AINIA has developed a new automated process for the industrial manufacture of a cardboard packaging format that reduces the use of plastic materials by 85-90%.
The Termofib project, funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency, is a further step towards the industrial production and sale of a new tray patented by AINIA.
This sustainable packaging format, called Fibtray, has a completely flat sealing edge, fully continuous and of uniform thickness. This helps guarantee air-tightness with safer heat sealing and with a lower risk of defects in its processing in line; thus, food safety can improve in a sustainable way, a vital aspect for the food industry.
"The development of this patent is based on the configuration of layers of materials, where each one of them performs a function: generating the side walls and bottom of the tray. The forming and joining of the different layers makes it possible to generate the package without stretching the material," said Pedro Zomeño, from AINIA's Packaging Technologies Department.
This design makes it possible to obtain a package made mostly from cellulosic material, thus reducing the use of plastic. Also, it is easily adaptable to numerous formats, including product packs of several units or multi-cavity packs, such as those for salads with toppings and sauces. It is therefore of particular interest to the meat, ready meals and fresh-cut sectors, among others.
The automation design has been conceived so that the packaging can be produced using a combination of existing commercial equipment. "Therefore, the technology is much more competitive compared to other solutions proposed," says Zomeño.
Validation in a real context
The Termofib project aims to transfer this technology to the food and beverage production market through the validation of an industrial prototype in the context of real use. To this end, the project has been validated in real industrial packaging lines.
To achieve this objective, Pedro Zomeño said that it has been necessary to verify that the automatic process is viable and profitable; to evaluate the correct heat sealing in a real production line; to validate its structural resistance for the packaging of food products and to confirm the uniformity of the shelf life of the packaged products. A minimum viable product (MVP) has been achieved, allowing the technology to be brought to the market in an agile and cost-effective way.
The project, presented in a webinar organized by AINIA, aims to meet the needs of the packaged food industrial sector, which requires alternatives to plastic packaging, guaranteeing the preservation of quality and food safety levels, as well as the shelf life periods already achieved by the food industry with its current packaging formats.
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