The Skinny on Thin Wall Packaging

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Day in and day out, we don’t give much thought to the things that pass through our hands.

We reach for a coffee pod to start brewing our morning pick-me-up, grab a yogurt cup for a daytime snack and wrap everything up with an after-dinner scoop (or three) of ice cream as a reward for a hard day’s work.

The plastic packaging that houses these exact every day favourites does a lot of work to keep consumer products fresh and accessible. JanBlog2_1Lean, visually appealing and essential to the shelf life of the food or beverage inside of it, rigid plastic packaging, also referred to as thin wall packaging (TWP), is found inside fridges, cupboards and homes around the world.

TWP is a rising star in the plastics industry with over 6 billion tonnes of this packaging consumed globally and an expected growth of almost $100 billion over the next five years. Although K-cups perhaps best exemplify TWP (9 billion cups were sold in 2015 alone!), other popular use cases include yogurt cups, ice cream containers, bakery packaging and many more.

Typically formed through a process called “thermoforming”, TWP comes in all different shapes and sizes and boasts a wall thickness of 0.8mm or less, which equates to less material and a lower overall cost for manufacturers. Despite this however, TWP still poses quality assurance challenges for manufacturers who need to ensure uniform thickness and measure individual layers.

Subject to traditional thickness measurement techniques, time and material waste are leading issues when it comes to quality control practices of mono- and multi-layer TWP.

On one hand, use of a magna mike probe proves to not only be time consuming and limited to mono-layer containers, but the various shapes and angles of TWP provide a less than fluid surface for the probe; these inefficiencies ultimately lead to the employment of destructive testing techniques.

Destructive testing is costly, time-consuming and wasteful; what’s more, the manual cutting of TWP to measure the individual layer thickness often requires a dye additive to see the layers clearly. With a destructive price-tag approaching nearly $1million per facility in scraps alone, TWP manufacturers require a non-destructive solution to curb costs and lessen material waste.

Terahertz powered solutions such as TeraGauge™ and PlastiMeasure™ are able to conduct quick and precise thickness measurement of mono- and multi-layer thin wall packaging. A high-tech answer to the costly challenges that TWP faces, terahertz waves could ultimately aid manufacturers in reducing both time spent testing as well as provide better control over the amount of material used in production.

The thin wall packaging boom is undeniable even if consumers are unaware of how it impacts daily products. In a market that is expected to grow to over $200 billion by 2020, having effective quality control techniques that save time, reduce cost and minimize environmental impact are not only desirous, but essential.

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