COVID-19 has created a growing necessity for industries in the F&B sector to focus more on hygiene and sanitisation and given the current situation, people, nowadays, are opting for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
As most of the products in the F&B sector are included in essential services, it becomes crucial for the packaging sector to follow conservative practices.
While we have let plastic invade our lives, because of the convenience it brings us, there is a whole laundry list of toxic chemicals that leach into our environment due to the manufacture and the careless disposal of plastics.
Even if recycling can help alleviate some of the environmental problems, the best way to protect the earth from plastics is to replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives like glass.
It’s time to make that change. Glass can be recycled multiple times, so it doesn’t have to end up in landfills. It is cost-effective, considering its durability and recyclability. Manufacturers in the glass industry are more focused on environmental containers that will drive the demand for more recyclable products.
As it is, the global packaging industry is witnessing a significant transformation over the last few decades. Today, packaging plays a far more complex role than just making containers for products during the processes of logistics, sales and end-use.
It is now also an essential element in terms of product design, branding, marketing and user experience. As the global demand for packaging continues to grow and diversify, the packaging industry is likely to be more heavily influenced by consumer preferences, industry dynamics, environmental concerns and developments in technology and manufacturing equipment.
Glass manufacturers are leveraging technology to provide an environment-friendly ecosystem to create innovative products that will help meet the already existing demand more efficiently.
Some of them include:
– Strengthening glass containers through a new tempering method
– Creating lightweight containers in different geometric shapes
– Using newer technologies like single-stage forming to produce thinner but stronger glass containers
– Developing a coating on the surface of the glass to avoid strength loss
– Creating heat-resistant pyrex glass
The glass industry faces a major share of its challenges in attaining its goals; however, the technological advancements in this sector are helping manufacturers stay ahead of the game. Pre-emptive R&D will lead to the development of new opportunities and energy-efficient production strategies. Some examples include:
– Smart glass bottles and containers whose colour changes depending on the liquid temperature (medicines, wines, perishable products, etc.)
– An interactive drinking glass, which refills automatically or stops refilling when not required.
– Photovoltaic sunroofs replace regular car sunroofs by including solar PV cells to recharge the vehicle’s battery in electric cars.
– Glass mirrors that will help assess the health condition of the person standing in front of it.
Beverage Industry to Hold the Highest Market Share
The market for glass packaging in the alcoholic beverage industry is facing intense competition from the metal packaging segment, in the form of cans. However, it is expected to maintain its share due to its use in premium products.
The growth is expected to be witnessed across different beverage products, like juices, coffee, tea, soups, non-dairy beverages and others. Among alcoholic beverages, beer witnessed tremendous growth in the past few years.
The majority of beer volume is sold in glass bottles and is driving the need for increased production rates in the glass packaging industry. The increasing demand for premium variants in alcoholic drinks is driving the growth of glass bottles.
Developing nations, like India, are also showing a preference for premium beer. Returnable glass bottles are a cost-effective option for companies to deliver their products. This form of packaging is largely used in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Currently, about 70 percent of the bottles used for natural mineral water is made of plastic. The choice for bottled-water packaging material is increasingly taking into account environmental considerations.
Advances in glass technology
Production of lightweight glass containers – Light weighting of glass containers requires fundamentally low parison forming time, i.e. the time between glass loading into the blank mould and starting of parison formation. It requires faster neck finish formation by way of faster settling of glass into the neck. Also, corkage reheat time is less. It minimises the temperature difference in the parison due to different glass contact times of the settled glass to the counter-blown glass.
With the help of the advanced blow-blow technique, vacuum is applied through a plunger to pull the glass into the neck ring while the gob is being loaded. It results in faster neck finish formation and quick settling of glass in the blank mould. AGI glaspac is successfully using a vacuum on the blank side and also valve baffle to minimise the time gap between gob loading and settle blow. All the above processes help to minimise the settle wave effect in the blow- blow process-formed container.
A specially designed parison with a higher run and anti-settle wave shape, with longer reheat, means that the glass has enough time to heal the micro-checks produced in the glass during parison formation. It, in turn, helps to produce stronger containers. It requires a higher gob temperature and homogeneous glass.
NNPB Process for Lightweight Glass Containers – The introduction of the NNPB process has enabled our company AGI glaspac to increase overall productivity and reduce weight and variations in the thickness distribution of glass containers.
The lightweight container need not be a weak container. Glass, in its pure state, is extremely strong. Its strength is reduced considerably due to microscopic surface defects and variations in thickness. The NNPB process, together with hot-end and cold-end coatings on glass is developed to address this issue. Containers with a large weight-to-capacity ratio can be lightly weighted without affecting the impact or bursting pressure strength.
Lightweight containers made by NNPB are lighter by around 30 per cent and have fewer variations in thickness besides being stronger than the containers made by the blow-and-blow process.
The NNPB process requires sophistication in control of the variation in the weight of glass. The Plunger Process Control System (PPC) monitors individual plunger motions during the parison-forming process. The system uses full stroke sensors and controls the glass weight within 1g.
1. Master: Is the center of the system for control and visualization
2. Control Box: Supplies Master with energy enables control loops and transmits weighing information from an electronic scale to Master
3. Full Stroke Sensor: The signal source is mounted in the Emhart Quick Change Plunger mechanism
4. Adapter Plate: Mounted on plunger mechanism base plate for wireless sensor signal transmission
5. Motor Controller: Needle height and tube height motor control for machine without FlexIS control. On machines with FlexIS the tube height control is connected direct to the Master
6. Universal Adjustment Drive For optional needle height adjustment and on non FlexIS installations used for tube height adjustment
Counterfeit-proof glass containers with unique codes – Printing unique codes on glass bottles facilitate the collection of information at the filling point and outlet. Thus the number of times each bottle is filled and sold can be tracked to identify a counterfeit product.
Innovations in colouring forehearth technology – Colouring forehearth technology is used by the glass container manufacturing industry to produce special coloured glass containers. AGI glaspac has recently innovated new concentrates to feed into this forehearth to produce negative ion emission containers and anti-bacterial containers to cater to the growing needs of the consumer market.
Hollow decorated glass containers – AGI glaspac has recently developed a new method of producing bottles with decoration/embossing on the hollow areas of glass containers. Earlier, only external decorated bottles were being produced.
Cullet processing system – Cullet is recycled broken or waste glass used in glass-making. Waste cullet contains impurities and needs to be freed for reuse. AGI incorporates green and dry European technology for cullet processing in removing impurities like stones, ceramics, porcelain, iron, aluminium and organics, such as paper, plastics, wood, etc. from raw cullet.
This technology consists of the following major equipment for impurity separation:
– Magnetic separator: for Iron
– Eddy current separator: For aluminium
– Air-knife breezer: for organics
– De-labelling: For label
– Suction unit: For dust and light papers
– Three- way optical sorter: Sensor and imaging-based pneumatic ejection technology for ceramic, stones, porcelain and coloured glass.
– Vibratory screens: Fines
Technology Benefit: As a result of all these innovations, energy savings, longer furnace life, higher production rate, decreased CO2 emissions and enhanced safety with no use of water have been realised.