Means we promote eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on IMA machines.
After the recent green light in Strasbourg by the European Parliament, the directive limiting the use of various disposable plastic items requires new automatic machines capable of lowering the use of plastic in packaging. Together with our partners, we foster plastic-free, compostable or biodegradable materials, recyclable and/or more sustainable plastic-based materials, through the research and testing of alternative processes.
A place of advanced sustainable experimentation with a strong ethical-environmental footprint. OPENLab is the IMA Group’s network of cutting-edge technological laboratories and testing areas, dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies and production optimisation processes.
Thanks to the implementation of the most modern digital infrastructures, together with think tank spaces, environments dedicated to the generation of ideas and the prototyping of materials, we aim to build a connection between knowledge and skills coming from machines, packaging manufacturing and customers. Over the last few years, we invested in several projects aimed at generating efficiency and contributing to environmental protection. Public and private organisations have promoted initiatives to find eco-friendly solutions with suppliers of goods and services capable of combating pollution, waste of non-renewable resources, CO₂ emissions and, in general, to act on every part of a process which will ultimately protect the ecosystem. Multinationals and non-multinationals, have decided to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic packaging by investing in the development of alternative solutions thanks to the use of non-polluting substances and/or substances obtained from waste recycling. Environmental sustainability is a highly sensitive issue and has always been of great importance to the Group, when considering its priorities and responsibilities. This is even truer today, in a historical moment where new technologies offer a wide choice of eco-friendly materials and formats.
More precisely, with the aim of adopting low impact strategies and generating innovations, the Group has strengthened its commitment to launching green initiatives and increasing investments in Research and Development. IMA OPENLab aims to merge studies, experimentation and industrial development activities on materials including all laboratory phases, from design to engineering, of products and processes.
A service offered to customers and partners of the Group in all the business sectors served by the company (pharmaceutical, food, tissue&nonwoven, cosmetics, and so on). The program includes the on-site material testing on dedicated machines under the supervision of Group engineers and researchers, not to interrupt the customer’s production cycle, simulate real manufacturing conditions, avoiding costs related to production stoppages.
Thanks to the most modern digital infrastructures, together with think-tank spaces, the Group’s laboratories have become symbol of innovation and a benchmark of sustainable design. IMA aims to boost its support towards the territory, increasing its economic attractiveness and developing research projects and collaborations with private and public entities, universities and multinationals in the sector.
Besides dedicated test areas, every lab is equipped with state-of-the-art and high precision instruments, capable of studying and analysing over 1,000 samples per year: optical microscopes with high-resolution camera and imaging software for material stratigraphy, for sealing joints and defect detection analysis, differential scanning calorimeter for thermoplastic polymer control, equipments for the measurement of hot tack and seal strength, tribological or tensile properties of materials.
The team of experts has a specific background in materials, machines and packaging processes; a trained staff is constantly dedicated to the activities of the laboratories, supporting the tests and trials. An excellent staff with all-round skills and experience capable to study and evaluate any technical failures preventing materials being used improperly on packaging machines. Whether it is a different material composition or a mechanical issue, the team is able to make a diagnosis and restore optimum performance.
Over 4000 film structures analysed in the laboratory and over 400 film structures tested in the period 2017-2022: with these figures, IMA Group has its sights set on the future. The goal is to create a powerful database containing compositions and performances of all materials in relation to different machines. OPENLab is definitely the best place to network, where new ideas and projects about sustainable solutions take shape.
It comprises two machines: the IMA T&T mod. SF150 for the production of paper straws at a speed up to 150 meters/min. and the mod. SW2000 for the corrugation, bending and overwrapping of the straws, with a speed up to 2000 pieces/min.
Paper can be used both for the straws and for the external wrapping, with the complete elimination of plastic. Moreover, the IMA T&T solution allows an excellent reduction of scraps (products, materials). If compared with the competition, IMA T&T uses 100% of the material, eliminating waste.
These machines are intended for the food and beverage markets, in particular for those beverages whose consumption foresees the presence of a straw already in the packaging: the so-called “industrial straws”.
IMA has continuously developed innovative solutions with a precise aim to meet goals that would combine technology and efficiency to achieve more sustainable products and processes.
It is the case of the “knot technology”, which IMA developed and patented more than 20 years ago to replace the aluminum staple with a double knot to fix the thread and the tag to the filter bag. Alongside the development of new machines for the packaging of “traditional” filter paper teabags, intrinsically eco-friendly, the machinability study of sustainable materials allowed IMA Tea & Herbs to engineer solutions able to handle compostable and/or recyclable materials, including PLA.
The CT11, a latest generation machine, is able to pack tetrahedral or pillow bags with thread and tag, complete with sealed outer envelope and final carton.
“Sustainable packaging” has been the leitmotif and the driving force of the project right from its inception. In fact, the CT11 handles fully compostable and/or recyclable materials, from the filter material, including PLA, to the cardboard box.
The traditional FFS technology generates up until 30% of not-recyclable waste at the supplier’s, which needs to be burnt down.
By avoiding the punching process, with IMA’s innovation there is no waste of the perforated skeleton nor other remains. The technology is based on the concept of replacing the film’s coil with the same material’s preform, which is typically a token. All recyclable materials can be processed without mechanical modifications, by simply changing HMI’s setting. This kind of technology concept reduces scraps during production, which becomes totally ZERO WASTE.
The application is suitable for the filling of food products as well as liquid dairy food, semi-liquid food such as yogurt pots, sauces, jams, fruit purée, baby food.
In particular, this technology was designed for IMA Fillshape Smart Cup FFS (Form Fill and Seal) machine.
Stand-up pouches (either with cap or without) for liquid, semi-liquid or thick food are manufactured with recyclable mono-material thanks to this technology.
Containing baby food, juices, nectars and fruit purée, yogurt and cream in general, they are characterised by different hygienic levels: standard, ultraclean and aseptic. Currently, it is the most advanced technology able to switch from traditional to recyclable material in no time setting and without loss of productivity or efficiency, keeping the scrap rate at minimum.
The technology, specifically developed for IMA Fillshape’s ERMETIKA machine, is applicable to the beverage and dairy market, in the filling of food and dairy products that are liquid and semi-liquid.
According to the level of barrier effect to be achieved, various types of material can be used. On overwrapping machines, IMA has already successfully tested new generation materials such as biopolymers, compostable transparent material, paper-based materials that can be recycled with paper, and easily recyclable mono-material films, even for airtight heat-sealed overwrapping.
The technology is applicable to a wide range of products that need to be protected, in single or multiple packs, with tamper-evident barrier and needs to maintain or extend organoleptic, nutritional or even therapeutic properties such as Confectionery, Chocolate, Nutraceutical, Cosmetic and others.
IMA offers several overwrapping solutions to meet the widest range of production speed and packs dimensions. They are designed and manufactured by IMA GIMA and IMA BFB divisions.
One of the ways to achieve a plastic-free packaging solution is to use paper as the main packaging material. IMA has realised this and includes this requirement when devising both its consolidated machine models and the new solutions.
IMA BFB overwrapping machines, with their focus on environmental sustainability and cost reduction, can run both with the traditional OPP film or with paper unrolled from reels. On these, the glue is already incorporated into the designated paper sealing areas rather than applied with guns or gluing units. This means that glue quantity and power consumption are reduced to the minimum and waste generation is limited.
Thanks to its sustainable features, the HYWRAP20 won the “Best Packaging 2022” Award.
Drug manufacturers are primarily focused on safety, secondly on sustainability. Nevertheless, these two goals need not be mutually exclusive. IMA has therefore taken action to develop several projects to this regard.
IMA powder auger dosing systems are prearranged to perform Cleaning-In-Place (CIP) and Sterilisation-In-Place (SIP) procedures. This enables a reduction in the number of operating procedures for system commissioning and can also reduce the Single-Use packaging usually required for handling parts normally sterilised in autoclaves. In addition to the reduction in disposable materials, the process is more energy efficient than a traditional Cleaning “out of place” (COP) and consequent autoclave sterilisation.
Example of auger dosing unit.
Auger Dosing System
The auger powder dosing system was designed implementing several patents.
Working aseptically, the system allows for the dosing of powder drugs, thus avoiding the use of Single-Use packaging. Auger technology is the main principle to have inspired the existing development of the new IMA Life powder dosing machine, Smart 300 PWD Auger, performing at up to 300 pcs/min. This helps minimise the use of plastic, disposable components.
For the Sterile Pharma market, for the aseptic powder dosing sector, including high potent drugs, this technology is applied to the Smart PWD Auger series.
IMA has invested in constant research into new packaging solutions to reduce environmental impact.
Using paper is a valid solution for secondary packaging because it is made from renewable resources, is easy to recycle, has relatively low energy requirements and is biodegradable. The infeed and cartoning of pre-glued paper trays allow for a 100% paper based packaging.
Thanks to a dedicated technical staff focused on this kind of solution, IMA Safe has developed a highly flexible solution for packaging a wide range of parenteral products and medical devices on paper trays inside cartons, creating 100% paper-based packaging.
The strength is that for this type of applications IMA uses technologies consolidated for many years. There is nothing new, only the winning combination of already very well-established technologies. The choice of packaging pre-glued trays allows to offer extremely compact and efficient solutions, simple in functionalities and operator intervention.
IMA tube fillers have the ability to handle sustainable plastic materials, such as polyethylene tubes produced from sugar cane and partially-recycled polyethylene tubes. IMA tube sealing technology is compatible with any sustainable material the market proposes us. This versatility makes possible to easily set the machine according to the material features, so that new productions can be profitably started in a very short time.
The complete speed and features range offered by IMA Safe Comadis, our specialized division, are compatible with the new generation of materials right now, with no need of modification on existing equipment. The whole portfolio is also now available with an updated hot air sealing technology, characterised by reduced power consumption.
IMA offers a complete range of deep thermoforming machines from low to high speed.
All of them are designed with the environment in mind. Our well established technologies have been thought once again for the best handling of new generation materials such as the bio-degradable PLA. We keep the same performance, the same quality, with a new purposes: our Planet.
No one is forgotten: new applications are suitable for retrofitting on existing C260, C360 and C102 with just small adjustments in the forming area.
Thanks to a team of experts and a dedicated portfolio of machines, from 2019 IMA invests in deep research and development on PVC-free blister packaging.
The modern blister will be monomaterial and fully recyclable or compostable. We are not talking about a distant future, but about something that IMA has been working on for several years, and for which is ready, now.
IMA blister packaging technologies allow to realize blisters with the same protective characteristics, made of recyclable plastic, or even paper.
All of this is possible thanks to the constant exchange between IMA, customers and material manufacturers. Today we can say that we know all the recyclable materials, for both thermoforming and cold forming technology , as we well know the behaviour of paper in the realization of a blister.
The goal that IMA sets itself in the approach of this brand-new topic is to ensure that IMA customers can carry out a retrofit on their existing IMA machines, so that they can continue the existing productions, but with an alternative packaging that respects the environment.
All IMA Safe blister packaging machines are compatible with these applications. Just a few adjustments on exhisting equipment (on the machine or on format parts) is required.
Compostable material for coffee capsules
The ecological capsules preserve aroma and quality of the blends, and are made of compostable polymers capable of withstanding high temperatures and pressure, thus guaranteeing optimal performance during the coffee extraction phase.
Key attributes of the solutions developed by IMA ensure significant flexibility enabling a fast response to diverse market requirements. In fact, every IMA Coffee Packaging capsule filling machines can handle any capsule type available on the market, whatever material it is made of, compostable materials included.
Paper outer envelope
The traditional paper-based pod is the forerunner of today’s environmentally sustainable compostable capsules, but today’s challenge is to complete the packaging cycle with a fully recyclable heat-sealed outer envelope by replacing polylaminate materials with paper solutions.
IMA Coffee Packaging has improved its sealing technology to ensure paper outer envelope maximum tightness.
The technology is applicable to all the pod packaging machines developed, CA1, CA3 and CA6.
IMA Ilapak was able to draw up both an eco-friendly and efficient solution based on the perfect match between packaging machines and film for chocolate bars’ packaging.
The project’s result was an ultrasonic sealing packaging technology with a compostable high paper-based barrier film, namely a sustainable packaging solution that allows a hermetic sealing with the same performances and barrier properties as plastic or aluminium foil. This innovative material is a paper-based film with a biopolymer derived from renewable resources and a patented high-barrier coating that is water based and compostable.
The IMA Ilapak Carrera 5000 flow wrapping machine, specially designed to run also compostable films, has been equipped with a rotary longitudinal ultrasonic sealing system for product safety and savings in energy and materials.
Thanks to this green technology, it was possible to achieve a paper-based packaging solution for chocolate bars that yields film savings of up to 10% owing to a narrower seal area, and energy savings compared to traditional heat-seal technology.
In addition, ultrasonic sealing technology does not generate heat, therefore there is no risk of melting the product or altering the flavour of the chocolate.
With the aim of eliminating plastic on tissue and nonwoven’s primary packaging, IMA TMC developed viable solutions to allow the replacement of the traditional polyethylene film, managing the transition to new sustainable packaging.
The new solutions are made out of recyclable plastic material and paper, specifically heat-sealable paper and kraft paper – a plant-based material that is renewable and easily recyclable. It is now possible to achieve a paper-based packaging solution that allows up to 40% reduction in packaging material weight, up to 80% reduction in packaging material logistic volume, zero waste during the packaging process and a reduction of global footprint and CO2 emissions.
These solutions are applicable to the wrapping machines: WRAP250, XWRAP, Universa, Supera, Otto and Entra AFH and to the stacking and bagging machine D-NAMIC.
Wet wipes when not properly dismissed can represent a threat to the environment, clogging the gray and black water purification systems and taking decades to disintegrate.
To tackle this issue, IMA Teknoweb was able to identify new materials composed of cellulosic fibres derived from wood pulp. In some products, this is held together by resins that dissolve with movement in water. These products can be thrown into the toilet after use without any damage and will deteriorate after few hours or days – instead of decades – when or if dispersed in the environment.
The biggest challenge for the production of sustainable wet wipes is related to new materials’ characteristics, such as low wet strength, high rigidity and sensitivity to heat, which reduce their dry strength.
Moreover, in traditional converters, using new materials means accepting a significant loss in terms of speed and efficiency.
Teknoweb has first developed and used a technology on its converters able to cope with these issues, enabling its customers to process dispersible and sustainable materials without compromising on speed and efficiency.
This project is applicable to the following machines: Futura, Exige, Next and Genesis.
IMA Ilapak collaborated to develop a brand new, sustainable solution for pre-cut salad’s packaging.
The new solution is 95% paper and verified as recyclable in the waste paper stream in France while keeping the salad fresh for up to 10 days – the same amount of time as with traditional plastic packaging.
This solution won 3 prizes, the French packaging award in the ‘’production’’ and ‘’environment’’ categories and the Trophées de l’innovation LSA.
IMA Ilapak’s R&D efforts resulted in the first VFFS solution specifically designed to manage paper while ensuring the same performance as plastic packaging materials.
The Vegatronic 6000 bagging machines allow the development of a recyclable functional barrier paper, which is converted on the Vertical Form Fill Seal machines of IMA Ilapak.
All companies developed innovative projects that combine technology and efficiency, aiming to achieve more sustainable packaging and processes.
Some IMA INTECMA patented tools are the result of years of research ad development and they are optimal for the use of mono-materials such as PET, PP and PLA.
Some patented punching tools allow to quickly switch from PS (Polysterene) to recyclable materials such as PET, PP and PLA: clients can thus choose more sustainable solutions for their thermoformed cups. Multipacks made of these materials can be broken into individual cups just as easily as those made from PS.
Further equipment in this range of tools include special pre-heating plates, which can be smoothly dismantled and enable simple maintenance. Moreover, material savings can be realised by using the special thermoforming molds, which enable the use of thinner materials.