Flexible packaging is among the fastest-growing options in the packaging industry due to its ability to add value while offering transportation and safety efficiency.
What is flexible packaging?
Flexible packaging is any packaging –or part of it– whose shape can be easily moulded. This option is seeing an increasing use in areas such as medical packaging and food packaging.
Some of the most popular flexible packaging materials include paper, aluminium foil and film, in addition to combinations of various materials. On the other hand, the most well-known formats in the flexible packaging market are bags of different sizes, shrink wrap and different types of flexible coatings available to store liquids, for example.
The manufacturing of this type of package may involve the use of a single material or a combination of properties from various flexible packaging materials, so that each is used in a different layer performing a specific function. Some examples of flexible packaging have several layers, which include the coating, external layer, structural layer, barrier layer and sealing.
Advantages of flexible packaging
The flexible packaging industry is continuously growing due to the many advantages of this type of packaging both for companies and for the end users.
Protection and safety for your products
Flexible packaging offers optimal protection for the products within against physical hazards, such as those that take place during transportation and storage, as well as protection against environmental elements such as temperature, light, humidity or gas. Therefore, the products are protected, extending their shelf life.
Marketing and convenience for the end user
Plastic packaging, foil packaging and all other flexible packaging materials allow for the printing of images in vivid colours, strengthening company branding and catching the consumer’s eye.
In addition, flexible packaging is a convenient option for consumers due to its ease of storage, the option to reseal it once opened and its suitability for being microwaved.
Customization and versatility
The flexible packaging industry is working to make packages adapt increasingly better to the product that they carry and the needs of commercialization, storage and transportation.
A few examples:
- The film has the ability to keep food products such as vegetables or meat fresh, lasting longer in the refrigerator thanks to this type of packaging.
- Dried fruit pouches that include a zipper to make it easier to open and close the package, keeping the product fresh and in perfect state.
- Packages such as Doypack, which is perfect for packing all kinds of products, whether solids, powders, gels or liquids, thanks to its high resistance and great ability to preserve the properties of its content.
Additionally, there are many options in regard to the product’s display at the supermarket, such as a package that stays upright -known as the stand-up pouch- or one that can be hanged from a peg.
Flexible packaging also enables brands to include the latest in technology, such as QR codes that offer additional product information or sensors that detect the state of the product within.
This type of packaging makes it easy to reduce its thickness and weight, using up to 50% less material and, consequently, reducing package production costs.
Moreover, since the weight and volume of the package are reduced, transportation costs are decreased as well.
Flexible packaging has a lower carbon footprint than other packaging alternatives, uses less energy and generates less waste.
Furthermore, by extending the shelf life of food products, it significantly reduces the generation of food waste.
Flexible packaging testing: tests and machinery used to perform them
Testing flexible packaging is an essential process used to decide and confirm the type of materials and configurations that are adequate to offer the required product safety while optimizing costs.
These tests include:
- Tear testing: measures the necessary force to tear the packaging materials after a cut has been made. Performing it requires the use of a specific tear tester.
- Friction testing: this test measures the friction coefficient of materials such as paper, plastic film or corrugated cardboard. Its purpose is to determine at which inclination angle the sample starts sliding. Measuring this requires the use of a friction tester.
- Thickness test: ensures that the caliber of the material is uniform for all products – a particularly important test to guarantee the safety of flexible packaging. Performing this test requires a machine that includes a precise digital micrometer.
- Hot tack testing: measures the sealing force of a package to prevent leaks, among other risks. This test is critical in medical packaging, since any failure of this kind might compromise the package’s sterility. It requires the use of a specific machine called ‘tack tester’.
- Hot seal testing: measures the capabilities of the heat sealer (common solution for the sealing of flexible packaging) through the use of specific machines such as a hot seal tester or others that can seal packaging consistently.
- Bending stiffness and resistance testing: a testing method that measures the rigidity of a material and its elasticity through the use of a specific bending resistance tester.
In addition to these tests, flexible packaging can also be subjected to transport simulation tests in order to prevent possible damages caused by the distribution cycle to the package and the goods that it contains.