Laminated tubes are used for packaging across the globe in varied sectors such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, and oral hygiene.
Laminate tubes consist of a multi-layer coat material (3 -5 layers). This composite material consists essentially of PE layers with a barrier layer embedded in between. The individual layers of the coating material are connected to each other by “laminating”, hence the name for this type of tubes.
Laminate tubes are manufactured by a special technology. The printing process is not integrated into the tube production but precedes the manufacturing process proper. The advantage of this sequence is that printing is not carried out on the finished cylindrical tube body but on a flat surface which is formed to an endless tube similarly like etiquettes. Printing is available in photo quality. It is possible to integrate several printing processes in-line, like flexographic printing, screen printing and foil blocking. Complex print views are possible in one work step.
The tube material printed in the “preliminary process”, the so-called laminate, a semi-finished product, undergoes a second manufacturing process together with shoulder material and cap where the final tubes are made. In this “main process” the printed laminate is formed into an endless tube and joined at the longitudinal side seam which will later be on the back side. Thereafter a shoulder including thread and nozzle is bonded thereon and finally, the cap is mounted. With this step the tube is finished. It is packed and ready-made.
Laminate tubes are manufactured by using the laminate feedstock that is simply a poly-foil-poly structure that has polyethylene on either side of a thin gauge of foil. Some laminate structures also incorporate paper. A subset of the laminate is Polyfoil. The most popular way of decorating the laminate feedstock material is by either letterpress or rotogravure printing. Rotogravure printing is used extensively to provide a high-quality print buried within the laminate structure. Letterpress printing is used to decorate the surface of the laminate feedstock just prior to tubing that is ideal for added flexibility or smaller quantities.
The laminate tubes are formed by placing the rolls of laminate material onto the needles of the machine. The material is then taken in a flat state and fed through the forming rolls, which very gently turn the tube and form it into a cylinder of variable size depending on the customer's needs. Heat generated by high frequency fuses the sides of the material together to form a solid cylindrical tube. After the tube has been formed, it goes to the cutting station that slices it into various lengths.
After the tube has been formed into the desired cylindrical shape and length, the tube is transferred to the heading operation. As with plastic tubes, several heading methodologies are available. One particular method uses a preformed head. The tube is then placed onto a mandrel, the preformed head and shoulder are fed down vibrator shoots and fused to the top of the tube by means of heat generated by high-frequency energy. Other methodologies apply the head to the sleeve in a similar manner to plastic tubes - either by injection or compression molding whereby heat fuses the head to the tube body.
After the complete tube has been formed, it goes to the capping station. The cap -- flat style, fez style or pedestal style -- is chosen based on the customer's needs. The cap is applied and torqued to the desired torquing requirements. The tube is then ejected onto a conveyor and taken to a packing operation where it is packed into a carton and is ready for the customer.
Laminate is one of the raw materials used to make tubes. In this process, the film and foils are fused together to form a 5-layer laminate. The film is loaded on one un-winder and the foil on the other. Extruded polyethylene is passed between the layers to bind the two layers, which are then fused together. The three-layer laminate thus obtained is then bound with the inner layer (food grade film) resulting in a 5-layered laminate. Film, nylon and foil laminates are produced by extrusion lamination. Mono and multilayer PE films, nylon barriers and aluminum foil form the basic structure of the laminated film.
The high-barrier properties of laminate tubes are delivered through the incorporation of thin aluminum foil layer in the multi-layer polyethylene laminate tube body. As an alternative, an all-plastic, EVOH containing polyethylene structure is added.
The jumbo reel laminates are placed in the intermediate store for curing. Once the curing process is completed, the laminates are taken to the slitting machine. The jumbo reels of laminates are unwound here to be slit into various sizes based on the size of the tube, to match customer specifications.
Once laminate is slit to a desired size it is ready for printing. Art works provided by customers are processed using sophisticated technology to enable accuracy with printing of colours and other details on the laminate. The offline proofs are provided to the customer to sample the printing done on the laminate.
The final stage in the complete manufacturing process is the tubing stage, wherein the laminate is sealed to form sleeves, the shoulder is fixed and appropriate cap applied to the tube-based as required by the customer. A variety of machines are utilized while manufacturing tubes depending on product specifications, volume of production and for developing special features, which may be required to suit customer needs.
LAMINATE TUBE ADVANTAGES:
Laminated squeeze tubes offer a form of tube material with the advantages of plastic but with barrier properties close to those of metal. Laminated tubes have a good "feel" and maintain their attractiveness throughout the life of their contents. The first laminated tubes were used primarily to package high-volume products like toothpaste but now are used for many other products ranging from denture adhesives and artists' paints to hair-care products and pharmaceuticals. A subset of the laminate is Polyfoil.
DEMAND FOR LAMINATED TUBES
- The Indian packaging industry, growing at an annual rate of more than 15 percent is valued at $ 15.6 billion (INR 85,000 crore).
- In the next five years, the sector is expected to triple to around $ 60 bn.
- Laminated products including form-fill-seal pouches, laminated tubes and tetra packs are growing at around 30% p.a.
- Tubes hold strong with oral care benefits coming from rising incomes in emerging markets.
- In 2012, BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China) alongside the U.S. made up the top five national users of squeezable plastic tubes in beauty. Higher disposable incomes among low-income families are enabling more frequent purchase of oral care. India singularly provides the greatest volume growth potential and is set to account for one fifth of global squeezable plastic tube sales in toothpaste by 2016, as educational campaigns by companies such as Colgate-Palmolive India serve to further increase awareness of the importance of oral hygiene among rural consumers. For India, facial cleansers and styling agents have also proven to be exceptionally strong category performers for the plastic tube, liked for its ease of handling. Ongoing development of the retail infrastructure in India and an expected rise in number of specialist beauty retailers like New U, Body Shop and Health and Glow will further support the rapid growth in purchase of beauty products in the country.
- The tube packaging market size is estimated to grow from USD 6.65 Billion in 2016 to USD 9.30 Billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 6.9%.
- The tube packaging market is projected to witness significant growth in the next few years with the increasing demand from the cosmetics industry for tube packaging as tubes protect cosmetic products from bacteria; in addition, squeeze tubes limit the exposure of the content to the outer atmosphere, thus increasing the shelf-life of the products.
- Cosmetics & oral care gain maximum traction during the forecast period
The cosmetics & oral care segment dominated the market in 2015 and is projected to be the fastest-growing end-user sector in the next five years, as a result of the increase in demand for innovative packaging in various industries, which drives the market for tube packaging. Tube packaging is re-closable, non-reactive, allows for easy dispensing, and is available in small packages.
- Laminated segment to grow at the highest rate during the forecast period
The laminated segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period, as a result of the increase in demand for packaging with excellent barrier protection, which is essential for packaging pharmaceutical products. Laminated tubes also minimize the transfer of oxygen and light, thus protecting the substance, which also drives the demand for laminated tubes.