Uflex, the global packaging company headquartered in Noida in the New Delhi NCR, is not merely a supplier of flexible packaging films and materials. As a pioneer, it has launched several divisions that provide equipment and consumables for its use and the entire packaging industry. These divisions include its engineering division that makes gravure and flexo printing machines, co-extrusion laminators, and pouch-making and filling and sealing machines. The Uflex chemicals division has also risen in the past dozen years to considerable prominence, becoming a significant contributor to the group’s revenues and more recently becoming a leading technology developer of inks, coating, and adhesives for the flexible packaging industry.
At end-January came the announcement that the chemicals business of Uflex had secured a patent on a process for the preparation of Epoxy ester resin under the provisions of the Patents Act, 1970. It is the first patent for the chemicals business, which will apply for a global patent in due course, as was related to us by its vice-president for sales and marketing Rajesh Srivastava on a recent visit to the plant in Sector 57.
Srivastava explained, “The new patent will ensure technical advancement in providing a process for resin preparation wherein no wastewater treatment is required, which is a significant move in the direction of sustainability. Epoxy ester resin prepared by this process will be used in radiation curing or energy curing, and therefore curing will be faster, unlike the typical Epoxy ester resin, which is thermally cured and takes a long time besides being uneconomical.”
From our understanding, this is essentially a process patent, a way of making a critical component in coatings using much less water, giving the coatings enhanced stability and chemical resistance, which can be cured with more sustainable curing systems. According to Srivastava, Uflex’s newly invented and patented approach arrests the challenges posed by conventional methods, as the Epoxy ester produced has no wastewater generation, no odor, and nor a dark color – all helpful for fast curing coatings with cost-effective processing.
On our visit, we were shown UFlex’ extensive investment and infrastructure for the research and development of inks, coatings, and adhesives for flexible packaging, cartons, labels, and paperboard. From our inexperienced point of view, the laboratories, instrumentation, and scientific workflow were extremely impressive. We were surprised to learn that the company’s chemicals business is a leading producer and exporter of these inks with double-digit year-to-year growth for several years and current production of over 40,000 metric tons.
While the division does manufacture offset inks for paperboard cartons, it specializes in UV inks and is a pioneer in the country as a producer of UV-LED cured inks and coatings. It manufactures coatings for EB curing as well. Thus in the main, it is a specialist manufacturer of high productivity and high-value consumables for flexible packaging, although it now has high-value inks for carton applications as well. The chemicals division’s expertise and capability are also a crucial part of the company’s sustainability efforts.
As the UFlex chemicals division joint president Rajesh Bhasin recently commented, “We are extremely delighted with the continued strengthening of our R&D prowess. The issuance of this patent is another step in the development of a robust portfolio for our business. It is a part of our initiative to backward integrate, using our inherent strengths. Such initiatives help us to have greater control on product quality and supply security. The unique achievement of our patent [for a process for the preparation of Epoxy ester resin] is all because of the progressive approach, years of hard work and commitment.”