Domino collaborates with Futamura for sustainable laser coding

D-Series CO2 laser coder is a print-free solution for food manufacturers

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Domino has collaborated with Futamura to produce sustainable laser coding for compostable film food packaging. Photo: Domino
Domino has collaborated with Futamura to produce sustainable laser coding for compostable film food packaging. Photo: Domino

Domino Printing Sciences (Domino) is pleased to reveal its D-Series CO2 laser coders as an additive-free solution for food manufacturers utilizing NatureFlex compostable cellulose films.

Domino has collaborated with global packaging film producer, Futamura, to assess the suitability of laser coding for NatureFlex compostable film products. Following initial suitability testing, Domino’s D-Series CO2 laser was used to code the NatureFlex compostable film and achieved a clean, crisp, white code. There was no impact on film integrity or chemical composition, and moisture barrier properties were unaffected. 

“We are very pleased to be able to offer Futamura’s food packaging customers an additive-free laser coding solution for their product packaging,” says Dr Stefan Stadler, team lead at the Domino Laser Academy. “We predict that requests for compostable solutions will become more prominent in the coming years, and we are ready and willing to work with any brand exploring these new materials to help find the right coding solution for their requirements.”

Coding requirements of compostable films 

NatureFlex films have been developed for use in food packaging applications to meet the growing demand for environmentally responsible packaging. The films are designed to meet all the global standards for industrial composting, including BS EN13432, and are certified as home compostable under the OK Compost Home standard.

“Brand owners are always looking at ways to communicate with their consumers on their packaging,” says Amaia Cowan, business development manager – EMEA, Futamura UK. “All of our NatureFlex films are certified to prove their suitability for industrial and home composting. Many of our customers want to show the final packaging’s certification and additional disposal information on the film to help inform end consumers.” 

The option of laser coding a message onto the NatureFlex flexible film is attractive as the coding method does not require adding any additional materials onto the compostable substrate, which could complicate final certification. 

Developing the solution

Domino’s coding experts analyzed six different variants of NatureFlex compostable film to determine which laser coding solution would be the most appropriate option for further suitability testing. This included undertaking spectroscopic analysis for the substrates to determine which wavelength of light has the best interaction with the substrate material, followed by coding the samples using one of Domino’s D120i CO2 laser coders. 

On all six NatureFlex variants, the D120i produced a clear, crisp, white code. Even under very high printing speeds, the codes were clear and legible, making the D-Series lasers a highly feasible solution for compostable coding films in food packaging applications.

After coding the films, Domino’s laser experts used microscopic imaging and spectroscopy techniques to confirm that no structural damage was inflicted and that the solution did not cause any chemical changes that could affect the substrate’s performance as a food packaging material. 

The result is positive 

“We were reassured by Domino’s scientific approach to substrate testing and coding and willingness to provide us with the results and assurance that we needed to confirm that laser coders are a suitable solution for our compostable films,” says Cowan.

The quality and clarity of the codes make laser coding on NatureFlex flexible film a good choice for food manufacturers looking to create both simple codes, such as best before dates and batch codes, as well as more complex designs and messaging, including graphics and scannable 2D codes. 

“The results from the project are very positive,” says Cowan. “This new coding method will enable the inclusion of a message to consumers on the film itself, without printing. As no additional materials are added to the compostable films, seeking certification of the final packaging will be straightforward.” 

Domino’s approach toward sustainability

The Futamura and NatureFlex compostable film project is an exciting development in laser coding for sustainable substrates. It is just one example of how Domino is working to support customers on their sustainability journey. 

“We want to remain at the forefront of developments in new and emerging packaging materials to ensure that we can continue to meet the needs of our customers in all industries,” says Dr Stefan Stadler, Team Lead at the Domino Laser Academy in Hamburg. “We have a vision for our Laser Academy as a substrate centre of excellence where we can invest in scientific testing and coding of new materials, based on our exploratory research, as well as direct customer requests.

“By taking a scientific approach to laser coding, we can significantly accelerate the process of consistently and reliably creating an attractive, high-contrast code, and ensure product safety and barrier properties are maintained – which is fundamental to our customers.”

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.

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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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