Investments in R&D to have positive impact on bottomline this year

New Flex Films products at Pack Expo in Chicago

VIANaresh Khanna
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Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice-chairman of Flex Films International at Pack Expo in Chicago. Photo PSA
Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice-chairman of Flex Films International at Pack Expo in Chicago. Photo PSA

More than 20 Indian exhibitors were present at the Pack Expo exhibition at Chicago displaying various new and innovative products for the global market. We met with Anantshree Chaturvedi at the Flex stand at Pack Expo in Chicago where the company unveiled some of its concepts and innovations.

Vyom is a Sanskrit expression, meaning ‘endless, limitless, expanse.’ The company’s Vyom is claimed to be a ground-breaking concept BOPET film. Developed by the company’s own R&D, Vyom is 40% lighter with high density, high barrier and high strength – the reduction in plastic making it a sustainable replacement for many applications of high-barrier films.

Chaturvedi, who is vice-chairman of the group and chief executive officer of Flex Films International said to us at the stand, “Right now Vyom is being presented as a concept and it should be in production and ready for use by brand owners and converters in 8 to 10 months from now. Vyom promises to be better in every key virtue that a film is built around – light, barrier, strength and green – with superior mechanical properties, thereby allowing us to deliver much higher yield, improved costs and reduced carbon footprint. All of this is in sync with the company’s efforts to continuously develop refined products and make our customers’ lives easier. Our presentation at Pack Expo is experiential and by interacting with our customers in the real market, we are attempting to stimulate their imagination.”

With a two-pronged approach to market, Vyom will be launched in the US according to Chaturvedi. The Flex Films plant in Kentucky will supply it first to the US market and then to Europe, while the Noida plant in India will produce it initially for the Indian market and then for the rest of Asia.

The Uflex stand at Pack Expo, showcasing the New Metallized High Barrier Balloon BOPET Film. Photo PSA
The Uflex stand at Pack Expo, showcasing the New Metallized High Barrier Balloon BOPET Film. Photo PSA

Green talk is slow to walk

In our discussion with the young and forthright CEO about greener films, he said these are facing resistance from a market that is ready to talk but not quite ready to walk the talk. “The changeover to new materials can make for converting and packaging challenges apart from the higher costs. Two years ago, I wanted to switch the entire US plant to 100% green films – a combination of MEG and PCR based products – but the market wasn’t ready for it. Many companies are talking about greening their packaging but they are  not really ready. Apart from the higher price, structures have to change and be evaluated. Nevertheless, major improvements can be made by foil replacement and considerable savings can also accrue from innovative changes in structures.”

Another innovative film presented by the Uflex-Flex Films group at the show was FLEXPET F HPF – a  nylon replacement BOPET film suitable for thermoforming with high puncture resistance and flexural fatigue strength. Superior to nylon with fewer pin holes and puncture and flex crack resistance, F HPF has better water resistance and is compatible with a wide range of inks and adhesives giving it greater yield per area unit.

Also presented at Pack Expo was a new patented high barrier metalized BOPET film that replaces an aluminum foil layer – Flexmetprotect F-HBP-M. This metalized BOPET film with a superior gas barrier offers high moisture and oxygen barrier for many applications with high optical density. Useful for multi-layered pouch applications for shipping sensitive items, it is 100% web inspected for any metal defect, using a modern quality system. Chaturvedi explained that this aluminum foil replacement can be useful in decreasing the carbon footprint by saving quite a bit of aluminum. “It’s useful for liquid and food packaging applications. With its higher seal strength, it’s an aluminum foil replacement with high barrier metalized film. We have added a coating and changed the input materials and process to enhance it as a foil replacement.”

Engineered by the company’s R&D team, Flexmetprotect HMB offers high adhesion to metal under aggressive environmental conditions with improved scuff, scratch and craze resistance. It can improve yields up to 4% with its robustness in processing.

A surprising revelation at Pack Expo was that the Indian balloon film market was hitherto dominated by Chinese imports. Flexmetprotect F-PAB-M is an advanced proprietary film structure developed by Flex Films in the USA and designed specifically to meet the needs of thin gauge, ultra-thin gauge high barrier specialty film markets, which include the balloon film market and wherever low OTR and MVTR is needed. With an optical density of 2.8, the exceptional air barrier properties of the film prevent helium diffusing out of FLEX-PAB surface.

In closing Chaturvedi said, “Uflex and Flex Films’ investments in research and development are paying off and very likely to have a positive effect on the bottomline in the current financial year. We have close to 20 scientists now, counting both Kentucky and India. R&D expenses in the US are about 10% of the topline on average although they have hit as high as 15% while in India they are 6 to 7% of the topline figures. I am happy to talk about this and go on record because it proves that we were right in making these investments.”

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