Booth A52) says it has reached a breakthrough in performance with its fourth-generation thermoformer called IC-RDM 76K, which has a new drive system and significantly more closing force. The machine will produce drinking cups made of recycled PET at the K show.
The Heilbronn, Germany-based company will also demonstrate how the cups made of recycled PET can have easily separable paper labels as well as other in-mold labeling (IML) advances, including one designed for recycling plastic-cardboard combination packs.
Illig says it is the only one-stop source supplier of multiple IML thermoforming systems, which are in high demand.
Kiefel GmbH (Hall 3, Booth E90) will launch the next generation of its KMD 78.2 Speed machine, which it says offers higher levels of productivity, process control and intuitive use.
For one improvement, the heating capacity was increased 20 percent, but the Freilassing, Germany-based company says it also managed to reduce energy consumption.
In addition, the latest iteration of the machine can save on film with a newly developed film feed.
WM Thermoforming Machines SA (Hall 16, Booth B3) will show its new Flex series machine for the packaging industry, which the Swiss company says is the first "universal thermoforming machine."
The machine series makes it possible for customers to use their existing molds with the new thermoformers, which saves on technology investments, according to the Stabio-based company.
The first machine in the series was purchased by a toolmaker, who tested different molds provided by WM customers. The results showed the machine is suitable for molds designed for another machine, according to the company.
CMT Materials (Hall 3, Booth G83) of Attleboro, Mass., will be at K 2019 with Hytac-brand syntactic foams and other plug-assist materials. Officials said in a news release that two new Hytac grades "have enjoyed strong market acceptance."
"We continue to see strong growth for copolymer and thermoplastic plug materials, as the global plastics packaging market continues to evolve and grow throughout the world," Managing Director Terry Woldorf said.
Officials added that data-driven studies on the economic impact of plug material selection show that consistency and repeatability can be achieved in thermoforming. Hytac plug assists play a key role by helping processors manage wall thickness variation, reduce starting gauge and improve cycle times, they said.
Increased growth is largely focused in food packaging applications in Europe and Asia, according to Woldorf, with material shifts away from PS to PP and new, multilayer films.
"These more complex polymers require more sophisticated plug assists beyond our traditional customer favorites," he said. "In some cases, there is a requirement for higher friction; in others, it's easier release."
The main driving trends, Woldorf added, are growing popularity in ready-to-eat meals, changing consumer habits and growing disposable income in emerging Asian economies. North American processors also show continued growth in sectors such as large bakery items, tamper-evident clamshells and medical device packages, he said.
"The pace of product and package design is speeding up, with custom formers moving from prototype to production sometimes in less than four weeks," Woldorf added.
CMT will also feature a Hytac copolymer plug assist that's formulated with a friction enhancer to carry plastic deep into a cavity or specialty detail. The grade is easily machined and polished to a mirrorlike finish for scratch-free forming, officials said, and has been optimized for both the machine shop and the thermoforming process.
According to CMT officials, Hytac syntactic foam is used by the majority of toolmakers and thermoforming processors around the world. Thin-gauge thermoformed parts such as drinking cups, coffee capsules, fruit trays, barrier trays, horticultural parts and many more are formed with plug-assisted pre-stretching, they added.