Tubes Retain Their Luster

Companies are investing in graphic processes, dispensing systems, and new markets.

Tube packaging has continued on a vibrant course, propelled by decorative enhancements and advanced dispensing designs. The need to differentiate product among competitors is never ending, and end-users are always willing to buy cosmetics and essential healthcare products.

Companies are adopting new techniques for imparting graphics onto tubes. Others are investing in new equipment and markets, though investment has slowed a bit recently.

“Up until the past year, people were out there upgrading. The pace of capital investment trailed off, but demand for tubes is fundamentally stable. People will always spend money on themselves and on their pets,” says Chris White, president, The Filling Station (Flemington, NJ).

“Innovation becomes more important in a tough economic climate,” says Michael Hoard, director of marketing and business development, Alcan Packaging Beauty (Washington NJ).

“Customers have to differentiate their products from others on the shelf. Our key focus is on decoration techniques and using different dispensing caps and applicators,” Hoard adds.

Sidebar: Egnite Lights up Laminated Tubes

Sal Pellingra, innovation and marketing director at Ampac Flexibles (Cincinnati), says tubes’ performance characteristics and sustainability advantages are fueling overall tube market growth.

Tubes require less material to manufacture than rigid containers, offering an improved product-to-package ratio, Pellingra says. Also, “tubes are very good at getting close to 100% evacuation of the product, which is another improvement in sustainability.”
Hoffman Neopac AG (Millington, NJ and Oberdiessbach, Switzerland) is expanding into China with its first sales office in Shanghai, established in October 2008. The company’s Polyfoil tubes were approved in April 2009 by the Chinese State FDA (SFDA) for sale into the country’s pharmaceutical market, says Stephan Lack, Neopac’s managing director.

“Today, we deliver a large quantity of small tubes to Asian companies—mainly in Japan, which we believe is proof of our high quality and ‘zero defects’ commitment. Neopac has invested 50 million CHF (Swiss francs) in the past five years into production equipment, high-speed lines, and product development to support our sustainable growth,” Lack says.

CCL Tube (Los Angeles) has invested in four-color process screen printing. The printing is offered as an alternative decorative process to innovative tube label applications the company has recently brought to market.

“Four-color screen printing is new technology we have just commercialized in the last few months. We feel this is a leading innovation, and customers have been very impressed with the quality. [Also] we are able to offer cost advantages with a direct-decorated tube,” says Bruce Sperling, director of sales, western region, CCL Tube.

Two-color stations for spot printing can be added to the four-color process printing stations to provide up to six-color screen printing, Sperling says.

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CCL Tube offers near-photo quality art work on plastic tubes using full-wrap self-adhesive labels from sister company CCL Label. The firm’s Crimp-Through Label supports hot-air crimping, enabling full label decoration to the crimp. “If you are direct printing, typically you have to stay one quarter inch away from the seal area, as the inks can affect the sealing. With the Crimp-Through label, we can provide a turnkey product to our customers, many of whom are shared customers with CCL Label,” Sperling adds.
The company plans to commercialize its Shrink-Over-the-Shoulder tube label for providing a fully decorated tube surface. The application runs the label all the way down and over the shoulder.

Sperling says the print quality of the UV flexo, offset, or screen printed labels is on a par with that of the four-color process direct printing, although “we feel the self-adhesive label provides the clearest image and best print quality.”

World Wide Packaging Inc. (Florham Park, NJ) has developed a high-end look for hot-stamped plastic tubes. The tubes are designed for a new Body Bling line of moisturizing body lotions from Hollywood makeup artist Scott Barnes that launches this fall.
Coextruded EVOH tubes are completely covered by hot-stamp foil, providing a unique metallic look. The racetrack oval tubes contain 4 fl oz.

Sidebar: Dispensing with the Details

“No one has ever done this with a coextruded tube of this size. We took the foil 360° around the tube and over the shoulder, so all aspects of the tube are covered,” says Jeff Hayet, vice president of global sales.

The foil also extends to the crimp area, where hot air is used for sealing. “It’s a gaudy, luxurious metallic look that has never been seen before,” Hayet adds.

Hot-stamp foil is typically used to highlight certain tube characteristics, leaving a band of undecorated tube between the head and the body, Hayet notes.

Additionally, these tubes are decorated with custom-colored manufactured hot-stamp foils, in gold and copper for two SKUs. “Both colors were specifically produced for this packaging. Caps are custom metallized to match the bodies.”

Hayet says that the thinner side radius of the 40-mm-diam racetrack ovals imposed a challenge as well, such as in the package text creation. The text on the tube is created by dropping out the foil, so the brown plastic of the tube shows through.
World Wide Packaging customized its decorating equipment to handle the application.

Alcan Packaging Beauty has launched its Pixel Graphics line of plastic and laminate tubes to deliver high-end direct-print, photo-like renderings. Pixel encompasses flexographic, silk screen, off-set, and hot-stamp applications as well as combinations of those methods.

“We can impart graphic quality you would typically see on a label. By eliminating the label component, the customer is improving supply-chain logistics and can offer a more sustainable package,” Hoard says.

Alcan imparts a brushed aluminum look to plastic tubes, using a silk-screen process. “You can add different design techniques and add texture by laying down different ink weights or by using a combination of matte and gloss coatings,” says Hoard.
Alcan is expanding its 50-mm Slender cap line with a 40-mm dispensing closure. The lightweight, oriented flip-top closures have proven successful in the personal care and cosmetics markets, Hoard says.

The firm worked with Seaquist Closures to develop the Pinpoint dispensing closure for small-diameter tubes, for precision dispensing in cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.

Brush, roller-ball, and sponge-top applicators provide functionality and help product differentiation. Used with laminated tubes for pharmaceuticals, the sponge-top applicator allows the user to apply the product directly from the tube to the treatment area.
Neopac has introduced a patented dropper system for its Polyfoil tubes. The dropper tube features a dropper brake that ensures consistent drop size and medicinal dosing, which is not affected by the pressure placed on the tube. The nozzle cap comes with a tear-off band for added tamper evident protection, says Richard Misdom, sales manager.

“The Polyfoil dropper tube provides longer shelf life and optimum protection for sensitive solutions and ‘all natural’ products containing little or no preservatives, with a convenient-to-use dropper system,” Misdom says.

Neopac’s Polyfoil tubes offer an unbreakable alternative to glass bottles, and a higher-barrier alternative to plastic bottles for oil- and water-based liquid medicines, nutraceutical supplements, and veterinary products.

A manufacturer of laminated and coextruded barrier films for tubes, Ampac Flexibles has focused on development of enhanced coextruded structures for moisture barrier, chemical resistance, and preserving product flavor and aroma.

For chemical resistance, coextrusions of seven-to-nine layers can include one or two EVOH layers, along with nylon for toughness and added chemical resistance. Ampac Flexibles also employs foil, metalized films, silicon oxide, and PVDC as barrier layers, Pellingra says.

“We focus on the sealant layers and barrier properties to ensure the coextrusion will protect the product. Sealant layers have to prevent flavor scalping. Chemicals can attack the sealant layer and the seals, which will affect how the tube holds up.
“Where we excel is in designing custom films that can provide the shelf life for a broad range of chemical and liquid materials, as well as seal on a wide range of tube forming machinery,” Pellingra says.

Express Tubes (Kent, WA) specializes in custom plastic extruded tubes that are available in both mono- and five-layer structures. The five-layer tube structure is “an excellent alternative” to foil and laminate structures for product susceptible to leaching degradation, says Shanna Massey, sales manager.

High-, medium-, or low-density PE is extruded with an EVOH layer, creating soft-sided tubes that are indistinguishable in look and feel from monolayer tubes, Massey says.

“There is an assumption you have to use a laminate or foil tube for product stability. We have customers that have achieved the same barrier results with our five-layer tubes, for sunscreen and toothpaste products with volatility issues,” she adds.
Customers can realize savings as Express Tube’s minimum order for all tubes is 5000. “Most companies have a minimum for laminate and foil tubes of 25,000,” Massey says.

The Filling Station’s White says that dual-chamber tubes will be a growth area. The Filling Station recently purchased an NM 700 Model dual-filling system from Norden of Sirius (Branchburg, NJ).

Dual-chamber systems are expanding to other uses besides stripe toothpaste filling. “We have seen growing interest in delivery systems for anti-aging or anti-wrinkle creams, where two components have to be kept separate until the application. Once we find the customer, we will buy the nozzles to fit the tubes,” White says.

“The biggest challenge customers face is they can’t find a way to fill a tube efficiently with a reasonable scrap rate. Tube characteristics often change when a customer changes suppliers, and they find the filling accuracy suffers as a result. The designers haven’t collaborated with the filling engineers in many cases,” adds White.

The Filling Station offers turnkey services that include collaborative engineering and tube sourcing.

Published in Tube News, September 2009

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