PackEx 2012 review

packexOn October 14th and 15th Montreal was host to the packaging and processing trade show, PackEx. For two days, PackEx took over the halls of the Palais des congrès de Montréal.  We are three Ryerson University students from the School of Graphic Communications Management who were lucky enough to attend day two of the show. It was this opportunity to learn and connect with industry professionals which gave us access to the most advanced technologies in packaging, processing, and converting. We would like to share with you some of what we found to be interesting and innovative.

At the show we saw some pallet technologies that were specifically engineered to showcase a variety of logistical benefits. With the increasing cost of shipping, it is important to address all of the components of the job that can be made more efficient. One example we saw was corrugated pallet technologies. Norampac of Cascades explained to us some of the benefits: corrugated board pallets can hold up to 15,000 lbs but weigh only a fraction of what typical wood pallets would weigh, only 7 lbs for a 40×48″ pallet compared to 40 lbs for a traditional wood pallet. They are fully recyclable, FSC certified and are shippable internationally without the need for wood treatment. However, Norampac points out that these innovative pallets are not intended to replace traditional pallets which have strengths that cannot be replaced by corrugated board. Wood is more resistant in settings where moisture is a risk, and its durability allows more wear and tear over a longer life.

Anti-slip sheets were also an interesting innovation we saw at PackEx. These sheets are mainly used in manufacturing environments where strategic placement between products on a pallet would reduce the need for, or even eliminate, pallet wrapping. By increasing the coefficient of friction between the sheet and the product, it can prevent the toppling or sliding of products when tilted by a forklift or during transport.  Eric Brown from CGP explained that a new advancement with anti-slip sheets is its ability to be printed. This opens the door to a plethora of commercial applications and uses. These include new branding and marketing opportunities for graphic arts professionals. For example, restaurant owners can now replace traditional wax tray liners with their own restaurant branded anti-slip sheets and reduce the risk of sliding platters. Airlines, trains, and cruise ships can brand anti-slip coasters to reduce slipping cocktails in unstable conditions. They are water resistant and reusable, which Brown estimates will help the product increase its presence in commercial applications within the next few years.

For many years expandable polystyrene (or styrofoam) has been looked at as an environmental hazard in food service, packaging, construction, casting, and specialty applications. Recently, a new line of expandable polystyrene has been released for packaging and food service applications. We met up with StyroChem, who recently released EVRgreen, to learn more about this innovation. A chemical compound is dispersed throughout the polystyrene polymer prior to forming, transforming the standard product into the first biodegradable styrofoam material. This chemical compound attracts microbes to encourage decomposition in a landfill. According to Melissa Wallum from StyroChem, the proprietary additive makes the polystyrene less hydrophobic, attracting the necessary amount of moisture for decomposition. In addition, one variety of the compound is non-aerobic, allowing for decomposition even in the absence of oxygen or sunlight. The methane released from the decomposition of such materials in landfills can be collected and resold as a renewable source of natural gas or used to heat the facility. What does this mean for the graphic arts industry? With the addition of this compound, not only is styrofoam now okay for the environment, it also affects the visual properties of the medium. The surface tension of the polystyrene is reduced, resulting in an effect similar to corona treatment, a treatment which enables ink to adhere to glossy surfaces during printing and brightens the colour gamut.

The over 200 exhibitors at PackEx gave us the opportunity to learn more about packaging. We hope that this article has helped you share in our experience. Packaging is a growing market in printing, and attending the show was really a wonderful way to witness some of that future potential.