20. Apr 2018
Single-serve coffee capsules conquered the coffee market years ago. The capsules are sophisticated examples of branding in clever packaging. But what about the environment?
Premium coffee capsules are often made of aluminium. However, as consumers are increasingly demanding more environmental products and packaging, suppliers have started looking for greener alternatives with the same functionality and high-quality appeal.
Beck Automation have developed a polylactide (PLA) injection molding solution with IML decoration that can answer this need. As Nick Lewis, of Beck Automation Americas, commented: “Visually appealing packaging with IML gets biocompatible.”
IML, when combined with PLA material, a biopolyester, offers a new way to reposition disposable coffee capsules and to enhance the appearance of the product. Renewably sourced PLA, not only supports suppliers in fulfilling their sustainability ambitions, its sweetish smell is more reminiscent of the cornstarch it contains than molten plastic. Low moisture absorption ensures easier storage and high UV resistance, as well as severe flammability are practical properties for a variety of applications. In general, PLA has mechanically good properties such as high surface hardness, rigidity, and high modulus of elasticity (tensile strength), but only moderate impact resistance.
Beck Automation has developed an IML machine for high-quality plastic coffee capsules, which the company is premiering in the US at the NPE 2018. Nick Lewis, Beck Automation Americas: “The result is a highly dynamic, precise and operator-friendly machine for IML decoration. This way, the disposable coffee capsules are both more environment friendly and look more premium, too.”
The machine on display at the company’s booth is a four-cavity IML machine. The machine architecture shows that machines with much larger numbers of cavities are also possible for higher output rates. For example, in 2016 Beck Automation successfully commissioned several solutions for 32+32 stack molding machines, followed by a 32-cavity IML Single Serve Capsule machine in 2017. Nick Lewis, Beck Automation Americas: “With such small packaging sizes, the challenge lies in label inserting precision, as well as an operator-friendly concept. We are talking about very small labels and ultra-lightweight components with extremely high production volumes.”
The coffee capsules shown are inserted into a four-cavity mold from Fostag Formenbau in Switzerland. Nick Lewis from Beck Automation Americas states a target cycle time of 6 - 7s. The Polylactide (PLA) labels are produced by Verstraete, the Belgian IML label specialists. The IML-system also includes a quality assurance module to perform barrier checks from IMDvista. This turnkey option opens a high level of quality and improved added value. A high-precision and fast Netstal ELION 1200-250/55 serves as the injection-molding system. It is fitted with servo-electric drives for all components and is absolutely clean and quiet in operation.