Study Predicts Growth for Barrier Films

Erik Swain

Thanks in part to the healthcare market, the prospects for commercial flexible barrier packaging materials look strong in the coming years, according to a recently published study, "Barrier Films and Coatings."

Use of flexible barrier packaging will increase 6.1% per year until 2005 across all industries, and 7.7% in the healthcare industry, making it one of the fastest-growing packaging segments, states the study, which was produced by Allied Business Development (Lakeville, MD) and is available from Packaging Strategies (West Chester, PA).

One reason for the study's optimism is the growing use in healthcare packaging of materials such as aluminum foil, nylon, polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC), etylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH), and polychlorotrifluoro- ethylene (PCTFE), known commercially as Aclar. In addition, newer materials, such as cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), known commercially as Topas, are expected to make more of an impact in the healthcare market in the near future.

Foil, considered the ultimate barrier solution, will remain the choice for the most sensitive products, but will lose market share "as so many competitive products improve their barrier performance and chip away at applications that use foil today." The study projects foil's growth at 2.8% per year for all industries combined and 7.7% for the pharmaceutical market.

Nylon's versatility and toughness, in addition to its barrier properties, are making it a more attractive option for medical device and other applications, so the study projects a 9.4% annual growth across all industries for nylon.

PVdC, the study states, is one of the few polymeric materials to provide good oxygen barrier at high and low moisture levels, as well as good moisture barrier, but its use is expected to decline in Japan, where it is under environmental pressure, so 1.4% growth is projected across all industries and 3% growth is projected in the pharmaceutical market.

EVOH use is expected to grow 10.6% per year, as it has proven itself for use in coextrusion structures.

Thanks mainly to its thermoformability and high moisture barrier, Aclar is expected to increase its popularity in blister packaging and grow at a rate of 14.9% annually.

The study found that Topas has good economic potential for the pharmaceutical market, and success there could translate into wider use in other markets. It also found that while liquid-crystal polymers have excellent barrier properties, they "are probably too expensive to impact the business."

In all, barrier materials are used in 12 billion lb of finished packaging, representing more than $25 billion in finished packaging sales.

The study is available by calling 610/436-4220 or logging on to www.packstrat.com.

 

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