Sustainability: Looking to the future
By Stefan Stadler, Team Lead at Domino’s Hamburg, Germany-based Laser Academy
Seeking to innovate beyond single-use plastic packaging and embrace alternative materials to meet upcoming European Union legislation Domino scientists are on hand to future-proof your coding and marking system.
As the Team Lead at Domino’s Hamburg, Germany-based Laser Academy, I’m currently overseeing a range of investigative initiatives in alternative packaging solutions. Essentially, the work commissioned proves that more and more customers are asking the question: ‘How can we boost our sustainability and meet legislative demands yet keep our current coding set-up?’
A completely biodegradable beverage straw made of starch is one plastic alternative we’re scrutinising in our research labs right now because its producer wonders if it can be coded as plastic ones were.
Companies are already re-evaluating the acceptability of petroleum-based material and multi-layer plastic films for food packaging, while tentatively exploring the potential of bio-based and recyclable alternatives. That means new organic materials are regularly arriving at the Domino laser lab.
Starch, as well as many other plant-based materials, may well present a viable and more environmentally-friendly solution for the client. It is, however, important to confirm those alternatives can be coded and how that code will react to the variables around it. It is those kinds of factors our team is busy analysing.
Here at Domino, we’re predicting that all the major food companies will be using recyclable packaging material by 2025. In October 2018, EU officials voted in favour of a directive banning single-use plastics including cutlery, cups and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks from 2021. Large manufacturers are already starting to show their green credentials by exploring alternative packaging types. The next goal will be to make all packaging biodegradable.
Shining a light: How will laser impact new materials
As part of a two-stage process, Domino scientists use specialist machinery to test how substrates interact with light. Depending on what this first process uncovers, an appropriate laser setting is selected and tested.
Post-laser, we evaluate the code quality and how the material has withstood the process using a range of scientific technologies. We scrutinise the mark using barcode systems, camera validation and a powerful 3D microscope. The lens of the 3D microscope is powerful enough for us to produce images that show how the laser has impacted the substrate.
These images, along with graphs that map the material’s breakdown under laser and composite assessments, are supplied to the customer with a full analytical report.
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Domino’s defence against material shift
As code-ability and printability do not form part of the materials specification for packaging suppliers, there have been instances where the material composition has been changed slightly. This can be due to compound unavailability, or simply a cost-saving measure. Essentially, the knock-on effect will reflect in the coding and it might even lead to downtime. With Domino as a partner, you have the security of knowing our scientists can identify causality quickly.
Domino does more than just code. The company has the right people and technology to offer full coding and marking solutions.
While our competitors can offer trial and error testing for substrates, Domino has the expertise and capacity to understand why specific substrates allow for clearer, higher quality codes. That means we can provide real material information.
Domino is at the forefront of changing trends in packaging types thanks to its existing relationships with packaging manufacturers. Three sample labs - in Hamburg, US and Shanghai - combine to make Domino’s capability in the analysis of substrate and laser’s affect upon it truly world-class.
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