The Uflex Films Business team undertook extensive R&D activities for almost two years to come up with a special polyester film that obviates the problems posed by Bi-axially Oriented Polyamide (BON) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The special polyester film has been designed to replace the top and bottom substrates of the conventional cold formed Alu – Alu laminate to a whole new structure comprising 36 micron special polyester/50 micron
soft aluminum foil/36 micron special polyester.

Eliminating BOPA and PVC films in the cold formed Alu-Alu laminate blister pack for pharmaceuticals has for long remained a daunting task for packaging experts. Conventionally, PVC and BOPA films have been extensively used in cold formed pharma packaging industry. A typical Alu-Alu blister laminate comprises three layers—25 micron BOPA, 60 micron soft aluminum foil, and 60 micron PVC.

A conventional cold formed pharmaceutical blister pack when dumped in the landfill gives away chlorine upon coming in contact with sunlight, which poses serious threats to the environment. PVC also contains plasticizers with phthalates linked to a host of health disorders that can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system. PVC film leaves high carbon footprint making it further undesirable from the environmental perspective besides exhibiting very low temperature resistance.

Polyester is a para-crystalline material possessing excellent barrier, clarity, printability and hardness properties. Film forming and orientation of polyester augurs well for the creation of thin profile webs with excellent properties for use in flexible packaging.

This specialty film, developed by Uflex, can be laminated on both sides of the aluminum foil without any problem, just like the laminate comprising BOPA, aluminum foil and PVC films. The engineers at the Films Business unit of Uflex have been successfully able to bring metaphase morphology, which has made it possible to form the film in Z direction which happens to be a prerequisite for blister packaging.

Commenting on this major breakthrough, Dr. Sudhir Naik, senior general manager – corporate technical services at Films Business of Uflex said, “Getting better functionalities as compared to the Alu–Alu laminate structure comprising BOPA-Aluminum Foil-PVC, Uflex has come up with a special polyester film that will have significant and substantial benefits for the converters catering to pharmaceutical brands. If we talk about India, BOPA (BON) is imported from countries like China, Korea and Taiwan. Moreover, the converters are left with no option other than managing varied inventories of BON and PVC films separately. With the introduction of our specialized polyester film that will now be laminated on both the sides of the aluminum foil, the logistical hassles for converters will surely go down. The dependency on import of BOPA will also go down as the converting industry gradually switches over to our new specialized polyester film for cold forming the blister packs. This film therefore makes a strong case for import substitution in India.”

Talking further about the new polyester film, Pramod Sirsamkar, president – technical and new product development (films), Uflex Limited said, “The moisture absorption of this specialized polyester film is as low as 0.8%, working out to almost 92% less than that of nylon which is a big advantage. Aluminum foil offers negligibly low oxygen and water vapor transmission rates. Such high barrier may not really be required by the drug packed inside. We are therefore also working towards offering high barrier (yet thinner) specialty polyester films as an alternative to aluminum foil that may further lead to the reduction in overall weight of the ensuing laminate. The introduction of specialized polyester film in Alu – Alu blister packaging as a replacement for BON and PVC films has also opened up avenues for us to come up with biodegradable and oxo-degradable variants, further minimizing the carbon footprints. We are also working on developing such specialty films using recycled polyester and Green PET that will bolster our commitment towards the environment.”

Complementing the comments from Films Business, Amitava Ray, executive director and head of packaging/converting business at Uflex said, “It is incredible that we have been able to replace the existing 25 micron BOPA/60 micron soft aluminum foil/60 micron PVC structure with the new laminate comprising 36 micron special polyester/50 microns soft aluminum foil/36 micron special polyester films. There is also a yield benefit in the case of the new laminate structure but with no compromise on functionalities whatsoever. This light-weighting of the laminate equates to lesser energy consumption at all the three critical stages of flexible packaging life cycle—manufacturing, transportation and disposal.

“The reverse printing on the special substrate has further opened up the avenue for enhanced brand visibility and last mile communication possibilities through the body of the pack. Being a fully integrated flexible packaging solutions company, we also stand in a good stead to offer specialized and technologically advanced anti-counterfeiting features for the new Alu-Alu laminate keeping the fake and spurious products at bay. This is all the more important for pharmaceutical products. We are ready with the product and are working with leading pharmaceutical companies for the commercial rollout.”

Expressing delight on the specialized polyester film that has been engineered by his team,  Ashok Chaturvedi, chairman and managing director, Uflex Limited said, “This is innovation fairly and squarely addresses the shortcomings of both BON and PVC films faced by converters catering to the pharmaceutical companies. It is a great product for the pharmaceutical packaging industry that will raise the bar for competition both in India and overseas. When the bar for competition is raised, the flexible packaging industry as a whole stands to benefit both in terms of quality as well as technology.”

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The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers. This is a large and complex canvas – the only thing that can work is your agile thinking and innovation together with our continuous learning and persistence.

The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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