An increasing number of packaging systems with active functionalities are being manufactured for food and pharmaceutical products. These active packaging systems either absorb or react with substances that can harm the products or they liberate substances, in a controlled way, onto the packaged product or into the headspace. Examples are packaging systems with oxygen-scavenging, moisture-absorbing, and antimicrobial functionalities.
The active packaging systems either consist of films with separate active layers or injection-molded parts and blow-molded bottles with active components in the polymer matrix. Such packaging materials are manufactured by extrusion processes. These packaging materials and the relevant master batches give small and medium-sized extrusion companies the opportunity to manufacture unique products and access a variety of lucrative niche markets.
The production of active materials is, however, risky and requires optimization of manufacturing processes. These risks represent a new situation and challenge for many extrusion companies. Many components of active packaging systems are reactive and potentially corrosive. In the worst case they can reduce the service life of extrusion plants.
In addition, the active components can lead to higher reject rates for the resulting packaging materials. The corrosive effect and more difficult processing present barriers for implementing this technology and so many companies are currently unable to benefit from the new market opportunities offered by this technology. If these issues were overcome, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could compete better with large companies.
Up until now there has been no tool for allowing cost-effective estimation of the corrosive effect and processing stability of the active compounds. Such a decision-making tool must allow the selection of suitable extrusion barrels, screws and dies, namely suitable surface finishes. The objective of the ExtruStab project is hence to develop a simple, cost-effective measuring system for estimating the corrosive effect of active compounds, so allowing suitable extrusion barrels, screws and dies to be selected based on their surface finish and corrosion stability. The tool will also allow compound formulations to be optimized to minimize wear. The measuring system must also be suitable for analyzing the extrusion stability of polymers and compounds, so enabling optimum processing parameters to be derived.
Schematic representation of the test equipment:
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