Consumer Wish List Requirements
By Tom Kerchiss, RK Print Coat Instruments
We live in an age of expectation and gratification; we expect our internet to be high speed, we expect the automobiles that we buy to define who we are in the world, whether consciously or sub-consciously, we expect it to be reliable and not let us down. If an automobile, a washing machine or a branded food product lets us down most consumers will make a deliberate decision not to purchase that product again. Competition, especially in a time of economic uncertainty is so great that when a brand disappoints the consumer will turn to a rival product – with scarcely a second thought.
Brand owners work hard to ensure that every element associated with the product and the brand functions effectively and that includes the packaging.
In designing a pack, especially with regard to food packaging many factors need to be considered: the pack must effectively contain and protect; in the design of a good pack, one that flies off the shelf, looks are important but consideration must also be given to what the consumer wants from the pack.
Consumers want product packaging to contain no surprises, they want colour that associates the product with the brand, for quick and easy retail on shelf identification. They want convenience, they want products with the minimal of packaging wrap and they want ease of recyclability.
Of course it’s not always possible for the manufacturer to deliver on all counts, nevertheless packaging professionals, converters and brand owners strive to meet as many wish list requirements as possible.
Consumers also want a range of choices, products contained within the pack should have as long a shelf life as possible; ideally when it comes to products packed in filmic bags, pillow and pouch the consumer would like the packaging to be light/gas impermeable and re-sealable to avoid spillage and wastage. Flexible packaging with high barrier properties that extends product life can be considered as a guarantee of sorts that the product is in optimum condition, a benefit for both retailer and consumer.
Packaging converters, flexographic printers and other supply chain partners need to know what will work and what will not when new products are being developed; they need to know how to overcome processing variables that occur during processes such as laminating. For the most part tying up production machines for conducting trials, testing formulations and for other purposes is commercially unrealistic. Pilot coating, printing and laminating systems such as the Rotary Koater designed and developed by RK Print Coat Instruments is a compact machine that offers a choice of web paths and a selection from almost two dozen interchangeable coating, print and laminating technologies. This speeds product development by enabling users to match the most suitable coating technology, etc., for any particular application or substrate. An additional benefit is that the Rotary Koater is able to undertake small-scale production, in many instances of sensitive or exotic materials.
While filmic substrates provide many advantages including the ability on the part of processors to manufacture economical low wastage single portion pouch products or larger easy to stack pouch with zippers, one must not lose sight of the fact that working with film can be challenging and this is where quality control, product monitoring and R & D devices and systems can pay dividends.
The extensible nature of many films in itself may require lower tension levels when being processed through a laminator, coater or other web-processing machine. In coating accurate tension is needed to ensure an even coat weight is deposited. Inadequate tension control when laminating can result in lay-flat problems and de-lamination. With printed films image elongation may arise due to issues associated with web control.
The appearance and performance of a coating may depend upon a number of fundamentals. Substrate and substrate structure strongly influences choice of coating applicator technology and process performance. The thickness and stiffness of the substrate needs to be considered. Substrates can have the same degree of thickness yet have different levels of stiffness, which can affect drying, roll formation and coating lay-down.
Thinner substrates and by association thinner coatings tend to be the order of the day for a variety of reasons, including low material, energy, solvents and water costs. Thinner substrates/coatings are employed for an increasingly diverse range of products including electronics, medical and pharmaceuticals.
When processing thinner substrates and thinner coatings accuracy of control is critical especially if we turn our attention away from the packaging arena and consider product items medical wound care products and roll up flexible keyboards and displays in the IT sector.
Thinner rolls can deform and wrinkle far easier than thicker substrates; thinner webs must also be manufactured uniformly with minimal gauge band variation.
One of the most recent RK Print Coat Instruments innovations has been the introduction of a customer bespoke coating/print/laminating system, the VCM, This product development, quality control, trialing machine is aimed at users with clear objectives in mind but are unable to achieve these objectives using a standard commercially available machine. This system is ideal for handling sensitive materials including thinner webs.
Source: RK Print Coat Instruments Ltd