Lamitubes are a trend in the pharma, cosmetic, food, and oral health care industry. Modern lamitubes are manufactured using multilayer laminates of plastic with either an aluminum or plastic barrier layer between the inner and outer layers of the tube. Arvind Narang, chief operating officer of Wifag Polytype India Marketing, says, “Aluminum Barrier Laminates (ABL) possess excellent barrier properties, therefore for ointments, ABL is the preferred choice. Whereas Plastic Barrier Laminates (PBL) are not widely used in the pharma sector, they are suitable for cosmetics.” Narang says that PBL is going to replace ABL, and as an example, Colgate has decided to replace all the ABL tubes with PBL tubes by 2025.
ABL remains the preferred choice for pharma tubes, “For the pharma sector, I am sure we are not going to see any substitute for ABL tubes. At the international level also, people are talking about PBL, but it is yet to catch up. In exhibitions, we hear about recycling and sustainability, but on the ground, what we have observed is that people are still adding capacities for ABL. Regardless of these machines being expensive, the capacity addition is there for the next four, five, or six years. Manufacturers are buying and investing, and there is no negative sentiment in the market and the danger that these things will be banned.”
Technologies for lamitubes
Narang explains the two prevailing technologies – one is preform shoulders (used by Wifag) while the other is compression heading. “In India, there is a misconception that the compression technology is better. However, in compression technology, you get the shoulder of 0.5 grams wherein, in preform, it is more than 0.6 grams, which results in better barrier properties. However, there is a myth that preform may result in leakage, which we have dispelled by testing our tubes and successfully passing all the tests,” he explains.
Narang adds, “In compression heading, it is compulsory to have a top sealing, whereas in the preform, on the orifice, it is not mandatory to have a top seal. The top seal has become a compulsion in pharma though it is not required in preform shoulders.”According to Narang, big brands like Unilever or Colgate are using preform technology and have proven that preform technology is better. “However, we feel that this learning and education has to be imparted among pharma buyers.”
Printing on lamitubes
Printing on lamitubes is done using web printing, and being a flat surface, you can get the desired decoration. Narang adds, “Earlier people were not ready to spend too much on decoration, but now various cost-effective printing technologies are available. However, it is true that market demand for high-quality decorative printing in pharma is not there. Even if you do excellent printing on a pharma lamitube, ultimately, it ends up in a monocarton – we call these tubes as the ‘drawer tubes.’ High-quality printing is applicable in cosmetics where the tube on the shelf has to catch attention.”
Benefits of lamitubes
ABL tubes are tamper-resistant, possess very good barrier properties, protect contents from air, light, and moisture. Most pharmaceutical companies opt for laminated tubes as they are lightweight, hygienic, and toxin-free.
According to Narang, aluminum offers excellent barrier properties and then come plastic multilayer lamitubes. He says, “Lamitubes are a good compromise keeping in mind the costing and barrier properties. Aluminum is costly, the decoration is expensive, surface printing is not very appealing, and the usage is not very convenient. On the other side, for plastic, you don’t get as good barrier properties as you get with aluminum.”
Polytype also supplies aluminum tube manufacturing machines. Narang says, “Most of the aluminum tube manufacturers have diversified into lamitubes, and those who are left are talking to end up soon.”
Commitment to sustainability and quality
Speaking about sustainability, he says, “All corporates are conscious about their responsibility. The big players are trying to reduce plastic consumption, and they are trying to reduce the overall thickness of the laminate. We are offering them machines that can run on the lowest thickness possible.” On Wifag’s commitment towards quality, Narang proudly states, “Our quality has been proven over time. Manufacturers who are using Chinese machines face a lot of challenges regarding quality. We have crossed that stage, and now nobody questions our quality.”