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Designed for high-speed: with a pioneering spirit and passion to high-performance MDO-PE film

“Our best for your goods” – the adapa Group’s flexible packaging specialists use this slogan to underscore their complete dedication and focus in developing and manufacturing products, as well as providing in-depth consultation that accounts for individual customer requirements and ultimately results in the best possible packaging solution. The 20 highly specialised locations in Europe constantly share their know-how with each other, driving forward the development of forward-looking technologies every day. adapa Italy Florence (formerly Termoplast), for example, are the Group’s proven specialists for MDO-PE products: It boasts more than 50 years of experience in blown film production, and this know-how is reflected in the current product portfolio of PE and PP films. The company has been a member of the adapa Group since 2021. Giovanni De Martino (Area Sales Manager adapa films Italy) and Lorenzo Barnini (Managing Director adapa Italy Florence) explain how a pioneering spirit, a genuine passion for the development of packaging solutions and a great deal of courage and determination have led to forward-looking packaging solutions that anticipate the needs of the market.

The history of adapa Italy Florence is characterised by a strong pioneering spirit that has shaped the company from the very beginning. How do adapa Group customers benefit from this today?

Lorenzo Barnini is Managing Director of adapa Italy Florence and a visionary in the field of flexible packaging.

Lorenzo Barnini: The original company was founded in 1967 by my grandfather Giulio Paolo Barnini, who was inspired by the dawning “age of plastic” and recognised the advantages of this versatile material for the field of packaging. This is how the history of flexible packaging began at this location. For the production of plastic shopping bags – our first product – there were only small extruders with low production volumes. When my father Salvino Barnini and my uncle Sandro Barnini took over management in 1982, the company’s continuous growth allowed them to invest in more extruders and new applications. The increased productivity enabled us to expand into new markets, soon even beyond Italy’s borders. After starting out in the non-food sector, we added food packaging products to our portfolio in the 1980s. These now account for more than 70 per cent of our product range, making them our most important market. We moved into a new, larger building 20 years ago and were able to expand our extrusion and distribution facility.

Giovanni De Martino: We bring our enthusiasm for working on new packaging solutions to the Group to keep making our packaging better. At adapa, the spirit of research is part of our DNA, and the use of new technologies is always a top priority for the company’s management. To this end, we constantly monitor the market in order to pick up on customer needs at an early stage. CrystalPE proves us right: A decade ago, we already believed in the potential of MDO technology for PE films and invested in it.

What were the development goals – and what exactly is CrystalPE?

From initial trials to today’s refined product: Giovanni de Martino played a key role in the market launch of CrystalPE.

L.B.: Our R&D team conducted intensive research into making MDO technology usable for PE. The aim was to develop an alternative to the industry’s existing print substrates and thus enable the production of Mono-PE  packaging designed for recycling (D4R). CrystalPE is our answer to the requirements of the food industry and consumers for recyclable packaging, even for sensitive products. Our MDO-PE is part of a packaging solution that represents a real alternative to non-recyclable multi-material films.

G.D.M.: The MDO-PE film is manufactured according to a special formulation that makes it possible to produce mono-material PE laminates: This means that our films are purely made from PE, which makes them a viable alternative to biaxially orientated PET or PP films. It allows converters to offer their customers single-material packaging solutions designed for recycling that meet the high demands of the food industry in terms of quality and functionality, for instance for the safe packaging of sensitive foods such as cheese or coffee. MDO-PE is suitable for the production of all standard packaging formats, such as stand-up pouches, flowpacks and lidding films. Thanks to its rigidity and excellent machinability, the material can replace the print substrates in PET/PE, OPP/PE or OPA/PE structures that are normally used for demanding and flexible packaging. The transparent film is also highly resistant to heat and can be printed with ease using all common printing processes. Overall, CrystalPE thus extends the possible uses of PE laminates to applications that were previously not considered feasible with PE.

How did you succeed in developing MDO-PE/CrystalPE using this sophisticated technology?

G.D.M.: Stretching films has been a common practise for a long time. But stretching polyethylene? Now that was treading new ground. We worked on the formulation for five years, looking for the perfect PE compound and how to process it with the existing technology. We got help along the way: Not only could we rely on 50 years of experience in extrusion technology, but we were also able to tap into the expertise of our customers’ converters and various machine manufacturers and raw material suppliers. We did all the development work without any guarantee that the market would accept the product and the project would pay off. But we were utterly convinced that we could create a modern product with this technology that resonates with customers. During the long development phase, we have continued to refine the properties of the films and take pride in having mastered this manufacturing process thanks to our expertise of many years. We have now found the ideal formulation: a high-quality MDO PE film that perfectly combines performance, appearance and design for recycling.

L.B.: The result is a unique product that can be used for many different applications. One of the most successful applications is the production of stand-up pouches, but it is also used to produce flowpacks and lidding films for trays, for example. The film can even be used on high-speed gravure printing systems as it can withstand processing speeds of up to 600 m/min thanks to its high stiffness and tensile strength. Its excellent temperature resistance also enables a large sealing window during final packaging. The broad spectrum of packaged products ranges from fresh food (meat, fish, cheese) to pet food, baked goods, confectionery and coffee. CrystalPE is currently available from 20 to 40 µm, in highly transparent and matt as well as corona-treated on one or both sides. We are also working on other variants, such as tinted white or a version with a barrier.

How did the market respond to the new product?

G.D.M.: Just as we anticipated, the major investment in the technology and several years of development work have paid off. Demand for materials for the production of PE packaging solutions is strong. adapa has subsequently invested 5 million euros in building a third MDO-PE production line, which has been in operation since mid-2022. This represents a major milestone in the history of our Group. That’s how we address the upcoming legislative changes in the industry regarding the mandatory recyclability of packaging. As a result, we’re more than ready to meet future requirements. Incidentally, this is just the beginning of adapa Group’s extensive investment strategy aimed at further strengthening its position in a broad range of areas in the flexible packaging arena.

What challenges come with the new EU packaging regulation?

G.D.M.: The European strategy for packaging is clear: Solutions designed for recycling and the use of recycled materials are in demand. There is currently still uncertainty in the industry because the EU regulations do not provide any precise guidelines, and all European countries still use their own definition of sustainable packaging. As the regulations for food do not (yet) permit mechanically recycled material in the vast majority of cases due to a lack of traceability, design for recycling is at the centre of attention in the food industry. Our product CrystalPE perfectly meets today’s needs as it allows our customers to replace complex, non-recyclable multi-material composite solutions with single-material solutions. For materials such as CrystalPE, which are based on polyethylene, there are recycling infrastructures available that are better established than those for other materials.

L.B.: There is a great demand for advice on the topic of “design for recycling” in the industry and particularly among our customers. In this area we can provide substantial support thanks to our comprehensive expertise and extensive experience accumulated over five decades. This applies in particular to innovative materials such as CrystalPE, where we provide individual advice to help decide whether the material is suitable for achieving the customer’s intended objectives. Our support also means being honest when CrystalPE is simply not reasonable. In such cases, we can often recommend other solutions from the adapa Group’s diverse range, which covers almost the entire spectrum of flexible packaging: Based on polypropylene or polyethylene, with or without barrier, produced using cast or blow extrusion. Our portfolio includes standard films as well as speciality products such as CPP films with an integrated barrier and a remarkably low S.I.T. (sealing initiation temperature) or features such as reclose or easy-peel.

What further developments in sustainable packaging solutions are you considering?

L.B.: We’re currently trialling various solutions, from bio-based films to re-use concepts. We maintain a clear focus on “designed for recycling” to address the circular economy for flexible packaging. In this context it is time for us to take action to generate a wealth of know-how in this far-reaching changeover and to ensure sufficient capacity in the market so we will be ready when the new legislation takes effect. But no matter what the future holds: Our customers can rest assured that we will continue to innovate and to introduce suitable solutions to the market at an early stage.

This is where the journey of every CrystalPE film begins: A state-of-the-art blown film extruder
If you would like to learn more about our CrystalPE portfolio hit the contact buttom below or write us at contact@adapa-group.com

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