Controlled delamination materials technology separate packs electronically
A new centre will open its doors in Karlstad, Sweden, this month to showcase and further develop a novel technique that enables two or more attached packs or parts of packages to be separated electronically with the flick of a switch. The process offers the potential for easy opening of consumer products and new distribution solutions.
Created by Stora Enso, based in Stockholm, Sweden, Controlled Delamination Materials (CDM) technology will comprise external battery power sources for secondary distribution packages or built-in internal sources for primary consumer packs. These will be connected to a circuit through conductive packaging material or conductive lines printed on the pack, using standard printing processes, and joined to a glue spot that seals the item. Once the circuit is closed, such as by pressing a switch made from printed conductors and activated by human skin, the adhesive effect is lost and the seal breaks.
Various types of polymer glues can be employed, but to keep costs down, existing packaging processes will be used with epoxy-based glue.
The main benefits of applying CDM for retailers and suppliers are optimisation of packaging materials, reduction in handling times and, in turn, improved in-store logistics.
Head of R&D at Stora Enso Mats Fredlund explains that at present 'it takes a lot of time to unpack distribution packages and put the consumer packs on the shelves. There is a lot of waste material that has to be brought out from the store.'
By connecting primary packs to each other through CDM, use of secondary packaging can be limited by simply adding a protective top cover and cardboard bottom to these multipacks for transporting them to the stores. Releasing CDM at multiple points will then remove the top cover and separate the items individually or in batches for shelving. Printed conductors that run along the shelf could be added to close the circuit in this application.
When the primary packs are strong and do not require much protection during transportation, such as for soft drink cans, they can be connected to each other directly without the need for additional wrapping.
Easy access for the consumer is another priority. Rather than employing pull rings on steel and aluminium cans, which often require applying considerable force to open the packs, Stora Enso envisages sealing the cans using CDM technology. Bending a protruding metal piece so it touches the can's lid, completes the circuit and the pack opens.
A similar system could be applied to laundry detergent packets to avoid the use of destructive openings. The company also aims to create anti-theft solutions. For example, a CDM foil patch could be inserted into plastic blister packs to secure them until they are delaminated at the check-out (see image below).
Working prototypes of some of these concepts have been developed with the first commercial solutions due in 2008. In the meantime, further research is required to integrate printed batteries into the packs or seals, and to create glues for use in a variety of packaging applications.
'Development has been rapid in the field of conductive polymers and printed electronics,' says Manager of Package Design at Stora Enso Lars Sandberg. 'This means that conductive inks are now available at low cost. We work with researchers who transfer their knowledge in this area to CDM technology.'
Partners in the project include the Royal Institute of Technology, the Packaging Arena, the Acreo Institute, and Karlstad University, in Sweden.
The new centre in Karlstad aims to provide information on CDM technology and act as a base for further R&D.
Pira International has already been involved in early evaluation of the technology and application development. Any retailers, brand owners or suppliers who see potential in the technique are invited to get in touch.
Sandberg adds, 'For anti-theft solutions we foresee that we can come to the market relatively quickly. This is also the case for expensive or luxury packaging where we can afford to build in CDM. FMCG will take a little bit longer to create solutions for, as we need to develop and verify technology for low cost energy solutions.'
Stora Enso, Stockholm, Sweden