Plastics Decorating July/August 2020

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Celebrating 20 Years! Importance of Process-Specific Audits Laser Marking Plastic Parts Cannabis Packaging Opportunities

Th e fi iss rst ue !






Serving industries in: Spo rting Goods Cosmetics Automotive Home Appliances Medical Devices Electr ical Apparatus Plastic Packaging Industrial Goods

Flat/Oval/Taper/Square/Contour Surface Decorations


Continuous Film with Vacuum forming in normal molding cycle for irregular surface decoration.

North Pacific will p rovide Metall ic and Pi gment Foi l, H eat Transfe r Labels , Hot Stamp ing Machines and In-Mold Process to you as a Turn-Key System. We will guide you through the implementation.


July/August 2020


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The Importance of Process-Specific Audits

Critical for success in plastics decoration, auditing and quality assessment ensure the ability to consistently provide products that meet customers’ requirements.

Ask the Expert

Laser Marking for Plastic Parts

When it comes to plastic parts, laser marking and engraving offer opportunities for both decoration and product traceability.


Opportunities in Cannabis Packaging

In the past few years, cannabis packaging has evolved significantly with more opportunities on the horizon.


Companies Adjust to Hard-Hit Ad Specialties Market

The plastics industry is working hard to adapt to customer needs as the economy continues to shift rapidly.


Laser Welding: The ‘Beautiful’ Plastics Assembly Technology

Laser welding allows manufacturers to complement aesthetically pleasing designs with greater craftsmanship in product assembly


Flame Plasma Surface Modification of Polymers for Adhesion Bonding: Process Control, Equipment and Applications Improve polymer adhesion by increasing surface energy with flame treatment.

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DEPARTMENTS Viewpoint...........................................................................6 Product.............................................................................18 Association.......................................................................21 Tech Watch......................................................................36 (Industrial Decorating Solutions’ CER Technology)

Product Highlight............................................................38 (Inkjet, Screen and Offset Printing Inks)

Industry............................................................................47 Marketplace.....................................................................49 Supplier Quick Links......................................................50

July/August 2020

ISSN: 1536-9870 Published by: Peterson Publications, Inc.

2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite 101 Topeka, KS 66614 (785) 271-5801

Website: Email: Editor-in-Chief Jeff Peterson Managing Editor Dianna Brodine Editor Brittany Willes Assistant Editors Nancy Cates Lara Copeland Technical Editor Scott Sabreen, The Sabreen Group

Art Director Becky Arensdorf Graphic Designer Kelly Adams Online Director Mikell Burr Vice President Gayla Peterson Circulation Manager Brenda Schell

Plastics Decorating is published quarterly. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any manner without written consent from the publisher.

Read the latest articles from Plastics Decorating or download a digital edition at July/August 2020 5


20 Years of Plastics Decorating Magazine by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Decorating


ome things that began in the year 2000 were built to last. The television program “Survivor” crowned its first winner and became the most popular TV show of the season. Oprah published the first issue of her magazine, O. The first three-man crew was assigned to live on the new International Space Station. And, 20 years ago, Peterson Publications launched a new magazine dedicated to covering decorating and assembly processes for the plastics industry – Plastics Decorating. Looking back, January of 2000 seems like an unlikely time to launch a new magazine. Y2K was supposed to cause chaos across the world at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, shutting down computers due to a supposed programming error. But, for a plastics industry preparing for NPE2000, the timing was right. The beginning Peterson Publications, Inc., specializes in niche industry publications, primarily in the manufacturing spaces for print and plastics. One of its first magazines was for the Foil & Specialty Effects Association – InsideFinishing – which covered finishing and decorating techniques for paper. Jeff Peterson, owner of Peterson Publications, thought the concept could be expanded into plastics.

“In one of my first employments out of college, I was involved with the marketing and sale of hot stamping foils – for both graphics and plastics applications – so, I had past experience in both areas,” explained Peterson. “After about five years of growing InsideFinishing, I began to think that there would be a market for a magazine that covered the decorating of molded plastics, just as there was for the graphic arts industry. We had many contacts, especially from the hot stamping area, to help us launch Plastics Decorating in 2000, and we timed our first issue around the NPE show that year.”

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Familiar faces and strong partnerships Early copies of Plastics Decorating showcase some familiar faces, especially when looking at the advertising. Comdec, Custom Foils, DieStampCo, Engineered Printing Solutions (formerly Pad Print Machinery), InkCups, KURZ, Schwerdtle, TransTech, United Silicone and WebTech all were early supporters – and remain advertisers in the most recent issue. “We are so thankful to our early supporters of Plastics Decorating and for those who have continued to support us 20 years later,” stated Peterson. “It has been an amazing ride.” Early articles also featured industry stalwarts as writers and contributors, thanks to Peterson’s strong industry connections. Soon after launching Plastics Decorating, Peterson became involved with the SPE Decorating & Assembly Division. He was asked to sit on the board of directors and has remained for the past 18 years, currently serving as chair. “Through the Division, I met many people who have helped us along the way to build the editorial content and support Jeff Peterson us with advertising,” Peterson said. started Plastics “Jordan Rotheiser (Rotheiser Design), Decorating with who passed away in 2015, was a great his experience help with our magazine for several years. with hot He was active in SPE for 55 years, and stamping foils. he shared his extensive knowledge by writing a series of articles for Plastics Decorating.” Other recurring authors, including Scott Sabreen (The Sabreen Group) and Paul Uglum (Delphi, Aptiv and currently Uglum Consulting), came from the magazine’s ongoing involvement with the Division. Ken Holt from Dukane has been a frequent



Today’s decoraTing & assembly source


Thirsty for More: Drinkware Decorating Trends Pad Printing on Textured Surfaces Custom Inks for Digital Inkjet Instant Bonding with Adhesives

UV-Cured Powder Coating Developments

SGIA Preview Issue

Emerald’s High-Tech Contract Decorating 2012 SGIA Expo Show Preview Scratch-Resistance in One Step

contributor, as was Keith Hillestad (United Silicone – who passed away in 2010) and John Kaverman (Innovative Marking Systems and currently Pad Print Pros). “Two of our most dedicated supporters of Plastics Decorating were Jordan and Keith,” explained Peterson. “I met them right after we started the magazine – they were both on the SPE Decorating & Assembly Board of Directors. Jordan and Keith were keys to our success as a magazine and became close friends. At least once a year, when we have an in-person board meeting, we still raise a toast to them both.” Revisiting article topics Plastics Decorating has been published on a quarterly basis from the beginning. After 20 years, that equals 80 magazine issues – and, with an estimated average of 48 pages per issue, that’s more than 3,800 pages of industry knowledge shared by experts from all areas of plastics decorating and assembly. In the very first issue, publication staff tackled the “Challenges with Screen Printing Polyethylene and Polyproplyene.” Soon after, the magazine addressed such topics as selecting the right hot stamping equipment, the return of metallized plastics to automobiles and ultrasonic welding set-up parameters. Container decorating challenges have consistently been featured – but the technology has changed. That first article in 2002 discussed common issues with screen printing and pad printing on cylinders, but the latest article on container decorating featured digital decorating processes. Other early articles touched on promotional products decorating with pad printing, the hot-plate welding process and flame plasma surface treatment. Events from organizations such as SGIA and ANTEC have long been featured in the magazine – although this year, the events went digital, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And, while SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division has hosted Topical Conferences for many years (organized and managed by Plastics Decorating and Peterson Publications), Plastics Decorating hosted its first event in 2019: The Surface Summit. NPE – the launch point for the magazine in 2000 – also appears every three years in the magazine’s pages.

Plastics Decorating also has stayed very involved with tradeshows and conferences by being a consistent exhibitor at events that include NPE, the SGIA Show (now PRINTING United) and several of the PLASTEC shows around the country. This has allowed the magazine to enjoy additional distribution and exposure at industry events and to update the mailing list with current subscriptions. The digital age In 2000, only 26.1% of the US workforce over the age of 25 used the internet or email at work. Today, the Plastics Decorating website sees more than 5,250 website visitors per month, and more than 6,000 readers view the magazine’s digital edition through their desktop computers or mobile devices. Although paper copies of those early magazines now are collector’s editions, the last nine years of Plastics Decorating magazines are online in their entirety. A few articles from earlier issues can be found on the website, too – stretching all the way back to the very first issue of Plastics Decorating. These article archives ensure the knowledge shared by industry experts is accessible to anyone searching for answers related to plastics decorating and assembly – from engineers in injection molding companies and designers at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to those on the factory floor. Twenty years after publishing its first issue, Plastics Decorating is proud to be a technical and educational resource for the plastics industry. We are thankful for the support of the advertisers represented within the pages of the magazine, and we are grateful to all those who have shared their expertise over the years. With two decades in the rear-view mirror, we’re looking forward to learning what changes we will see in the next 20 years. “I am very proud of what we have been able to do with Plastics Decorating, but we are dedicated to not sitting still,” concluded Peterson. “We know the industry will continue to change, and our plans are to change with it. We are excited for the future.” n

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The Importance of Process-Specific Audits by Paul Uglum, president, Uglum Consulting, LLC


uditing and quality assessment have long been critical for success in plastic decoration. These can take the form of widely accepted quality certifications or more narrowly defined requirements that are industry or company specific. Two assessments that are well established are ISO 9001 and IAFT 16949. ISO 9001 is the international standard identifying the requirements for quality management systems. IATF 16949 is the international specification for quality management systems used by the automotive industry. IATF 16949 is aligned to ISO 9001, but has additional requirements specific to automotive, emphasizing defect prevention and reduction in variation and waste. Consistency is key The object of these standards is to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products that meet the customers’ requirements. Implementation of these standards has done much to standardize and improve the performance of component manufacturers globally. Unfortunately, they have failed in guaranteeing acceptable performance. There are many reasons for this, but a significant one is the wide variation in the methods and techniques used in plastic decoration. Painting – a fairly standard technique – is actually a very complex process involving many steps that can be

Figure 1. Typical painting process

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implemented in many different ways. Having visited potential suppliers in all regions, it is clear that there is a wide variation in the processes used to achieve the same end. The range of available process options and the level of expertise with which they are executed create a wide range of outcomes. Also, some processes are very capable in some instances, large parts for example, and much less in others. Piano black or metallic paints are good examples of appearances that can be more easily produced in some plants and only with difficulty in others. One result of this has been the automotive industry’s introduction of process-specific audits and quality instructions, to improve consistency and quality of the product. These can take the form of approved painted part suppliers, based on process specific quality audits. Ford, BMW and VW all have some form of these audits. They also can take the form of process specific process requirements, like GM uses. Special process coating system assessment One such industry-wide process-specific assessment is the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) CQI-12, Special Process Coating System Assessment. This document covers both coating of plastics and of metals and, after the first two sections that cover general facility issues, facilities then can select those processes that are appropriate to their plant and line.

CQI-12 breaks the coating process assessment out by the type of process step, including pretreatment, coating deposition including spray coating, curing, equipment and, finally, part inspection and testing. Since it is designed to look at all coated parts, some sections apply to decorated plastic and some do not. As a general audit guideline, it does some things well and others not so well. Its strengths include the requirement that there is a dedicated and qualified coating person on-site and defines what that means. The best run facilities do this because it eliminates many problems. Having an on-site expert is important not only in dealing with the day-to-day unexpected problems, but also to develop processes for new product launches. Full-time dedicated finishing engineers are difficult to find. Experienced engineers in North America and Europe are retiring and taking their expertise with them. Many companies do not prepare for this and are left with less experienced people running critical operations. In regions where there is a high turnover of staff, including those with crucial skills, experience is hard to develop and maintain using local personnel. The specification goes on to require Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis (PFMEA) and quality plans that actually reflect current operations. This is critical, since undocumented processes or work-arounds can lead to unexpected field results. The resulting part may look good leaving the plant but fail in the field. The audit looks at loading processes, part handling and storage. Finally, it looks at plant cleanliness and housekeeping as well as the monitoring of control parameters. Its weakness comes mostly from what is missing. Some of what is missing includes an assessment of newer and/or plasticspecific part preparation processes, such as CO2 cleaning, and surface treatment, such as plasma treatments. It also does not include a thorough evaluation of curing processes. It focuses on conventional oven curing and does not adequately cover UV and combination UV/thermal cure processes that are becoming more and more common. A better evaluation of gun types and the method of application – robotic, etc. – would also be useful. Company-specific audits Some companies, not limited to automotive, have their own unique audits and quality instructions that define acceptable technologies and processes. As with the paint and painted part specifications in automotive, these are all unique, and although they contain many common features, they also have requirements specific to each OEM. It is worth looking at those things that are common, and, more importantly, why they are commonly required. Like CQI-12, they focus on clear documentation and good practices. They also generally require a continuous automated line. This is because batch processes lead to unnecessary

Photo 1. Sprimag two-component paint mixing system

variation that can result in a range of performance outcomes. For the same reason, in most cases, hand spraying in a booth also is prohibited. They also generally require two component mixing systems, with formulations using an isocyanate hardener. Although it is possible to premix paint and hardener and have an acceptable pot life, for many formulations this cannot be done successfully. There are unique retirements from some. BMW, for example, calls out CO2 cleaning. Supercritical CO2 is a highly effective solvent. There is some mechanical cleaning as well, but this may not be needed or impact final performance in all cases. One of the weaknesses of the industry as a whole is that most audits and specifications tend to look at each plastic decoration process as a unique activity that stands alone and does not affect

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Photo 2. Sprimag integrated CO2 cleaning station

the others. In reality, they can have significant impacts on each other. For a part that has multilayer paint, the time between paint layers can have a significant impact on performance. For more complex parts the processes – which can include a sequence of painting, physical vapor deposition, laser ablation, pad (tampo) printing, UV hard coating, and/or UV painting – many process variables come into play. The sequence of operations, as well as the handling and storage between steps, can have a significant impact on final performance in the field. In some cases, the time between each step is the most critical in achieving acceptable yield and performance. For this reason, an effective audit should look at the entire process flow. How to prepare for an audit The first step when being audited is to make sure to understand the auditor’s requirements. What is the scope of the audit, what documentation is required and what parts of the plant will the auditor review? Make sure to conduct a pre-audit, including a walk-through of the facility, in the way the auditor would expect to. While performing this walk-through look beyond the audit questions to see if anything else looks out of place. Review the appropriate documentation to be sure it is up to date and meets the customer’s expectations. Finally, address any issues found prior

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to the scheduled audit. Preparation for an audit can be a tool to learn and to improve processes prior to the audit. It is a good idea to have audit-specific training for teams in preparation for the audit. Everyone should understand how to answer audit questions and how to interact in a professional manner with the auditor. Finally, be aware of any weaknesses, and be ready to address them if needed. If assisting the purchasing or supplier quality department in auditing a supplier, the guidance is similar. Make sure to understand the audit requirements as they have been provided to the supplier. It is always worth the effort to visit a potential supplier and walk the process, as defined in their quality plan, from the arrival of raw materials through the shipping department. This is true with both formal and informal audit procedures. If something is not understood, ask questions. It is both a good way to learn best practices and to identify potential risks. Internal audits The most effective audit is the one done on the manufacturer’s own operation. Companies that go beyond just meeting

Norilux® DC –

formable, abrasion and chemical resistant protective lacquer

Norilux® DC is a formable, abrasion and chemical resistant dual-cure screen printing lacquer, which can be used as a protective lacquer or hard coat for first surface protection of products manufactured in IMD/FIM technology using PC, PMMA, ABS, and PP films. Versions The glossy version of the dual-cure lacquer can be printed on textured film surfaces to produce abrasion resistant and transparent display windows. The matte version of Norilux® DC can be printed on uncured transparent hard coat films such as Makrofol® HF 312 to create matte and gloss effects on one printed film.

Innovative Inks & Functional Lacquers

Processing Norilux® DC must be dried in jet/tunnel dryers followed by box oven drying. Before further processing of the printed films, it is necessary to remove nearly all solvent residues from the layer of lacquer and substrate. Films decorated with Norilux® DC can be 3D formed after the drying process by high pressure forming or thermoforming. Afterwards, the formed films must be UV cured. Depending on the thickness of the lacquer layer, UV doses of 1200–2000 mJ/ cm2 are necessary (Kühnast UV-Integrator, UV 250 to 410 nm, max. 365 nm).

Besides the high gloss version, various satin gloss, textured and matte grades as well as pigmented and UV stabilized versions are available. Tactile surface structures, such as brushed metal effects, 3D patterns, wood and stone designs can be printed with the highly resistant lacquer. The dual-cure screen printing lacquer can be used for overprinting silicone-free UV curing, solvent and water-based screen printing inks as well.

Resistances The cured lacquer layer shows excellent resistances to abrasion, chemicals and cleaning agents and passes various creme tests of the automobile industry. Applications


Norilux® DC can be used for numerous applications including, but not limited to, center stacks, touch panels, and decorative trims in automotive interiors. Even mobile phone covers are overprinted with the highly resistant lacquer.

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customers’ minimum requirements and focus on how to convert audit data into a competitive advantage benefit the most. To do this, the data must be used to reduce waste and create a lasting change in product design and manufacturing operations. Just as walking a part supplier’s line can be very instructive, so can walking your own line. This works best when there are observers from more than one background. Using a team composed of the plant process expert, line operator, product designer and process engineer will give insights from design intent to process limits. The interaction can result not only in process improvements but also future designs that are easier to manufacture. In an age of factory information systems, and now with the current pandemic, it is far too easy to look at numbers on a computer screen without understanding the underlying conditions that lead to them. Travel may not be possible in the near future, but if facilities do not have an effective internal audit system for their decoration processes, now is a good time to design one. The first step is to identify a target product to audit. Prioritize the target based on first time quality and customer issues or on a new launch. The next step is to identify and review the appropriate documents – PFMEA, quality plan, work

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Photos 3 and 4. Improperly stored in-process assemblies

One of the weaknesses of the industry as a whole is that most audits and specifications tend to look at each plastic decoration process as a unique activity that stands alone and does not affect the others. instructions etc. After this, have the team walk through the process, observe and record any issues. Create an action list based on these observations. It is useful to arrange observations as critical, must be fixed now, systematic, compliance and, finally, observations unrelated to the audit. Create a “look across” list. If there is an issue in one line, it may be an issue on others as well. Implement any necessary changes and update the appropriate documentation. Finally, go back and monitor the result. In doing plant audits it is important to go from door to door – from the receipt of raw materials and parts through the final

assembly and packaging of the product (or parts) that goes out the door. It is easy to make good parts at high yield only to have them become damaged by poor handling and improper procedures or workstations in final assembly. Even with a focus on specific processes or process sequences, look beyond them. Conclusion On a final note, in all cases decorated plastic parts must meet the referenced material specifications: VW TL226 paint performance specification, for example. Regardless of how well a facility does in any audit, the final factors in determining success are meeting the customer’s specifications and successful deployment in the field. It is critical to verify that the process is delivering as expected. n Paul Uglum has 43 years’ experience in various aspects of plastic materials, plastic decoration, joining and failure analysis. He owns Uglum Consulting, LLC, working in the areas of plastic decoration and optical bonding. For more information, send comments and questions to

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ASK THE EXPERT A resource sponsored by SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division

Laser Marking for Plastic Parts


rom airplane cockpits to ID cards, laser marking and engraving can be applied to a variety of products for a range of uses. Plastics Decorating sat down with Faycal Benayad-Cherif, business manager for FOBA Laser, to discuss how laser marking/engraving works, as well as issues such as the best application for use and selecting the best laser for a given application.

Explain the laser marking/engraving process on plastic parts. Plastic parts are laser marked through a process called foaming. As the plastic is exposed to the laser beam, it creates a molten area that turns into a foam of microcavities that either capture or reflect light. Unfortunately, not all polymer materials react with a color contrast when laser marked. Depending on the characteristics of the material, the resulting effect can be lighter, darker or no mark at all. A common technique to overcome this limitation is the addition of additives or dies to the material. Additives act as a catalyst to create a contrasted reaction of the laser on the plastic. How are lasers best used for marking 3D plastic parts or products? Since their conception, laser markers have been designed to provide the best mark on flat surfaces. The reality is that most marked surfaces are not flat. Luckily, lasers have a “depth of focus” or range of focus that allows them to mark on curved surfaces, for as much as the curvature does not exceed a few millimeters. The range is limited but covers many marking applications. Take the example of the steering wheel control module with its multi-shape buttons. Even though the surfaces are angled and curved, lasers have enough depth of focus to create a good mark.

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If the mark area is significantly curved (more than a few mm), the use of an optical focus shifter or third axis is required. A focus shifter is an opto-mechanical device that displaces the focus of the laser, allowing it to follow the object’s shape. A third option consists of mounting the part on a multiaxial gantry that reorients the part as the laser is engraving. This last approach, although more complex, places the surface perpendicular to the laser, achieving a more uniform and continuous material removal rate. What are some of the best applications for laser marking plastics? Among the best applications for laser marking on plastics are product traceability, secured ID cards and automotive decoration. Traceability applications generally i nclude a d ate of expiration and/or a 2D code that is placed on plastic packages found in commercial products. Secure ID cards, such as driver’s licenses, use a special layer of carbonenriched polycarbonate t o p r i nt n a m e s a nd pictures. Many driver’s licenses around the world have pictures that are laser marked on plastics. The use of grayscale lasers in combination with special plastics has made ID cards more difficult to counterfeit. Top. Personal ID marked with For decoration, the most a grayscale laser on a highly common applications are sensitive card. Bottom. A close found in the interior of view on the “OK” shows the cars or airplane cockpits. paint thickness and the white From dial gauges to the plastic underneath.

button that controls car windows, most of the texts and graphics are marked by lasers. As an example, the graphics on the steering wheel buttons, made of white plastics and covered with a thin layer of black paint, are laser etched to remove the top layer and make the white plastic visible. An LED mounted behind the button makes the graphics visible when the dashboard is lit.

Plastic materials (with additives) marked with ultraviolet (left) and infrared (right) lasers.

What should decorators consider when choosing between a traditional vanadate laser and a fiber laser? Vanadate lasers, based on neodymium doped vanadate crystals, are best used in situations where the heat effect needs to be minimized. Lasers react with material by sending pulses of energy. The repetition rate, the energy stored in the pulse and the duration of the pulse have a direct effect on the end result. Vanadate lasers have a shorter pulse width with high peak energy. For applications that are sensitive to the effect of heat (heat affected zone) like plastic buttons, a vanadate laser is more appropriate. The laser needs to remove the coat of black paint as efficiently as possible without discoloring the white plastic underneath. Opposite of vanadate lasers, fiber lasers tend to produce a lower peak energy over a longer pulse duration. They are best adapted for marking on metals such as steel, titanium or anodized aluminum. Built on solid state technology, fiber lasers are more affordable, have a longer lifetime and come in a smaller form factor. In limited situations, fiber lasers can provide some contrasted marks on certain plastics but are not always best adapted for all plastic marking. What is fixtureless laser marking and how does it work? Fixtureless laser marking is a patented technology developed by FOBA to address the indirect hardware cost manufacturers face during production. The innovation allows for the marking or engraving of parts without the need for fixtures. Today, to guarantee a repeatable laser mark placement, using a fixture is a must. Designing the correct fixture is an iterative engineering process that includes steps such as prototyping, testing, training and documentation. Depending on the number of different products that require fixtures for laser marking,

the cost of tooling, including engineering, can easily exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Fixtureless laser marking uses a camera system built inside the laser that combines a set of tiled images to reconstruct an image of the marking area free of perspective distortion. Eliminating perspective distortion from the camera image enables a robust position alignment regardless of the position or the orientation of the part. Within a second, the object orientation is known and passed on to the laser so the part is marked accordingly. What are the main advantages of fixtureless laser marking? The main advantages of fixtureless marking are cost savings, simplicity of use and automation. Cost savings are achieved by eliminating engineering time, streamlining production processes, and lowering production and maintenance costs. When fixtures are not required, operator training is simplified, and automation is easily implemented. Parts can be processed in a random order, loose on a conveyor. No locating or positioning mechanism is required. The results are a higher and faster throughput, a lower reject and production cost, as well as a faster financial return on the investment. n Dr. Faycal Benayad-Cherif is business manager at FOBA Laser, a Danaher Company. He has more than 25 years of experience in the innovation, development and management of laser-based products. Author of publications and patents, he holds degrees in biomechanics, electrical engineering and physics. He is a recognized speaker in the automotive and medical industries. For more info, visit


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PRODUCT Tapematic Offers PST Line II Italy-based Tapematic, a manufacturer of UV varnishing and metallization equipment, now offers the PST Line II, which features high energy efficiency and minimal emissions. The PST line consists of several modules integrated together and totally dependent on the requirement of the specific customer. Clients can customize the line according to their precise needs and requirements. This includes stations for manual and/or automatic loading and unloading, cleaning and pretreatment areas, primer application, UV base coating, sputtering, decoration and UV top coating. Additional modules are available. For more information, visit Forward Technology Launches Dual-Axis Servo Spin Welder Forward Technology, Cokato, Minnesota, a manufacturer of standard and custom plastic welding equipment and testing systems, has announced a new dual-axis servo spin welder designed for a wide range of injection molded applications requiring high rotational power and the highest degree of vertical and rotational precision. The new HD2X-OSW servo spin welder provides rotational and vertical positioning, along with an industry-leading 24" of stroke (weld height range). This large range allows for simple push-button recipe changes when switching from tall to short tools, or vice versa, without manually adjusting the head’s vertical position. The spin welder orients part halves relative to each other with rotational tolerance accuracy of ± 0.1-deg. and provides a finished vertical weld tolerance of ±0.002-in. For more information, visit Ampacet Introduces Two Laser Marking Masterbatch Solutions Ampacet Corporation, Tarrytown, New York, a global masterbatch producer, has introduced Laser Mark 1001074-E and Laser Mark 1001088-E, cost-effective solutions that enable high definition, high contrast laser marking on clear and dark surfaces using NdYAG laser systems. Ampacet Laser Mark 1001074-E produces sharp dark markings on transparent or light-colored plastic parts with an NdYAG laser and does not affect the color or transparency of the plastic part or article. It is antimony-free and suitable for food contact applications. Ampacet Laser Mark 1001088-E, designed for complex projects featuring different color shades, produces dark or clear markings depending on the color of the plastic item and the parameters of the laser. Laser marking is widely used for marking logos, barcodes, graphics, expiration dates and serial numbers. For more information, visit Emerson Unveils Laser Welder for Smaller Plastic Parts Emerson, St. Louis, Missouri, has introduced the Branson GLX Micro Laser Welder, supporting the need to manufacture

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smaller and more delicate plastic parts used in the medical and consumer electronics industries. The benchtop version uses advanced laser technology and incredibly low clamp force to produce precise, clean and repeatable welds of superior aesthetic quality and performance. The GLX Micro uses patented Simultaneous Through-Transmission Infrared® (STTlr ®) laser welding technology, enabling manufacturers to achieve superior weld strength and quality with exceptional speed and flexibility. With STTlr® all lasers are fired simultaneously to heat, melt and bond the component parts along the entire weld surface in 0.5 to five seconds. This method is highly repeatable and stable, helping to increase production throughput. For more information, visit Extol Receives Patent for nanoSTAKE Plastic Staking Technology Plastic products engineering and innovation company Extol, Zeeland, Michigan, has received a patent for its nanoSTAKE plastic staking technology, which was developed for staking small plastic bosses in tight, hard-to-fit locations. The process heats and forms a plastic boss into a stake to mechanically capture another component. The low-current (1.5 A), highperformance heater heats a punch to a programmed melt temperature in seconds. The punch pushes down on the boss and forms it into a stake. Once the punch reaches the correct height, it rapidly cools to a programmed release temperature, allowing it to retract without sticking to the plastic. The whole process can happen in less than five seconds and can stake bosses as small as 0.5 mm. For more information, visit

Cognex Introduces Industrial Smart Camera Cognex Corporation, Natick, Massachusetts, has introduced the In-Sight ® D900 embedded vision system. The D900 features Cognex’s ViDi™ deep learning software inside an In-Sight industrial-grade smart camera. The self-contained system is designed to solve a broad range of complex in-line inspection applications including optical character recognition (OCR), assembly verification and defect detection. With the self-learning ability of a human inspector and the robustness and consistency of a vision system, it can be set up using

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a small number of image samples, leveraging Cognex’s familiar and easy-to-use spreadsheet platform and without the need for a PC or deep learning expertise to deploy. The D900 is ideal for automating complex inspection applications across a range of industries. For more information, visit

Helping the Heroes. Schwerdtle’s employees are extremely proud to be providing products such as ultrasonic stitching wheels, heat sealing dies and calibration dies needed by our customers for the production of ventilators, facemasks and shields, hospital gowns, syringes, IV bags and other products needed by our front line heroes. Questions? Call 203.330.2750 41 Benham Ave. Bridgeport, CT 06605

Diversified Plastics Adds Third Acceleration Station™ in Support of COVID-19 Response Diversified Plastics, Inc. (DPI), Minneapolis, Minnesota, a custom plastic-injection molder and additive manufacturer, has activated its third Carbon® printer. The printer is powered by Digital Light Synthesis™ (DLS™) technology. In just one year, customer demand has grown rapidly for DPI’s Acceleration Station services, including design for additive manufacturing assistance, Carbon DLS manufacturing, cleanroom assembly and packaging expertise. Now more than ever, medical device and other original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are looking for ways to accelerate product design, testing, manufacturing and validation. Acceleration Station services, including Carbon DLS additive manufacturing, produce high-quality plastic parts quicker without tooling. For more information, visit Colors & Effects® Develops Sicopal® Black for Smart Recycling of Dark Plastics The Colors & Effects® brand from German chemical producer BASF, headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany, has developed a carbon black replacement, NIR-reflective Sicopal® Black K 0098 FK, for smart recycling of plastics. When colored with carbon black, plastics go undetected by waste sorting machines, preventing the plastic from being detected for recycling. The Colors & Effects® R&D team took on the industry need for recyclable black plastics that can be detected at materials recycling facilities and built on the company’s Sicopal Black technology to create the new pigment. It is suitable for all commonly used plastics materials, including high-heat polymers. With its NIR-ref lectivity, Sicopal® Black K 0098 FK allows the reliable detection of the polymer even at high-pigment content. For more information, visit and n

ASSOCIATION Letter from the Chair

I don’t believe anyone could have imagined the situation we are currently living and working in. It is so hard to predict what might happen next. What we do know, as things start improving and getting back to some type of normal, is that things cannot go back to exactly how they were – our world will be different. From our SPE Decorating & Assembly Division standpoint, we will need to adapt as well. We were certainly disappointed that we were unable to have our Topical Conference (TopCon) along with the IMDA Symposium this past June in Ypsilanti – but it was a decision we had to make. So what do we do moving forward? Our board of directors is analyzing the best way to proceed right now. We are exploring some type of virtual TopCon or Summit or developing a series of webinars sponsored by our division and Plastics Decorating. We will keep you updated on how we will move forward. Speaking of webinars, we have started a program that allows industry suppliers to sponsor a webinar and receive a list of all of those who attend. Recently, Scott Sabreen of The Sabreen Group conducted a webinar on surface pretreatment where we had nearly 140 registrations. You can visit the Plastics Decorating website ( and click on the Webinar tab to view this recorded presentation and others we have done in recent months, including the COVID-19 webinar conducted for our SPE Division members and others in the industry.

SPE Awards Student Scholarships SPE’s Decorating and Assembly Division recently awarded scholarships to Antonia Chin and Tyler Plekker. Chin is a senior studying chemical engineering at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. Her involvement in plastics is though coatings. She interned at PPG in the dispersions and pigments evaluation lab. She worked on design of experiment test models for dispersion quality, using different resin technology on plastics and metal, which fueled her desire to Chin become a coatings engineer. Plekker is a senior at Kettering University studying mechanical engineering. While at Kettering University, he has been the founding president of the Kettering Investment Club and the founding treasurer of the Kettering Combat Robotics team working directly with the university’s president and other administrators. Additionally, he is a Plekker freshman orientation team member and active in Greek life. Upon graduating, Plekker plans to find a job in continuous improvement and business optimization. SPE’s scholarship program is intended for undergraduate students with experience in the decorating of plastics by painting, vacuum metallizing, electroplating, hot-stamping, assembly or other related supplies and equipment, including courses taken, research conducted or jobs held. For more information, visit n

We are not sure when we will have an in-person TopCon or meeting again. We will be looking at when this makes sense from both an attendance and health standpoint. We are most definitely committed to another TopCon in the future. We firmly believe that there are opportunities to network and create discussion that are just not possible through something virtual or online. So, our TopCon will be back – we just are not sure when. We thank all of our SPE Decorating & Assembly Division members for sticking with us. Please stay involved and be sure to look for upcoming information on virtual events, webinars and in-person event updates. We certainly hope we will be able to be together again very soon. Jeff Peterson President, Peterson Publications, Inc. Chair, SPE Decorating & Assembly Div.


Become a member of SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division July/August 2020 21


Opportunities in Cannabis Packaging by Bill Ludlow, president and CEO, CRATIV Packaging


ackaging in the cannabis industr y has evolved tremendously in just the past five years since Colorado began d r iving child-resist ant (CR) packaging requirements circa 2014. Typically, as a state or nation comes online with cannabis regulations, CR packaging becomes written into law. Usually, cannabis regulations reference the federal law that defines the certification required to be deemed as child-resistant, 16 CFR 1700.20. Today is the most innovative time in history for the development of new CR packaging to meet the needs of the cannabis market. No longer do edibles, vape products or pre-roll joints have to be packaged in bottles that were designed for pills. Packaging requirements The CR requirement is the first design input that must be met. Other design inputs to consider are size and shape to cover a wide range of cannabis products. Large “footprint� for regulatory labeling requirements and branding also is key. Innovation in CR packaging for cannabis has included the use of materials, such as rigid plastics, flexible films, tin and tearresistant papers. Since there is variable information for the regulatory requirements, a pressure-sensitive label is typically used with final lot/license information.

Photo 1. Edibles, such as this chocolate in a bottle, no longer have to be packaged in bottles that were designed for pills. The same goes for vape products and pre-roll joints.

Cannabis companies must be careful about purchasing too much packaging inventory. Preprinted products can lead to obsolete inventory if regulations change and different regulatory labeling requirements come into play. It is common to see cannabis products at dispensaries where great initial branding has been ruined by additional stickers that had to be applied to meet updated regulations. Branding typically is carried out with pressure-sensitive labels or preprinted information directly on the packaging. Some rigid plastic packaging has begun to be preprinted; however, this has not become dominant in the cannabis industry yet. So, there is a great deal of potential in this area. In many cases, dispensaries also are required to put a label on the product that shows their license number and date of sale. The industry is doing its best to make sure product components and manufacturing are traceable; however, use of a single lot number on a product that can be traced back through a quality system to carry out an investigation is not being done in most cases. Often, cannabis companies lack quality systems to carry out incoming inspection of packaging.

Photo 2. Great initial branding can be ruined by additional stickers that have to be applied to meet updated regulations.

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Since cannabis is federally legal in Canada and being controlled by Health Canada (the equivalent of the FDA in the US), quality

standards are developing at an accelerated rate there. However, branding in Canada is essentially not allowed by law. The packaging is only allowed to have one small brand image. So, the product ends up looking pretty bland, like the back end of a pharmacy. Decorating for cannabis packaging If cannabis businesses are considering direct-to-package printing for rigid plastics specifically, digital inkjet may be the best choice to consider. Direct printing provides the flexibility to make changes to the information on the fly without having the costs of additional tooling. Furthermore, there can be cost savings involved with printing directly on the packaging vs. labeling. The more permanent, textured look of digital printing can present a higher quality product. Moreover, dispensaries have limited shelf space. In many cases it is the budtender who is recommending the products from behind the counter. Being able to showcase the product and make it stand out on the shelves is key. For information or graphic images that will not continuously change, other decorating options can be used, including pad printing and screen printing. Even hot foil stamping can be

Photo 3. Direct printing can provide greater flexibility.

considered for metallic effects that can help attract customers as they contemplate different cannabis products when visiting dispensaries. In-mold labeling (IML) is beginning to make its way onto the cannabis scene. The options for films for pressuresensitive labels also are vast, including digital printing on foils and embossing. Hydro decorating also is an option. There are certainly cannabis companies that want to “bling out” their product and will pay for it. The key to implementing advanced plastics decorating is to find a customer that is willing to invest in the automation technology or

SILICONE DIES FOR PLASTICS DECORATION. Foil decorated products enhance its perceived value and often creates the decision to buy. In the plastics industry, foil decoration often provides brand identity and makes your product unique and special.

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has the volume to support it. Don't depend on, “if you build it they will come” just yet. Demand/volume is still very unpredictable. The industry is just beginning to understand that advanced manufacturing efficiencies are needed to drive down cost of goods sold (COGS) and remain competitive. Packaging automation is going to become more prominent in the coming years, and as the industry stabilizes more opportunities for automated decorating systems for direct-to-package printing will emerge. Cannabis packaging and sustainability The cannabis industry is very LOUD about sustainability. Often the flexible packaging (bags) prominent in the industry today are not recyclable. Many of the paper CR products use a multilayer (nonrecyclable) film to meet the tear resistance requirement for passing the child-resistant certification. Lots of the tin CR designs also have assembled plastic components that deem them nonrecyclable. As a result, additives to polypropylene to promote faster degradation in landfills are becoming more common. Hemp and plant-based resins also are becoming more popular. But the verdict is still out on whether cannabis customers are going to be willing to pay the higher cost for these sustainable options. The industry’s voice on sustainability will drive urgency for other CPG categories. The sustainability concerns within the

cannabis industry also will help jump-start additional directto-package printing options. There are certainly sustainable advantages of printing directly on recyclable plastic packaging vs. applying a preprinted label. However, there’s no easy answer. The engineering requirements to enable a package designed to meet the CR testing is difficult without advanced engineered materials. Advanced materials are not always sustainable. In summary: 1. New industry spurs innovation – The cannabis industry has created a fascinating new opportunity for the development of packaging designs. 2. Demand is squishy – Cannabis companies can’t give a good forecast because they don’t have any demand history. They do sometimes have solid launch plans for their product but – as with any other new product – it doesn’t always work out. 3. Branding is key – In the US and other countries where branding is allowed, differentiating products on dispensary shelves is a must. There is no dominant established brand today. Who will be the Nestlé of cannabis-infused chocolate? Expect one – and other brands for pre-roll joints, gummies, concentrates and vape pens – to emerge. 4. Small lot, fast changeover printing is winning – With regulation changes, such as new warning statements that must be added, it is important for cannabis companies to stay “nimble.” Obsolete inventory creates lots of frustration and cuts into the bottom line. Quick set-up and changeover options – including digitally printed labels and direct digital printing – are the most practical at this stage in the evolution of cannabis packaging. 5. High volume options – Once a cannabis company has volumes that reach a certain point and stability comes into place with regulations, other advanced technologies – such as IML, hydro decoration, hot stamping and thermal transfer printing – will begin to more rapidly take CPG market share in cannabis. n Bill Ludlow is a licensed professional mechanical engineer who founded CRATIV Packaging and pivoted his career to focus on the cannabis industry in early 2015. CRATIV’s mission is to support the cannabis industry by providing unique consumer-friendly packaging solutions designed to keep cannabis out of the wrong hands while allowing businesses to express themselves through fully customizable and brandable containers. For more information, visit Ludlow

24 July/August 2020



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Companies Adjust to Hard-Hit Ad Specialties Market by Brittany Willes, editor, Plastics Decorating


s the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the world’s economy, many industries have had to adjust they way they do business. Manufacturing industries in particular have experienced major upheaval with some sectors all but shutting down while others experience massive growth as demand for specialized items, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), soars. When it comes to plastics, many suppliers and manufacturers have shifted their operations away from their usual product lines in an effort to keep plants running. One thing is for sure: Everyone is having to get creative with how to best conduct business in an uncertain economy. Shifting landscape Many areas of the manufacturing industry were hit hard in the beginning of the pandemic as shelter-at-home and social distancing orders forced facilities to close temporarily. Luckily, many in the plastics industry were labeled as essential businesses and able to remain operational. However, that doesn’t mean these facilities haven’t been feeling the sting of COVID-19. With the implementation of new safety procedures designed to protect workers, facilities are often facing reduced production and increased downtime.

One area that has taken a fairly severe hit has been the ad specialties and promotional products industry. Prior to COVID-19, the promotional products market was doing well. According to research by Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), the market “posted a 67% year-over-year increase in total promo sales in 2019.” However, demand for promotional products has dropped dramatically in some areas as orders are reduced or canceled. As a result, “ASI projections have sales falling 34% this year.” This sentiment was echoed by CDigital Director of Sales and Marketing Eric Steinwachs, who noted, “The heat transfer label business for the promotional market was up substantially for the first three months of the year. Then it was like a light switch turned off at the end of March.” For many plastics decorators working in ad specialties, that light switch going off was not the immediate disaster it could have been. According to Steinwachs, “Other heat transfers business outside of the promotional market has increased: For example, heat transfer labels for hand sanitizer, soap dispensers

28 July/August 2020

and water bottles. We have also seen increased business in the medical market.” CDigital is not the only company to see an uptick in business from the medical market. With the downturn in the traditional promotional products market, companies like Hit Promotional Products have switched up their production lines. “We started selling a lot of PPE products,” remarked CJ Schmidt, president. “We’ve sold tens of millions of masks, both the basic 3-ply and KN95 masks. We’ve sold isolation gowns, goggles – even a handful of face shields.” This switch in products has allowed Hit Promotional to not only combat the loss in revenue but allowed it to keep more employees than it otherwise might have. “We’re lucky that we use a pretty extensive temp force; we didn’t have to let go of too many permanent employees,” explained Schmidt. “We only cut back about 5% of our actual, full-time employees over the last three months. We’re in a pretty good spot there.” Preparing to reopen – with promotional products While the promotional products market has fallen off, it may be making a comeback sooner than expected. As businesses reopen, many are taking steps to welcome back employees and customers with a variety of products intended to keep them safe. This is good news for plastics manufacturers and decorators.

“Hand sanitizers will likely become a staple product in our world now,” remarked Schmidt. “In the world of promotional products, hand sanitizer was already a common item that we were doing all sorts of different types of decoration on. That will likely continue and expand to other types of sanitation and personal use products like antibacterial pens, styluses, individual packages of antiseptic wipes, etc.” According to ASI, promotional products such as personalized drinkware and pens are expected to resurge as a means to minimize sharing. Additionally, “No-touch tools are all the rage as people try to avoid contact with public touchscreens, grabbing door handles, pressing buttons and pulling levers.” Often made of lightweight, conductive plastic, no-touch tools are likely to remain an attractive promotional item as consumers continue to be wary of making contact with common public surfaces. ASI’s Executive Director of Research and Corporate Marketing Nathaniel Kucsma stated, “My hunch is that (no-touch tools) will have much longer staying power than the last new product that rocketed up the charts like this – the fidget spinner.” Further opportunities for ad specialties/promotional markets – and plastics decorators – can be found in personal protective equipment such as imprinted face shields. “In addition to branded masks, neck gaiters and bandanas, imprinted face shields have been popular among restaurants, spas/salons and even merchants at outdoor markets,” as found by ASI research.

tradeshows coming back to normal. The industry we supply promotional heat transfer labels to requires person-to-person contact, such as meetings and events.” For OWOSSO National Account Director Doug Pendergast: “The majority of OWOSSO’s customers are expecting sales to ramp back up starting in September. They are predicting more employees will be back in the office setting with more travel requiring the traditional supplies. The travel industry is the largest customer base for our promotional products decorators. Things like travel and in-person meetings will begin, and that is where the promotional products industry will see their sales return.” There is no denying these are strange times that may get stranger yet. As businesses do their best to take things day by day and adapt as best they can, things will slowly continue to move forward. n References A SI “ Po p u l a r P r o m o P r o d u c t s fo r R e o p e n i n g .” ASI “Big Markets In Promo: Retail.”

IML/IMD solutions

While many manufacturers had already pivoted their production toward PPE, especially face masks, shields have been less talked about. However, as more nonessential businesses, such as salons, reopen, shields may likely become a more practical option. Looking ahead Even as states are reopening and businesses are welcoming back employees and customers, almost everyone is asking themselves: Where do we go from here? How long until things start getting back to normal? For many markets, there is no clear answer. “I think it will be slow to recover,” stated Peter Baldwin, director of marketing for Engineered Printing Solutions. “As much as people want to congregate at sporting events and other public places, it is abundantly clear that the pandemic is far from over and people will continue to be leery of public events.” “I have asked several of our customers that same questions,” said Steinwachs. “I have heard answers from as soon as August to as late as the first quarter of 2021. I don’t believe we will see a return to normal order activity until we see the events and

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July/August 2020 29


Laser Welding: The ‘Beautiful’ Plastics Assembly Technology by Priyank Kishor, global product manager for non-ultrasonics, assembly technologies at Emerson


here has always been a romance with the aesthetic of manufactured products, of items that are thoughtfully designed, beautifully assembled, and elegant in their function and operation. Experienced consumers with an eye for such beauty might point to a piece of ceramics, an upholstered chair, a precision tool or instrument, or the fit and finish of a classic car. For budget-conscious but tech-savvy younger consumers, the experience and value of beautiful design may differ somewhat, having to compete with price and practicality, but they are nevertheless present. For these consumers, a more subtle

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form of beauty may be seen in the compact design of a laptop computer, the elegance and reliability of an operating system, the crisp color and response of a touchscreen, or the way that the trim lines of one cellphone allow it to fit far more easily into the hand, purse or pocket than other cellphones. And so, it is that every designer and every manufacturer must strive to inject a sense of thoughtful design and authentic craftsmanship into the assembly of every product. This aesthetic is even more important for mass-produced products crafted with plastic parts. Plastics struggle to achieve the cachet associated with products made of more traditional materials,

Every designer and every manufacturer must strive to inject a sense of thoughtful design and authentic craftsmanship. but they offer the benefits of light weight, lower cost, consistent strength and almost unlimited design flexibility in terms of part size, shape and color. There is no lack of assembly technology available for products that rely on plastic parts. Along with fasteners, adhesives and snap-fits, there are a range of friction-based joining methods – ultrasonic, vibration, spin and hot-plate welding. And for any particular product, each method may offer certain advantages that fit with the design and manufacturing capabilities, the size and output of the production run, and the degree of labor versus automation that the assembly process must achieve. But a growing range of high-end applications – in electronics, automotive, business and medicine – demand not only efficiency but also a higher level of aesthetics in assembly quality and cleanliness. This is where the unique qualities of laser welding fit in for a growing number of manufacturing operations. Assembly technology to meet a higher standard Laser welding is a gentle and ultra-clean joining process that enables welding of plastic parts with complex geometries and wide-ranging materials that are difficult or impossible to bond with other techniques. This process blends high production rates with maximum aesthetics: It can ensure attractive, reliable hermetic sealing in a single step that only takes a few seconds. It also is a process that is as much at home in a cleanroom production area as it is on a busy manufacturing floor. Laser welding is not always the first plastic joining solution that manufacturers consider. But those who find they need it rapidly learn that it is remarkably versatile and well suited to demanding and aesthetically critical applications. It can join a broader range of polymer materials than friction-based joining processes like ultrasonic welding. And its ability to deliver precisely aligned parts with almost invisible weld joints is unsurpassed by any plastic joining technology.

Greater Part Complexity Demands Greater Weld Precision Today, more manufacturers turn to precise, near-invisible laser welds to join parts with thin walls, complex contours and embedded electronics into beautiful, functional consumer products. Trust the Emerson’s Branson™ GLX family of laser welders to bring your product designs to life, delivering aesthetically superior laser welds with real-time production monitoring and weld data collection for assured quality. Learn more at:

The process itself is simple: Laser welding uses heat provided by a 980-nanometer laser light source, generated by laser

 Figure 1 (left). Laser welding technology now can join clear-on-clear parts with exceptional aesthetic and functional results. Photo courtesy of Emerson.

The Emerson logo is a trademark and a service mark of Emerson Electric Co. © 2020 Emerson Electric Co.

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Figure 2. Emerson offers patented STTIr® laser welding technology developed by Branson™.

diodes. This light is concentrated through fiber-optic bundles connected to the weld tooling, then precisely aimed through waveguides over the weld area of the parts according to the heating density required. A new process – patented Simultaneous Through-Transmission Infrared® (STTIr ®) laser welding technology – developed. The STTIr process differs from other laser technologies, such as track and trace, because it heats the entire weld surface at once. This process – the same one used by many medical manufacturers to produce microfluidic and drug-delivery products – ensures precise heating and reduces the clamping force required for assembly. Resulting welds are highly precise, with such narrow “collapse depth” between part surfaces that the welds can be made virtually invisible. Laser welding joins a much wider array of materials than ultrasonic welding and other friction-based welding methods. Traditionally, it has had only two part design requirements: First, every assembly must have one part whose material is transmissive or clear to the laser wavelength used, while the mating part material is absorbent or black to that wavelength (Figure 1). Second, the part geometry and stack-up must allow passage of laser energy through the transmissive part to the weld zone, where the melt occurs in the upper section of the absorbent part.

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Meeting these design requirements is not difficult. There are many transmissive plastic materials, including colorized materials, that readily transmit laser light even though they seem opaque. The same holds true for absorbent parts. Beyond carbon black, a range of color pigments absorb laser light. To be sure the combination of part colors and pigments works properly, consult with the weld equipment supplier. Appeal grows with latest innovations Technological advances continue to expand the capabilities of the laser welding process. For example, a new variation of laser welding eliminates the need to use transmissive/ absorptive parts, making it possible to weld two transmissive, or clear-on-clear, parts. This advanced process combines STTIr ® laser welding technology with a laser-absorbing solution that is applied using ultrasonic spray deposition technology. The key to the new process is to precision-treat the weld interface of one clear part with a biocompatible laser-absorber. The laserabsorber comprises microparticles of pigment dye or carbon black that are suspended in a carrier fluid, such as isopropyl alcohol or acetone. During the welding process, the laser energy hits the absorber and consumes it, releasing heat energy that conducts through the weld zone of both mating parts, which then bond together under compressive force (Figure 2).

Beautiful Graphics for Cosmetic Products at Market-Leading Speed CER announces the North American launch of the popular Ultimax-2M2N hot stamp / heat transfer machine for cosmetic applications such as lipsticks, jars, caps, and airless pumps. The system features a throughput of up to 7,000 units per hour, which is 15% higher than available competing models.

New Pad Printer Provides Industry Leading Cost & Time Savings Trans Tech’s SealCup pad printer once set the industry standard for reliability and durability. The NEW SealCup Express combines this reliability with up to 25% cost savings, up to 86% time savings, and up to 30% higher accuracy rate than alternative systems.

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Revolution in the Decorating of “Deep” Reusable Containers The new US25-E Frame hot stamp machine from United Silicone provides industryleading 16-inch throat depth for hot stamp decoration in an affordable 2.5 ton system. It revolutionizes the ability to cost-effectively decorate “deep” reusable containers such as crates, bins, totes, roll-off carts, garbage cans, and industrial containers with up to 40% cost savings. For more information, contact Todd Skakal, (716) 288-7674,

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ASSEMBLY When combined with the ability of laser welding equipment to precisely aim heat energy, the new actuator’s ability to manage low clamping force simplifies the joining of parts that are extremely small and delicate, complex in geometry, or embedded with electronic components, wiring or sensors. The risk of part deflection, bending, cracking or damage to embedded electronics is virtually eliminated. Conclusion Today’s products – whether cars, appliances, computers or wearable devices – demand not only superior design and functionality but also superior execution in assembly to maximize appeal, usability and durability. Already the leader in aesthetics and cleanliness for plastic parts assembly, laser welding technology continues to evolve, providing usability with a wide range of materials and applications. n

Figure 3. Two clear mating parts now can be laser welded using an innovative new welding process that can reliably produce complex fluid paths while maintaining superior aspect ratios. Photo courtesy of Emerson.

A second advance, this time with actuator technology, enables precise positioning and laser welding of extremely small and delicate plastic parts using ultra-low actuation force. Laser welders can be equipped with this new electromechanical actuator, which can control clamping forces as low as 1 Newton.

Priyank Kishor is a global product manager, non-ultrasonics for assembly technologies at Emerson, leading global marketing and product strategy for laser welding and other non-ultrasonic products in the Branson assembly technology portfolio. He has a decade of experience in managing programs and teams involved in global product development and international marketing. For more information, visit


Laser Welding for Plastics Assembly: Beauty More Than Skin Deep Laser welding offers a range of important benefits to product assembly operations, including: • Superior aesthetics. Manufacturers increasingly use laser welds for their aesthetics because they are precise and flash-free. Weld lines are virtually invisible. • Greater part-design freedom. While traditional plastic welding methods often require flat-plane parts, laser-emitting waveguides can conform precisely to complicated part geometry, enabling laser welding of part designs that maximize aesthetic or functional performance. Laser welding also frees designers to employ multiple reflective compartments or to embed sophisticated electronics, sensors or lighting such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), resulting in more striking, brand-differentiating part designs. • Excellent weld quality. Laser welds require no friction, vibration or movement. Laser-emitting

34 July/August 2020

waveguides can conform precisely to even complex part geometry to ensure rapid and uniform melt across the weld interface. The result is a uniform, consistently strong weld joint with precise meltcollapse depth and perfect part alignment. • Low mechanical stress. The latest laser welders can manage ultra-low clamp forces, enabling delicate or larger parts to be joined without introducing mechanical stress, so there is no need for part annealing or material stress reduction. • Ultra cleanliness. Laser welding produces no flash or particulates. It is a cleanroom-capable process that’s equally at home on any production floor. • Great versatility. Laser welding technology can bond a wide range of polymer materials, including PC, PA, PS, ABS, elastomers (TPU, TPE), PP HDPE, LDPE, PETG, PBT, PPS, PMMA, PEEK, COCs and more. n


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Industrial Decorating Solutions’ CER Technology by Lara Copeland, writer, Plastics Decorating


ER technology from Industrial Decorating Solutions (IDS), a division of ITW located in Oyonnax, France, utilizes a traditional decorating method that has been around for decades – hot stamp/heat transfer – while incorporating cutting edge technology that facilitates unprecedented decorating rates and product quality. This technology is suitable for companies that want the premium look of a variety of foil colors (metallic and pigment) or the flexibility of heat transfer labels. “CER features outstanding speed, accuracy and flexibility,” said IDS Global Medical Market Manager Chris DeMell. “The unique modular design of the CER hot stamp/thermal transfer systems enables users to address a wide variety of challenging substrates and shapes, all at a high throughput rate,” he continued. “When we look at some of the key markets that utilize this equipment, personal care and cosmetics are by far the largest.” These markets can be extremely demanding, as they fully use the packaging to assist in selling the product to the ultimate consumer. This often leads to complex, unique designs that can range from round and square packages to ovals, tapered, polygonal, conical and even crystal shard shapes. The key to the CER technology is the ability to address many different part geometries from the same platform. DeMell said the ULTIMAX series of machines is a good example of this. “This system can decorate multiple part surfaces in a multitude of designs and colors, all from the same system.” This is accomplished with an integrated quality control (CVI) along with registration systems, which save customers space, time and expense. Companies choose hot stamp and heat transfers for many reasons, from the premium metallic foils available in the full color spectrum to the multicolor, decorative heat transfer labels that contribute to product enhancement. One of the challenges of traditional vertical hot stamp/heat transfer is the relatively slow output speeds typical of these products. Both technologies depend on a combination of heat and pressure to fully transfer the image to the substrate. CER technology utilizes consumables that enable manufacturing speeds up to 8,000 parts per hour. “Typically,” DeMell said, “vertical presses can produce only a fraction of that.” CER systems are based on a modular design, allowing for a wide range of options to address specific areas of need. A single system can accommodate a wide range of products through tooling or modular adjustments. These printers are all-electric, servo-driven systems, resulting in enhanced reliability and

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higher throughput. “Rather than acquiring multiple systems that take more labor and more footprint in manufacturing, the adaptability of these units facilitates a reduction in labor costs in addition to plant efficiency,” DeMell noted. Manufacturing in North America is relying more and more on a reduced labor force, in combination with automated systems. Making systems user friendly is critical in today’s marketplace. CER units are designed with intuitive interfaces so they are easy to use by nonexpert technicians. Vision systems also are employed to enhance accuracy and quality control for the user. As with all technologies, the goal is to provide the best solution to meet the need. DeMell said there will always be a need for vertical presses and competing technologies – such as pad print, in-mold and screen print – but response has been tremendous, as CER technology allows companies to meet their demanding decorating requirements with highly efficient production rates. As this technology is vetted in more and more applications, new uses are being found all the time. “In addition to the markets noted earlier, we also are working with automotive, industrial tools, appliances and even medical,” DeMell said. Wherever companies see the need for a highly decorative image with the durability and flexibility of hot stamp and heat transfer, this option should be considered in the evaluation for the best product decoration solution. Technical details The CER weighs 3,500 kg. Its maximum printing speed is 30 m/minute, and its minimum printing speed is 2 m/minute. The maximum decoration height reaches 70 mm. n


Inkjet, Screen and Offset Printing Inks Boston Industrial Solutions, Inc. 781.281.2558

Diversified Printing Techniques 704.583.9433

Natron™ MG series ink from Boston Industrial Solutions, Woburn, Massachusetts, is formulated for plastics, chromeplated parts, coated metal and many other products. This two-component ink is designed for pad printing and screen printing on indoor and outdoor applications. The MG series ink exhibits high opacity and dries to a satin gloss finish. It has superior mechanical, weather and che m ical re sist a nce t o alcohol, acids and alkali. It is available in 43 colors, including standard, mixing, process and metallics.

Diverse ink lines from Diversified Printing Techniques, Charlotte, North Carolina, provide customers with the solutions they need. Diver sif ied of fer s i n k s f rom several manufact u rers, which gives it the flexibility to dial in the perfect solutions for the look and performance of the ink needed in customer solutions.

Comdec. Inc./Standard Machines, Inc. 899.445.9176 Comdec, Inc., Newburyport, Massachusetts, introduced the new RUCO T400 one- and two-component ink series for pad and screen printing applications. The T400 series offers improved M pigments for superior color and opacity, especially on dark substrates. It offers increased adhesion and resistance properties to many different substrates including molded plastics, coated and painted substrates, and anodized surfaces. All RUCO standard hardeners and thinners can be used. The T400 series has been formulated and tested to meet or exceed the latest safety regulations and environmental requirements. All RUCO printing inks can be matched to a customer’s PMS, RAL and special color requests.

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Functional Inks, Inc. 413.363.0770 Small batch toll manufacturing from Functional Inks, Inc., West Springfield, Massachusetts, is a great way to facilitate the early stages of formula development. Functional Inks can prepare ink, coating and adhesive UV, solvent (F.P. > 100°F) and water-based formulations in batches as small as one quart. Functional uses Eiger Machinery’s (EMI Mills) high-speed dispersers and bead mills to accomplish the tasks at hand. Color control can be accomplished via a Techkon SpectroDens spectrophotometer. Other tests of physical properties also are available. Inkcups 978.646.8980 S1 Vivid White from Inkcups, Danvers, Massachusetts, is the whitest white UV inkjet ink available on the market. Vivid White joins Inkcups’ staple S1 UV Inkjet Ink family, which has proven to be the optimal ink for multiple substrates and applications. This new addition obtains a brighter white on dark substrates and makes colors appear more vibrant when used as a base for multicolored graphics. Vivid White passes the same adhesion testing as the rest of the S1 family.

Kent Pad Printer Canada, Inc. 905.940.8539 Kent Pad Printer Canada, Inc., Markham, Ontario, offers high-quality pad printing, screen and UV inks for virtually any substrate or application. Convent ional i n ks include TPW, the most popular ink, with great printability on various substrates; TPA, a high-resistant ink for material like duroplastics; TPN, which is quick drying and water-resistant; TPE for untreated polypropylene, yielding a semi-gloss finish; TPPU, an elastic ink showing considerable forming resistance; and TPST for soft-touch applications. UV inks include KTP, with instant drying capabilities by cationic reaction initiated by UV radiation. Marabu North America 888.253.2778 Marabu North America, Charleston, South Carolina, offers two high-performing U V- a nd LED - c u r able screen printing inks for a variety of challenging applications. Ult raPack LEDC is UV LED-curable and formulated for container and flatbed label applications with excellent adhesion, water resistance, high opacity and fast cure. Substrates include HDPE, LDPE, pretreated polypropylene, rigid PVC, polycarbonate and polystyrene. UV-curable UltraPack UVCL is designed for a wide variety of plastic containers including bottles, cans, jugs and cartridges with benefits that include exceptional water resistance, high gloss and excellent durability. UVCL is suited for pretreated polyethylene and polypropylene, rigid polyesters, rigid PVC, polycarbonate and polystyrene. Nazdar Ink Technologies 913.422.1888 Since 1922, Nazdar ® has provided inks and coating to the specialty graphic printing industry. With manufacturing plants in Shawnee, Kansas, US, and Stockport, UK, and a worldwide distribution network, Nazdar is uniquely positioned to support

printers around the globe. Nazdar manufactures a comprehensive range of ink solutions in UV, UV LED, water-based and solventbased technologies for the printing industry. Whether it is for graphics or industrial, digital, screen or flexographic, Nazdar has an ink to meet various application needs. Proell, Inc. 630.587.2300 Norilux® DC from Proell, Inc., St. Charles, Illinois, is a formable, abrasionresistant, dual-cure screen printing lacquer that can be used as a protective lacquer or hardcoat on PC, PMMA, ABS and PP films. It is suited for first surface coating/protection of IMD/FIM products. The glossy version of the dual-cure lacquer can be printed on textured film surfaces to produce abrasion-resistant transparent display windows. The matte version can be printed on uncured transparent hard-coat films to create matte and high-gloss effects. Along with the glossy Norilux® DC lacquer, various grades of satin, textured, matte, pigmented and UV-stabilized versions are available. Trans Tech 630.752.4000 ITW Trans Tech, Carol Stream, Illinois, offers Type P, a solvent-based ink that will adhere to a variety of substrates and can be processed on a variety of pad printing machines, from various flat systems to quick running rotational systems. The Type P ink is available in a single or two-component formulation and has the capability of drying to the touch within 15 to 30 seconds. One of the most used formulations for Type P ink is in disposable medical device applications. This formulation will meet the requirements for Medical Class VI testing certification as well. n

July/August 2020 39


Flame Plasma Surface Modification of Polymers for Adhesion Bonding: Process Control, Equipment and Applications by Scott Sabreen, president, The Sabreen Group


hermoplastics are inherently hydrophobic, low surface energy substrates that do not adhere well to other like or dissimilar materials. Semicrystalline polymers are generally more difficult to bond (compared to amorphous) due to their ordered structure morphology, e.g., polyolefins, polyamides (nylons), acetals, polyesters, polyphenylene sulfide, etc. While factors such as surface texture topography improve wetting, the use of surface modification solves most bonding problems. Common surface modification methods include electrical (corona) discharge, flame plasma, atmospheric plasma, cold-gas plasma and UV radiation-ozone. Surface oxidation pretreatment of polymeric materials introduces polar reactive groups, which improve surface free energy and, consequently, the wettability and bondability of these surfaces. While each of these processes generates highly reactive gas plasmas, it is important to recognize there can be significant differences between treated surfaces. This article discusses flame treatment of three-dimensional plastic products as a valuable technique for improving the surface properties of polymers – starting with combustion process principles followed by special focus on laminar flame zones, burner selection and flame stability, zero gas pressure regulators, treatment life and process control factors. The independent information is presented in hopes of reducing misnomers regarding flame treatment and promoting its effectiveness when compared with alternative pretreatments. Flame plasma pretreatment Flame treatment is a gas-phase pretreatment method in which the combustion of a hydrocarbon fuel, under controlled conditions, generates the flame plasma that modifies the substrate surface without affecting the bulk properties of the polymer. The oxidation of the polymer surface as a result of flame treatment occurs through multiple physical processes, including homogeneous combustion of the premixed reactants, transport of the products of combustion to the polymer surface and heterogeneous reaction of flame products with the polymer. The adiabatic flame temperature is approximately 3,300°F

40 July/August 2020

(1,816°C). The mechanism of flame treatment is the controlled combustion of a hydrocarbon fuel to generate the flame plasma. Premixed laminar flames produce an exothermic reaction. The exact ratio of oxidizer to fuel needed for complete combustion is known as the stoichiometric ratio. At stoichiometric combustion there is no excess oxygen or fuel. The stoichiometric ratio is approximately 10:1 for natural gas and 24:1 for propane. The flame is a mixture of a fuel and an oxidizer thoroughly mixed before combustion. The molar ratio of the fuel to the oxidizer is probably the most important parameter within the flame treatment process. For natural gas, the following equation describes the combustion reaction: CH4 + 2O2 + 8N2 → CO2 + 2H20 + 8N2 + flame plasma The three main process control variables are f l a m e c h e m i s t r y, distance of the substrate from the f lame and dwell time of treatment. In a combustion system the flame is a subsonic wave characterized by a velocity called laminar flame speed, which is defined as the velocity at wh ich u nbu r ned gases move throughout the combustion wave in the direction normal to the wave surface. A laminar flame profile consists of three zones – reducing, luminous and post-combustion. Each zone has different temperature gradients and chemical reactive

Diagram 1. The three zones of a laminar flame: reducing, luminous and post-combustion

Photo 1. Optimal laminar flame: reducing, luminous and post-combustion zones

species. Placement of the part moving through the flame is critical and must be precise for maximum surface wetting and functionalization.

the highest level of treatment. Reference the yellow dotted line in Diagram 1. The surface to be treated should never contact the reducing zone (sub-stoichiometric) of the flame.

Optimal treatment (oxidation) occurs in the main reaction luminous zone or oxidizing. This is the hottest flame region, where temperature of the combustion system reaches approximately 1,700°C for natural gas and 1,900 to 2,000°C for propane-based mixtures. In this zone, free radical reactive species content (including hydroxyl, carbonyl, carboxyl, ether and ester) increases dramatically to the detriment of the reactant concentration. The high concentration of radical species makes this region strongly oxidizing, in contrast to the reducing zone.

The pre-combustion or reducing zone is the coldest region in the flame, where the premixed unburned gases have not reached the optimal oxidizing condition. Characterized by its bright steel-blue color, this region is ineffective for surface activation and offers no oxidation benefits. The post-combustion zone is the largest of the three regions in a laminar flame profile. The temperature remains high due to the exothermic oxidation reaction of CO into CO2, with a release of heat.

The color of this zone depends on the fuel/air ratio. A deep bluish violet radiation, with the f lame becoming almost transparent if the quantity of gas is increasingly reduced, is produced when the mixture is gas-lean (due to excited CH radicals). A green radiation appears when the mixture is gasrich (due to excited C2 molecules). When the gas in the mixture increases still further, the radiation turns yellowish because of the carbon particles formed. Ideal flame chemistry is that which provides for an oxygen concentration in the flame plasma that is, after the combustion reaction, of 0.1% to 0.5%. The optimal treatment distance (position) of the substrate from the flame (just above the pre-combustion reducing zone) is typically between 3/8" and ½" (9.5 mm to 12.7 mm). The actual treating portion of the flame extends approximately 1½" (38.1 mm) beyond the flame tip, with about ½" (12.7 mm) producing

This region is characterized as intermediate, between reducing and luminous zones, in terms of temperature and oxygen radicals concentration. The high temperature burned gases generally present a reddish color, given by water vapor and carbon dioxide (combustion products with hydrocarbon combustibles) radiation and some dirt particles. The gap (distance) between the luminous flame and substrate surface is a critical factor in determining the extent of activation accomplished by the treatment. Generally, when the substrate passes through the flame, a rapid depletion in the wettability of the treated surface occurs as the distance increases between the cones of the flame and substrate. However, a beneficial effect arising from the treatment is still appreciable several millimeters beyond the post-combustion zone. To maximize the benefit from

 July/August 2020 41

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the treatment, the flame should work in tandem with its luminous zone, which is the richest in active oxidizing species (OH radicals and O atoms) and the one at the highest temperature within the whole combustion system3. Since a greater extent of oxidation is concentrated near the outermost shallow surface region (5 to 10 nm), flame-treated surfaces often result in improved wettability and retain more stable aging (shelf life) than corona-treated surfaces. Flamed poly mers also may demonstrate improved wetting properties due to a different mix of chemical functional groups. Different oxidized functionalities will make varying contributions to the wettability of a surfaceoxidized polymer. Studies demonstrated that, while both corona-treated and flametreated polyolefins are surface oxidation processes, the two methods differ considerably in the mechanism of oxidation.

Photo 2. Zero gas pressure regulator. Photo courtesy of Flynn Burner.

The extensive scission associated with corona processes affects the wettability and stability of the treated polypropylene (PP) films. By contrast, flame surface oxidations are dominated by OH radical reactions that lead to oxidation without low molecular weight oxidized materials (LMWOM) formation. The more limited chain scission associated with flame treatment leads to the formation of topographic nodules of intermediate molecular weight materials that are much smaller than the mounds of LMWOM. Because of the lack of LMWOM formation, flame-treated PP is more highly oxidized after washing with water, more wettable and more stable than corona-treated PP. Treatment stability decreases in the extent of oxidation or losses in wettability as a function of aging are usually attributed to the reorientation or localized migration of oxidized functional groups located near the surface of a modified PP. As the molecular weight of the surface region decreases, the tendency for functional-group reorientation or migration should increase. The molecular weight of a coronatreated polypropylene surface is lower than that of a flametreated PP surface. Therefore, corona-treated PP is less stable than flame-treated PP. Treatment stability is an example of

42 July/August 2020

how the surface molecular weight can be more important than the extent of oxidation in determining a practical performance property1. Zero gas pressure regulators should be installed with premix burner systems, using venturi air/fuel mixers to maintain a constant air/fuel ratio regardless of the burner firing rate. The venturi mixer is a proportional mixing device that has inlets for both the fuel gas (natural or propane) and air/oxygen, and inside the body mixes these gases properly and distributes them through the outlet. Functionally, as combustion air flows through the orifice in the air/fuel mixer, it causes a pressure drop that is sensed internally as a negative pressure through a downstream sensing tube in the zero gas pressure regulator – to maintain zero pressure relative to atmosphere. When the negative pressure is sensed, the zero gas pressure regulator will open enough so that the positive pressure equals the negative suction pressure. As the combustion airflow increases or decreases, based on the energy requirements of the process, the suction will increase or decrease accordingly, and the zero gas pressure regulator will open (with increasing combustion airflow) or close (with decreasing combustion airflow) to always maintain zero pressure. In this way, no matter

what the combustion airflow is, the air/fuel ratio should stay relatively constant. Most zero gas pressure regulators are designed not to be adjusted, since the regulator spring is designed to precisely balance the weight of the valve internals. There are newer models available that allow for adjustment of the balancing spring. This provides added flexibility. When selecting a zero gas pressure regulator consider turndown – maximum to minimum fuel flow. More is better.

Proper selection of burner type is critical to the uniformity and totality of treatment. Product design, geometry and polymer substrate are important factors. A well-designed burner will have a high level of stability.

Also consider the size of the diaphragm. Larger is better since it provides more precise control. In sizing zero gas pressure regulators, keep in mind that the pressure drop across the regulator is equal to the inlet pressure, since the outlet pressure is zero.

Flashback can develop in a premixed burner if the burning velocity of the flame exceeds the stream velocity flowing out of the port. Under these conditions, the maximum port diameter ensuring necessary thermal losses has been exceeded, thus allowing the flame to propagate back into the mixing chamber.

Proper selection of burner type is critical to the uniformity and totality of treatment. Product design, geometry and polymer substrate are important factors. A well-designed burner will have a high level of stability, reducing the occurrence of flashback and flame lift, which are two types of instabilities that occur due to an imbalance between the fuel/oxidizer mixture flow velocity and the burn velocity of the combustible mixture.

Two types of burners are used for flame treating: ribbon and drilled port. Ribbon burners consist of a series of crimped stainless steel ribbons inserted into brass, stainless steel, mild steel and cast iron. The number of ribbons, the crimp pattern and number of burner ports and other ribbon pattern design

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SMALL QUANTITY...HIGH PRECISION Fragrances, lipsticks, creams, shampoo, eyeliner ... For each kind of product, man developed specific packaging. The screen printing process is one of the most important techniques used to customize the primary packaging of different items in different containers, different shapes ... and different materials. When the production run is relatively small, semi-automatic machines are the right solution. This type of equipment is very flexible to manage different geometrical shapes. The GPE Ardenghi workhorse is the model ARBIS/33, which can grant a production of 600/1000 pieces per hour. Pre- and post-treatment are necessary to obtain the final result. That's why GPE has developed different semi-automatic accessories to be used before and after the printing machines. Independent flaming devices and dryers can be offered on request.

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July/August 2020 43

t p. 43


features depend on the application. Ribbon burners can offer advantages because of their ability to provide large flame surface and flame stabilization. The second type of burner is the drilled port. Drilled port burners are normally manufactured in stainless steel and aluminum. Ribbon burners are the latest generation of burners and most widely adopted solution at an industrial level because the flame patterns are customizable by adjusting the width of the slot and configuring the ribbons3. Ribbon burners are the optimal solution for the surface modification or flame treatment of polymer films2. The ribbon comprises packed sheets of corrugated stainless steel that form rows of nearly elliptical outlets, or ports, each having a major diameter of 2.4 mm and a minor diameter of 1.5 mm. The rows are parallel but offset so that the centers of the outlets are staggered. Single slot and triple slot burners are widely utilized, along with other designs, including internal firing ring burners. Dwell time is an important process factor in optimizing the surface treatment chemical functionality. The part must be in contact with the flame plasma for sufficient time for the reaction kinetics to be maximized. Brief contact time is controlled by how fast the part is passed through the flame and is dependent on burner width, plasma output and type of resin. For example, polypropylenes may require different dwell time than polyethylenes. Optimum treatment requires a spatially homogeneous post-flame reaction zone, even with burners up to three meters in length. Temperature and relative humidity of the surrounding environment are important. Increases in either can cause a shift in the gas/air mixture toward a fuel-rich composition, thereby triggering a change in the properties of the treated polymer surface. Careful monitoring is beneficial for robust results. As with all plasma pretreatments, over-treatment must be avoided, as it can lead to artificially high surface energy and adhesion or delamination field failures. Under-treatment, due to improper flame set-up or combustion system design, also must be avoided. Flame treatment of 3D polymer products is almost always conducted using a single pass, in contrast to plastic films that are often treated two times by web. Theoretically, a rapid singlepass exposure of the product through the high temperature flame will not trigger the migration of low-molecular weight additives (plasticizers, heat/UV stabilizers, release agents, antistatics, etc.) to the surface, inhibiting adhesion.

Figure 1. A photograph coupled with a schematic diagram of the ribbon burner showing port nomenclature. Ports one and four are primer ports, while ports two and three are main ports. Ports one and three form the upstream pair of burner outlets, while ports two and four form the downstream pair.

In addition to surface modification benefits, flame treatment adds value to plastics molding operations. For example, injection-molded “top gate� polyolefin closures have a small nub in the middle of the closure (exterior top surface) due to the pinpoint gate location. Flaming smooths this surface defect

(due to heat) and removes contaminants for aesthetic printing quality. Compression molded closures do not have this issue. Thus, surface pretreatments may offer multiple benefits in specific applications that need to be considered when procuring equipment systems.

44 July/August 2020

Conclusion Flame treatment is an excellent process for improving polymer adhesion by increasing surface energy and chemical functionality. It is well suited for treating large surface areas that have contours and/or recesses. Fully automated robotic systems are highly effective and easily integrated. Unlike other atmospheric pretreatment methods, flaming removes most surface debris and some hydrocarbon contaminants. Burner selection and zero gas pressure regulators are critical components. It is essential to understand how to control the process variables to maintain robust flame treatment since minimal changes can cause significant deviations in the expected results and subsequent adhesion bonding.

Continuing Our Tradition of Servicing the Plastics Decorating Industry

All flame treatment equipment is not created equal. Carefully evaluate all components and combustion system design. It is important to state that although generally valid, the concepts outlined in this paper may not apply in every application. Some aspects may need to be individually examined, e.g., specific substrate type, gas fuel type, distance and dwell time. n

With over 100 years of combined industry experience, Die Stampco’s tooling design and fabrication specialists can customize a solution to meet your requirements.

References 1. A Comparison of Corona-Treated and Flame-Treated Polypropylene Films, M. Strobel et al. 2003 2. Application of Ribbon Burners to the Flame Treatment of Polypropylene Films, Alexander, Branch, Strobel 2008 3. The fundamentals of f lame treatment for the surface activation of polyolefin polymers – A review, Farris et al. 2010 4. Flame Plasma Surface Treatment Improves Adhesion of Polymers, Joseph DiGiacomo, Scott Sabreen, Plastics Decorating Magazine, 2005 5. Flynn Burner Equipment Manual, Surface Treatment Air Gas Mix System with Flame Safety Control Scott R. Sabreen is founder and president of The Sabreen Group, Inc., an engineering consulting company specializing in secondar y plastics manufacturing processes – surface pretreatments, adhesion bonding, inkjet printing, laser marking, decorating and finishing and product security. Sabreen has been developing pioneering technologies and solving manufacturing problems for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at 972.820.6777 or by visiting

The Die Stampco Difference • 24 hour turn-a-round on most silicone rubber dies and sheets • State-of-the-art graphics department • “Make it Right” Guarantee: When we take on a project, we will do whatever it takes to make it right

Die Stampco Services • Custom hot stamp tooling • Flat and contoured silicone rubber dies • Magnesium, steel and brass hot stamping dies • Prototype and production contract decorating


Contact us for a quote on your next project. (989) 893.7790 | Fax: (989) 893.7741

YOUR INDUSTRY IS HEADING TO CLEVELAND November 4 - 5, 2020 CLEVELAND, OHIO, USA Free co-located exhibition for the plastics industry Source new systems, technologies and solutions from 200+ exhibitors including:

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Front-End Design from KURZ Receives Award in Automotive Brand Contest Leonhard Kurz of The KURZ Group, based in Fürth, Germany, has won an award at the Automotive Brand Contest 2020 for an automotive front panel concept. KURZ received the design prize in the Future, Mobility and Parts category. The concept panel, called Iconic Space Grille, comprises a solid surface without radiator grille. With partial backlighting, the holographic-like design of the fiber optic elements can become a means of communication with other road users or passers-by. This surface design can be realized using the recently developed IMD PUR process from KURZ. For more information, visit CEO of PLASTICS Testifies in Congress to Plastic’s Life-Saving Role During Pandemic At a congressional briefing entitled “Plastic Production, Pollution and Waste in the Time of COVID-19: The LifeThreatening Impact of Single Use Plastic on Human Health,” Plastics Industry Association President and CEO Tony Radoszewski refuted attacks on a material and industry that have played a critical role in the US response to the novel coronavirus. For more information, visit

Infinity® Foils Announces Opening of New Headquarters Infinity® Foils, Inc., unveiled its new headquarters facility, located in Lenexa, Kansas. The new headquarters is an expansion of the original location. Now having three times more space, it increases capacity for foil products as well as additional slitting and cutting capabilities. With seven warehouse locations, including another converting facility in Napa, California, Infinity® Foils has continued to expand to better serve customers. Infinity® Foils, Inc., celebrated its 15-year anniversary in July. For more information, visit

Tributek Expands Into Support for Dukane Equipment During 2020’s Upheaval Tributek, Elburn, Illinois, reported that it has experienced unanticipated rapid growth this year as a result of tight global supplies of ultrasonic equipment and supplies. In business for 14 years, the company has seen increased sales in 2020 of new types of equipment to existing customers, as well as sales to new customers. Tributek has expanded its product portfolio to include support for Dukane 20 kHz equipment, including parts and supplies, and also including used Ultra Series and DPC Series items. For more information, visit Diversified Plastics Publishes White Paper Diversified Plastics, Inc. (DPI), Minneapolis, Minnesota, released a new white paper titled, “Design for Manufacturing Yields Better Profits and Shortens Time to Market.” The paper explores how parts intended for plastic-injection molding, simple or complex, can greatly benefit from optimizations found during the design for manufacturing (DfM) process. It also provides information about key DfM topics that can offer immediate benefits, including material selection, wall thickness, corner radii, draft angles and mold-flow analysis. To download the white paper, visit PRINTING United Cancels In-Person Show, Prepares Online Experience PRINTING United recently announced the decision to transition from an in-person event in Atlanta to a comprehensive d ig it a l pl a t fo r m . There are plans for four power-packed weeks of hosted global programming and new product unveilings across PRINTING United Month, beginning Oct. 5 and running through the week of Oct. 26. This series of community-based, content-rich Insight Days will deliver a program like no other. A new series will kick off each week, highlighting a different community focus spanning apparel, commercial, digital textile, graphics/wide-format, in-plant, industrial, mailing/fulfillment and packaging. In this new format, the printing industry will together experience a variety of highly focused hosted tracks and exclusive ways in which vendors and customers can interact. For more information, visit n

July/August 2020 47


The Sabreen Group is an engineering consulting company specializing in secondary plastics manufacturing operations. When Failure Is Not An Option – Since 1992, SABREEN has solved critical plastics problems for over 440 companies in 33 countries. We have earned a reputation of excellence for our rapid response and detailed problem-solving. Many of today’s most recognizable products are manufactured using SABREEN’s game-changing technologies. SABREEN’s engineering contributed to the award winning Ortho Pharmaceutical Personal Pak Contraception Case inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.



• • • •


972-820-6777 ENGINEERING@SABREEN.COM • 5799 Sibley Ln. The Colony, TX 75056 USA (972) 820-6777

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Advertise Your Decorating and Assembly Services Here, in the Plastics Decorating Marketplace.

For Marketplace advertising, email

Your source for the highest quality digital heat transfer printing and decorating services. From ad specialties to cosmetics, we’ve got you covered.



ly riend

Contact us now at: 978.463.0416 2B Fanaras Dr., Salisbury, MA 01952

(For decorating and assembly service providers only – not available for suppliers to the industry.) To learn more about how to place an advertisement in this section, call Gayla Peterson at 785.271.5801. July/August 2020 49

SUPPLIER QUICK LINKS Assembly/Joining Equipment Emerson-Branson Page 31

Decals/Labels Central Decal Page 29

IDS Division (United Silicone) Page 33

Inkcups Pages 26-27

Schwerdtle Page 20

Kent Pad Printer Canada Inc. Page 37

Hot Stamping Foils/ Heat Transfers

Paint/Coatings Equipment

Decorating Services

CDigital Page 25

Comdec Decorating Division Page 49

Custom Foils Company Page 24

Digital Decorations LLC Page 49

Kurz Transfer Products, L.P. Page 19

Digital Inkjet Equipment & Supplies

North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3

Engineered Printing Solutions Back cover

Webtech, Inc. Page 13

Inkcups Pages 26-27

In-Mold Decorating/ Labeling

Standard Machines, Inc./ Comdec, Inc. Page 17

Central Decal Page 29

Tapematic Inside back cover

Hot Stamping/ Heat Transfer Equipment IDS Division (CER) Page 33 IDS Division (United Silicone) Page 33 North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3

Hot Stamping Dies/ Tooling Die Stampco Inc. Page 45 h+m USA Page 23

Kurz Transfer Products, L.P. Page 19 North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3

Laser Marking Sabreen Group, Inc., The Page 48 Tapematic Inside back cover

Pad Printing Equipment & Supplies Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover Engineered Printing Solutions Back cover IDS Division (ITW TransTech) Page 33

50 July/August 2020

Tapematic Inside back cover

Printing Inks Comdec, Inc. (Ruco) Page 16

Tradeshows/ Associations/ Publications AMI Page 46 Plastics Decorating magazine Page 35 SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division Page 21

Marabu North America Page 35 Proell, Inc. Page 11

Screen Printing Equipment & Supplies Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover GPE ARDENGHI Page 43 Inkcups Pages 26-27 Kent Pad Printer Canada Inc. Page 37

Surface Treatment 3DT Page 12 Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover Tapematic Inside back cover

A guide to this issue’s Plastics Decorating advertisers.

WE DON’T MAKE THE PRODUCTS YOU BUY. We make them safer. Marking and decorating products goes beyond mere aesthetic considerations. Trademarks, logos, usage instructions, safety warnings, lot/expiration dates, and serial numbers all help to reassure end users that the product they are holding is authentic and safe.

The safety, efficacy, and authenticity of products such as respirators, protective equipment, and medications are more important than ever. Engineered Printing Solutions provides custom part-decorating solutions to the medical, health and beauty, and automotive industries, and like many of our customers, we have been deemed an essential business in the fight against COVID-19. While ensuring the health and safety of our employees and their families, we are committed to providing an uninterrupted supply of print solutions and print consumables to our customers. Because ultimately, our customers’ customers are our customers too.



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