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The lightweighting frontier in cap-preform production

The lightweighting frontier in cap-preform production


Last week’s SACMI live event, which investigated all the latest cap and preform lightweighting opportunities, was attended by over 900 customers from 96 countries. Held on 15 December (as a follow-up to last June’s event on all the latest concerning tethered caps), the webinar looked at scenarios, technological challenges, solutions and ready-to-market standards.

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Essential from a 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) perspective, weight reduction has been the focus of SACMI investment for at least 15 years. The aim of the webinar was to present the products and technologies that - thanks to SACMI’s in-depth knowledge of materials/processes and integrated cap-preform design services - allow a further leap forward.

Technological scenarios and challenges
Over 98% of the plastic produced worldwide - around 400 million tons a year - comes from fossil sources. More than a third of this ends up in landfills or, worse, in the environment. Hence the need to accelerate on the sustainable packaging front and develop solutions that combine high performance with lower virgin resin requirements while optimizing process times and costs.

Among the most promising and effective responses from a 3 Rs viewpoint - especially in the closures field, for safety and performance reasons - lightweighting involves numerous technical/technological challenges. To meet them, the SACMI Lab performs advanced testing on cap resin (HDPE) formulas and develops integrated neck-cap design solutions.

The Lab’s strength lies in its capacity to provide close customer support at every stage in order to assess cap-neck performance in advance and prevent the problems (such as stress cracking) that can stem from a reduction in cap thickness and, therefore, lightweighting. As a further guarantee, advanced in-line controls ensure total quality and process repeatability.

Cap-neck ready-to-market solutions
The webinar presented some of the more recently developed solutions available to the market, starting with the new 26 mm cap-neck systems in which SACMI leads the world, working alongside major brand owners and certification bodies.

For example, the new GME 30.37 neck standard for CSD drinks (also suitable for still water) weighs just 2.4 g and can be used with the 1.65 g Premium cap, capable of withstanding carbonation levels as high as 8.4 g/L of CO2. SACMI also offers this same standard in combination with the ultra-light still water cap, which weighs a mere 1.3 grams and can be produced at rates of up to 2,000 pieces per hour using CCM compression presses.

New lightweight solutions for bottles up to 3 liters were also previewed (e.g. 30.41 and 30.40 necks in combination with, respectively, a light cap weighing 1.65 grams and the new 1.75 g tethered cap). Already successfully tested in the SACMI Lab, these solutions share an ability to lower weight without affecting performance, especially when it comes to the ease of opening specifications required by leading international brand owners.

All solutions specifically designed for still water take an “extra light, easy grip” approach. This sees the new 29/25 mm solution with 2.4 g neck used in combination with the ultra-light cap (1.2 g) or the “high” cap, which is just as easy to grip as the previous 30 mm version but weighs just 1.45 g. Then there are the lightest water solutions in the SACMI family, the new 1 g and 0.8 g capsules, used with, respectively, 30.28 and 30.39 necks.

From LAB to factory
Featuring the experiences of international guest customers who have already used SACMI lightweight solutions successfully, the event ended with a walk-through of the SACMI workshop. This took in everything, from the IPS preform injection press - which incorporates solutions that further reduce weight to enhance performance and design - to the CCM press. The latter, the world's leading compression technology cap manufacturing solution, now features innovative key production parameter control systems and lower consumption.

For example, the new CMFlow plasticizing unit (also applicable on existing CCM presses) gives energy savings of up to 9% and extraordinary resistance to stress cracking compared to traditional solutions. More generally, advanced 4.0 sensors and controls (e.g. system for monitoring the position of the dose inside the mold cavity) let manufacturers identify any production drift and plan maintenance and corrective action in advance.

A further challenge - alongside lightweighting and the implementation of innovative on-machine controls that optimize performance and TCO - regards extending the use of recycled raw materials to the PET-closures sector. That prospect is, at SACMI, already reality: with the standard IPS machine it’s now possible to produce preforms using up to 100% rPET and up to 50% PET in recycled flake form. Moreover, the latest range of CCM compression presses can use up to 30% of HDPE from certified recycling sources, an absolute first on the market for this type of processing.

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