Alok Masterbatches R&D for safer packaging

ATIC’s solution to detect plastics in food

Alok Masterbatches
L-R: Vikram Bhadauria, Amit Puri and Aditya Bhadauria of Alok Masterbatches

With a view to drive innovation in the masterbatch industry and introduce novel products to the market, Alok Masterbatches set up the Alok Technology Incubation Centre in December 2015. The Delhi-based R&D lab of Alok Masterbatches is equipped with a range of testing and research equipment to fine-tune and customize solutions for the packaging and allied industries. The lab is essentially a technology platform where Alok has expertise on process, materials, analytics and regulatory affairs.

“I’m a hardcore R&D enthusiast. It is by fate that I now spend more time with bankers and lawyers, otherwise, my heart is in the lab. Actually, R&D fascinates me more than the massive factories that I run. The passion to research and create better products urged me to open an R&D facility and hence the formation of ATIC,” said Vikram Bhadauria, director of Alok Masterbatches.

“Initially, the platform was built for internal use. Then we figured out that our in-house expertise is quite encompassing and wide, something that our customers can also benefit from. Thus, we started working with key customers as their extended arm for R&D projects. At ATIC, we help our customers find their blue ocean,” he said, adding, “We even help our customers create specific products according to the demand they receive from their overseas clients by providing them the right kind of technology, technology partners, an R&D facility and certifications of the finished product. We have won two national awards, one of which is a success story wherein we helped a processor develop agricultural films.

“Israel is a pioneer in modern agricultural techniques. The country has created modern technology using which farmers can increase output by consuming less water. However, by the time we import that technology to India, its cost increases significantly and farmers cannot afford it. So, we helped the processor, who is also our customer, to develop a film, which turned out to be better than the one imported from Israel at a price lower by 40%. The customer began with one line for production and observing the growing demand, decided to eventually set up three production lines.

“We also help our customers with regulatory affairs. Any customer looking to export to the western economy has to go through a number of regulatory minefields such as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and various other EU regulations. All these regulations are a nightmare for a small processor as they don’t have the wherewithal to deal with these minefields,” said Bhadauria.

ATIC periodic table of masterbatches
Alok has listed all its innovative products in what it calls The ATIC Periodic Table ( ATIC Periodic Table comprises of mainly all the novel products that have been manufactured by the company in the packaging and allied fields. Each block in the ATIC Periodic Table narrates a co-creation story with a supplier or with a customer. Here are some of the success stories from the periodic table.

Some years ago, the government urged people to shift from conventional bulbs and tube-lights to LED sources of light. Sensing an opportunity, the Chinese started exporting their products to India. Those imports were in the form of tops for which there was no manufacturer in India. The bottleneck of the entire story was unavailability of technology with Indians.

It was at this point that Alok decided to partner with a supplier of LED diffusers for a polymeric-based solution which goes into the manufacture of those products that were being excessively imported from China. The availability of the solution had a huge impact on its import and helped the government in making cutbacks. Alok even received a national award from the Indian government for this product.

Food items consumed on a daily basis such as burgers, chocolates and other packaged food items are in contact with plastics for a long time. Plastics are heavily used in the conveying line or food processing lines. Sometimes, due to wear and tear in the conveying line or in the plastic parts used in the machinery, there is a high risk of food being contaminated with plastics. But plastics are difficult to detect with conventional metal detectors or X-Ray detectors and can easily pass through the quality control processes.

Alok developed some compounds in masterbatches which can be added to the polymers and upon passing by conveying lines and detectors, they can detect the presence of unwanted plastics in food items. A similar product is the MDetect that helps detect the presence of plastics in food items.

ThermoFlux is a thermal conductor solution. Traditionally, plastics are insulators. So, at ATIC, Alok inserted some chemical substances which make the plastics heat conductive. The resultant proved to be an effective automotive alternative where the heat dissipation is a must. ATIC has developed many other solutions at its state-of-the-art facility which are explained in detail in the ATIC Periodic Table of Masterbatches.

ATIC is equipped with many machines to facilitate in-house testing and R&D such as an XRF testing machine for detection of heavy metals, an electronic and electrical machine for testing RoHS compliance, a UV visible spectroscope, and a Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy machine, among others. These machines have been installed at ATIC to serve its customers with several testing parameters.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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