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FP7

ECOPET Report Summary

Project ID: 315009
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: Ireland

Final Report Summary - ECOPET (Demonstration of innovative, lightweight, 100% recyclable PET prototype formulations and process tooling for low carbon footprint packaging to replace current industry standard virgin plastics)

Executive Summary:
Research for the Benefit of SMEs
Call Identifier: FP7-SME-2012-CP
Collaborative project
Work programme topic addressed: Demonstration Activity


- PART B -
Full title of the proposed action: Demonstration of innovative, lightweight, 100% recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) prototype material formulations and process tooling for low carbon footprint packaging to replace current industry standard virgin plastics
Acronym of the proposed action: ECOPET
Co-ordinator:

(Organisation, Address) Dr. Ted OKeeffe

Holfeld Plastics Ltd.
Avoca River Park, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

List of Participants
Participant Number Participant legal name Beneficiary short name Country Organisation type
1Coordinator Holfeld Plastics Ltd HPL IE SME
2 Cumapol BV CMB NL SME
3 TMB Patterns Ltd TMB UK SME
4 Citrox Biosciences Ltd CTX UK SME
5 Spiegelberg Zinke GmbH SPZ D SME

Executive Summary 315009
Currently the European food packaging sector has a turnover of in excess of €6 Billion per annum and produces 200Billion polymer trays, the vast majority of which continue to be manufactured from virgin non-recyclable plastics such as polypropylene (PP). The plastics packaging thermoforming sector in Europe consists of more than 1200 companies employing approximately 150,000 people. In excess of 70% of these thermoforming companies are SMEs. This sector faces very significant competitiveness and environmental sustainability issues, which this project has successfully addressed.
The overall objective of this project to make HPL the leading thermoforming company in low carbon footprint food tray product offering produced from rPET material that had been diverted away from landfill, using Holfeld-Plastics state of the art superclean reprocessing equipment approved by EFSA for food contact products such as the ECOPET product offerings developed in this project
The ECOPET demonstration project has successfully shown that the innovative recycled Polyethylene Teraphthalate (rPET) technology developed in the rPET-FC project can now be manufactured at the HIGHER SPEED necessary to make it cost neutral against the current market leader PP, which is not recyclable. The specific objectives outlined at the beginning of the project have been achieved and are outlined below:
An 85% reduction in polymer raw material carbon footprint compared to industry standard virgin material which equates to 1.8 tonnes of CO2 saved per tonne of the innovative ECOPET material replacing virgin PP 2. At project completion the 85% reduction has been achieved.
Another achievement being the 70% reduction in carbon footprint of manufactured innovative ECOPET trays compared to PP trays 2
A 20% reduction in weight of final ECOPET food tray produced, at project completion 21% weight reduction is the norm.
Delivery of a 100% recyclable food tray by eliminating the use of non-recyclable mixed polymer composites. To date the project partners have achieved 90% of this target. The initial deliveries of ECOPET trays post project completion will be manufactured using between 80% and 90% recyclable PET depending on the specific requirements of the end users but it is expected that some future orders for ECOPET will be made from 100% rPET feedstock.
The sealing consistency target for ECOPET food trays prior to project commencement was 50% reduction in sealing failure rate which equates to 1% overall and this target has been achieved with the high volume, high speed production test runs. However, it is early days yet and until ECOPET food trays enter the marketplace in substantial volumes this issue with sealing failure cannot be settled, nevertheless, wastage figures will be monitored very carefully over the coming months.


Project objectives for the period
The initial In-house trials using Citrox solution at 1% strength solution on low and high speed lines were unsuccessful due to the high temperature of the thermoforming tool degrading the beneficial affect significantly. Nevertheless, independent tests carried out by Citrox prior to our in-house tests clearly demonstrated that the anti-microbial performance of the innovative eco-friendly packaging retains its efficacy for a minimum period of 30 days and gives enhanced shelf-life by as much as two days.
Trials with post formed ECOPET sample trays that had been cooled to ambient temperature before applying the 20mg of 1% Citrox solution clearly demonstrated an increase of shelf-life from 7 to 9 days was possible on a range of fresh and cooked meats. The results of which were very positive except for uncooked chicken.
After a few days the uncooked chicken in the ECOPET trays with Citrox sprayed directly onto the tray had a white like substance at the leading edge of the meat. Though this substance turned out to be harmless, it was not aesthetically pleasing and chicken producers would not accept it.
This negative result led the consortium to find an alternative methodology to add Citrox without it coming in direct contact with the uncooked chicken meat. After many trials a workable solution was found by placing a pad with 20mg of a 1% Citrox solution impregnated into the pad, as it was being made which resolved the white scum issue for uncooked chicken. Unfortunately this solution added 2% cost to the price of the food tray which, end users are unwilling to pay at this point in time, given that the innovative ECOPET packaging in modified atmosphere with its high barrier capability delivers the same result without the added cost.
The enhanced tooling performance was another major issue that had to be addressed, if the Project was to be a success. Never before had anyone run large multi-cavity thermoforming tools at 35 cycles per minute on long production runs. However, the earlier research work undertaken in the RPET-FC project was a key factor in achieving the increased cycle speed from 20 to 35 per minute a 75% increase with a corresponding reduction in wastage in low volume production runs.
Partner TMB the bespoke tooling specialist have taken tooling state-of-the-art to new heights in successfully developing beyond state-of-the-art de-nesting technologies without which it would be impossible to run the innovative ECOPET food trays in highly automated end user processing lines.
Another critical element that had to be addressed in this reporting period was the design, manufacture and optimisation of the innovative ECOPET master-batch formulations for use in a wide range of food tray packaging. The optimum thermoforming parameters for ECOPET feedstock were optimised after numerous speed, temperature and cooling cycle trials. Characterisation of the mechanical, thermal and gas barrier performance of the optimum master-batch were completed successfully. In this final reporting period the updated status on ECOPET is provided with particular attention being paid to, Nucleation, Grade, Chain extension, Seal ability, High temperature performance and High Barrier.

Periodic Objectives
Description of work performed and main results
The primary task to be achieved in this reporting period was to ensure that the multi-cavity high speed tooling designed, built and delivered on site for product testing performed extremely well. Another key issue being the bespoke rPET master batch formulations from CMB which were of equal importance to the beyond state-of-the-art tooling to ensure the achievement of the ECOPET project objectives.
Another key issue being the inline modifications that had to be delivered upon by partner HPL to validate the thermoforming process in the delivery of the 75% increase in processing speeds without having to totally re-design the manufacturing process or having to add very expensive high performance chilling equipment.
By end of the project the consortium can confirm that the multi-cavity tools are functioning to specification and are now achieving the specified throughput performance. The Master batch formulation is compatible with the increased cycle times and the process lines are delivering the specified throughput without any indexing, forming, distortion or quality issues with the ABC stacking profile trays.
D2.3 The Citrox formulations when applied to the sheet material prior to thermoforming using Holfeld’s state-of-the-art plasma equipment did not survive the heat of the thermoforming process even at the lowest possible temperatures. Nevertheless, a working solution to this dilemma was quickly perfected by partner HPL utilising their Pad making equipment to automatic insertion pads impregnated with Citrox solutions of varying concentration from 0.5%, to 2.0% into food trays had been formed and cooled to atmospheric temperatures.
The difficulty with the proposed process was in convincing the pad supplier to modify their process to incorporate dosing heads to impregnate the pads with 1% Citrox solution concentrate which was deemed the optimum strength from an efficacy point of view. The initial trials were conducted on a process line that was surplice to requirements at the time at the pad manufacturer’s premises and having completed a range of studies from 5mg to 100mg the ideal quantity was found to be 20mg per square metre leading to a totally reliable Citrox delivery system post thermoforming without no downside effects.
ECOPET food trays with Citrox impregnated pads have been shown to reduce food waste by increasing the shelf-life of soft fruits, cooked and uncooked meats, prawns etc., by up to two days. Again throughout this project the consortium came to understand that not only Citrox solution but any other approved Citrox-like additives such as the natural extract from pomegranate had the same positive effect as Citrox.

Project final results and potential impacts
This project has the potential to eliminate more than a million tonnes of PET waste currently going to landfill across Europe and do so in a cost neutral way. Prior to the advent of this demonstration project, the cheapest food tray product offering on the market remained PP which is not recyclable but now thanks to the high volume, high speed production runs achieved with the beyond state of the art tooling the fully recyclable ECOPET food tray offering can for the first time be manufactured on a cost neutral basis to that of the market leader PP.
End users wishing to project an environmentally friendly image by switching their food trays from PP to ECOPET which is made from recycled PET, the environmental impact is huge in that for every tonne of PET material diverted away from landfill 2.7 Tonnes of CO2 emissions will be eliminated from our atmosphere and 1.8 Barrels of crude oil (a non-renewable resource) will not have to go into making virgin PET material.
The overall objective of the ECOPET project is to upscale the production of an innovative recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) packaging material from pilot scale to commercial volumes, and to launch this revolutionary new product into the European food packaging market. This objective is well on the way to being achieved in that barely two months post project completion active negotiations are underway with end users from Ireland, Britain and France so far for the supply of ECOPET food trays and sheet material worth in excess of €320,000.
The objectives set out for this reporting period have been achieved by the consortium. These deliverables include D1.5 Project review meetings at month 6, 12, 18 and 24, and D1.6 final Project Report by end of month 26. D2.3 Integration of atmospheric plasma process for deposition of active Citrox coating at industrial scale by month 12. D2.4 Trialling at industrial scale of high volume tooling for mushroom trays by month 12. D3.2 Full life cycle Analysis by month 12. D3.3 Address food contact legislation month 12. D4.3 Meeting with large UK retailers month 12. D5.1 Project information updates month 12 and 24. D5.2 Project presentations from month 12 onwards. D3.1 Evaluation of packaging performance month 14. D3.4 Preparation of range of samples for customer trials.D2.5 Optimisation of conditions for high volume thermoforming trial. D4.4 Display of profiles at trade shows in Ireland and UK. D3.5 Delivery, trials and testing of high volume packaging profiles to end users and potential customers. D4.5 Display of material at trade show on European Continent. D5.3 Layman’s report month 24. D4.6 Launch material in Ireland and UK with target small and large companies. D4.7 Launch material with small and large companies on continental Europe.
D1.5 A total of five project meeting took place throughout the life time of this project, the first being the Kick-off meeting which took place on Thursday 6rd September 2012 at the project coordinator’s premises in Arklow, Ireland. The EU project officer confirmed his attendance for the kick-off and all projects partners were in attendance. The precise nature of each partners tasks and duties were clearly delineated and the need to ensure timelines would be maintained at all times.
Any concerns or issues were to be forwarded to the coordinator without delay and in instances where the coordinator would not achieve a satisfactory outcome the offending issue would be brought to the project steering committee. Thankfully the many issues that occurred throughout the lifetime of the project were resolved without recourse to the project steering committee.
The second meeting took place in Holland at Cumapol’s Head office on Friday 1st February 2013, in attendance were partners TMB, CMB, HPL and SPZ unfortunately no participant was available from CTX. The project progress against deliverables were assessed against the timelines and all the deliverable D1.1, D1.2, D4.1, D1.3, D1.4 and D1.5 for the period had been completed on time and to a very high standard.
The third project meeting which was the mid-point project meeting occurred in July 2013 in Arklow, Ireland. There was only one issue of concern raised at this meeting D2.1 the optimisation of the high volume thermoforming tools were reviewed. Failure to deliver these high performance tools would mean the project had no chance of success but each concern raised regarding the high speed trials under way such as indexing, locating, clamping, thermoforming speed, release, cooling and ABC stacking were systematically re-engineered until the high performance, high speed tools were a working reality.
The fourth project meeting took place in Brussels on the 5th September with a midterm review scheduled for the 6th at the Commission offices, Place Rogier. He review overall went well in that any issue of concern raised by the project officer and or independent reviewer were addressed to their satisfaction nevertheless, two deliverables had to be reworked to reflect the issues discussed at the review meeting but not sufficiently outlined in the documentation, D4.1 and D5.1 which were resubmitted a week later and approved.
The fifth project meeting took place in February 28th 2014 at TMB, Bridgewater with the only item of significance being once again the distinct lack of Citrox solution to run very large volume runs of ECOPET trays with pads impregnated with Citrox. However, by this stage in the project, the added value of Citrox had been circumvented by the overall enhanced performance of the ECOPET product offering.
The final meeting of the Project took place with partner SPZ in Dusseldorf on Thursday 10th of July where the project coordinator outlined overall project performance and each partner gave an update of progress on the specific deliverables assigned. The coordinator outlined the outstanding issues for each of the partners in attendance that had to be addressed in the remaining time frame. The following project partners attended this meeting HPL, TMB, CMB and SPZ. The representative from partner CTX for health reasons was able to attend and no alternative was put forward.

D2.2 Deals with the design, manufacture and optimisation of the innovative ECOPET material formulation for use in a wide range of food tray packaging markets and end users. The thermoforming conditions for ECOPET material have been optimised after numerous speed, temperature and cooling cycle trials. Characterisation of the mechanical, thermal and gas barrier performance of ECOPET packaging has been completed successfully. In this final reporting period the updated status on ECOPET is provided with particular attention being paid to, Nucleation, Grade, Chain extension, Seal ability, High temperature performance and High Barrier.
Nucleation
To generate small regular cell size in the ECOPET process, the nucleation of the cells can and has to be controlled by special additives. A critical issue being that the adhesion between the PET and the nucleator is minimal. When the pressure is reduced, at the moment the polymer leaves the die the nucleator additives needs to create small evenly distributed voids thus allowing the gas to expand in these voids and creates small cell sizes.
To this end Partner Cumapol developed a number of different grades of master-batch based on two different theories and at the end of these material trials two master-batches with superior performance characteristics were presented to HPL namely CumaBatch X2100 and CumaBatch X2600
CumaBatch X2100 – Polymeric Nucleating Master-batch. PTFE is a good nucleator for PET processes, the concerns with PTFE is the high melting temperature (<300°C), and therefore the distribution of the PTFE particles in the PET matrix. A good distribution is essential for a good cell size distribution. The master-batch produced incorporates fluorinated ethylene propylene or FEP which is a copolymer of hexafluoropropylene and tetrafluoroethylene. It differs from the PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) resins in that it is melt-processable using conventional injection moulding and screw extrusion techniques.
FEP is very similar in composition to the fluoropolymers PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFA (perfluoroalkoxy polymer resin). FEP and PFA both share PTFE's useful properties of low friction and non-reactivity, but are more easily formable. FEP is softer than PTFE and melts at 260 °C. This master-batch was produced in large quantities and delivered to HPL for ongoing testing with ECOPET production trials. Feedback from HPL regarding the latest version was very positive with no production issues being identified at any stage of the process.
CumaBatch X2600 – A second nucleating additive being micro talc, again a good distribution is the key to high performance. Cumapol developed a range of master-batches with improved disperse-ability of the micro-talc during the manufacturing process. Multiple large volume samples were delivered to Holfeld for ECOPET trials and Cumapol simultaneously undertook a series of preproduction trials of this series of masterbatch in separate trials of their own but utilising the same equipment as that available at HPL.

D2.4 Chain extension
For ECOPET to function correctly, a chain extender is necessary to increase the melt strength of the rPET. This melt strength is necessary to ensure the blowing agent in the polymer maintains a closed cell structure. Chain extension can be done by addition of epoxidized polymerics, like Joncryl (BASF). The difficult technical issue with the Joncryl is that when added as a raw material, the chance of gel formation due to irregular dosing is high, giving a unstable melt strength. There are master-batches readily available in the market place with PET and Joncryl however, during the production of the master-batch, the epoxy groups in the Joncryl react with the PET matrix and in so doing generated gels and unstable processing.

PMDA (Pyro Mellitic Di Anhydride) also reacts with end-groups of PET giving high melt strength. The chance of gel formation is also high, but Cumapol developed a master-batch preventing the PMDA from reacting with PET end-groups and in so doing allows superior melting and distribution of the PMDA during extrusion. This Master-batch was delivered to Holfeld for high speed trials, but was also tested for rheology effects during PET extrusion giving sheet density of about 350kg/m3 with 1.8% addition of the X3100 masterbatch.

The trials were undertaken on a twin screw extruder to get good mixing effect. The blowing agent was nitrogen. The chain extender and the nucleating agent were added at the extruder inlet, together with the dried rPET. Drying is undertaken down to 20ppm in a desiccant dry air dryer with a dewpoint of -40°C. Nitrogen is injected two thirds of the way down the barrel of the extruder which immediately is evenly distributed across the rPET melt by mixing action of the extruder screw. The melt viscosity of the polymer/gas mixture is lower than the polymer without gas; therefore the melt temperature is reduced to 255°C. The die is circular to be able to expand in three directions. Samples of the sheet were delivered to Holfeld for testing with positive feedback on all the key parameters.

D2.5 Sealability
When rPET trays are produced, it is important to be able to seal a lid on the tray. The current method is to laminate a ldPE film on top of the tray. The disadvantage is that rims, and other cutting waste, which is generated during thermoforming cannot be recycled back to produce a clear tray. For this reason a polyester top-layer is desirable, but sealing performance has to be good enough to be able to seal through contamination of the packed food on the sealing edges. With standard PET, the sealing circumstances (time, temperature, pressure) are rather severe when contamination is on the edge that it starts to crystallize, giving hazy (slightly opaque) and poor sealing strength.
To overcome this dilemma Cumapol developed a modified rPET with 10% isophthalic acid to reduce Tg, Tcc (crystallization rate) and Tm. This already gives an improved performance, especially when the lidding film has an outer layer from the same material. Again numerous samples of the film made by Cumapol have been forwarded to Holfeld for testing of the sealing performance and feedback on the optimum sample.
To further enhance the sealing performance the percentage of isophthalic acid was increased, and a very large batch of 11,000kg was forwarded to Holfeld for final evaluations.
Cumapol has also conducted a literature study and selected an alipahtic polyester to be built in the 10% modified resin, to further enhance the sealing behaviour. The theory being that small, equally distributed areas of low melting (120°) polyester build in the polymer chain enhance the sealing behaviour even further. The first samples of this latest material have been produced, and will be extruded and tested on lab-scale equipment in the coming months. More alternatives will be tested and evaluated post project completion.
High temperature performance
Cumapol through its ongoing research has also greatly enhanced temperature stability of food trays. The current standards in PET are the A-PET trays. The trays are completely amorphous, and have temperature stability up to 60°C. There are also C-PET trays in the market, they have a temperature stability of up to 220°C due to the crystalline structure of the PET, but the complexity of the processing is much higher, and large investments in thermoforming machines and moulds are necessary. The idea is to develop a PET resin which can be produced on standard A-PET production equipment, but with temperature stability up to 140°C.
These trays when fully developed will be suitable for microwave applications but this application is outside the scope of this current project but has huge potential for the airline industry, toy manufactures and prepared meals, the growth of which is currently being hampered by the unavailability of microwaveable rPET trays. The consortium with fully evaluate the potential of this new product offering and may submit a further proposal for funding if the end user take up and environmental impact can be established.
To obtain such resin, the Consortium will have to develop a tri-polymer with fast and slow crystallizing pieces in the polymer chain. The fast crystallizing parts generate crystals which, give’s the temperature stability, but are so small that they are hardly visible to the human eye, and therefore will not affect the clarity of the tray. The slow crystallizing parts stop the crystal growth and provide the ability to thermoform the tray even when some crystals are already formed.
Cumapol over the course of this project have initiated many trial batches and constantly evaluated the results in order to gain sufficient insight into the optimal processing window/performance ratio. The selected materials have been thoroughly evaluated and tested with regard to crystallization rate, clarity and temperature stability. High volumes of sheet material and trays have been successfully produced at the higher processing speeds with the optimum formulations derived.

D2.4 High Barrier
To improve the shelf-life of products packed in ECOPET such as red meat, poultry, fish, soft-fruits the barrier of the ECOPET material has to be high. At the same time the barrier properties of ECOPET need to be lowered to allow mushrooms packed in such trays to breathe more easily, to better facilitate the release of water molecules through the tray wall material.
Both HPL and Cumapol plan to further investigate the possibilities of lowering the barrier performance of PET trays so that this new innovative and cost neutral environmentally friendly recyclable material can also become the material of choice for mushroom growers.
The current solution is to apply a porous top film to the ECOPET trays but the cost of this top film is ever so slightly higher than the current market leader which is sufficient to make the mushroom growers shy away from the ECOPET option for the time being. Nevertheless both HPL and CMB will continue working Post Project Completion to develop a more cost effective solution and already have a few options identified which will be investigated and further developed.

D3.2 Carbon footprint
A carbon footprint study has been completed to PAS 2050 CF standard; this work calculated the Carbon Footprint of 1 kg ECOPET trays to be 1.7 kg CO2 eq. / kg. When compared with current industry standard virgin PP it was demonstrated that a saving of over 85%, can be achieved by switching to ECOPET formulation examined in this study.
D3.5 The project consortium partners have designed, manufactured and trialled (both internally and with end users) a range of ECOPET trays, initially using single cavity resin moulds. A number of these tray designs have been approved by end users and have moved to design, manufacture and trial of full production tool sets. In all four full production toolsets have been completed and are now being used to produce commercial volumes of ECOPET trays for end users including Hasbro, Prodisal, DBM, GOOD4U, Tendercut and Lynns Country Foods.
To date successful production trials have been completed with Hasbro: Ireland, Prodisal: France, DBM: Scotland, Good4U: UK, Tendercut: UK and Lynns Country Foods: Northern Ireland. These initial sample production runs have now been evaluated and negotiations are under way with six companies 1 French, 2 Irish and 4 British end users to purchase ECOPET food trays and or ECOPET sheet within two months of project completion. The projected initial orders for ECOPET will be in excess of €300,000. In the months ahead, Holfeld Plastics will actively target other food packing markets directly and through the strong working relationships with the consortium partners such as CMB, TMB SPZ with a strong focus on whole bird chicken, Prawns, Mussels and Collator trays for shelf-ready packaging.

D2.4 Toolset development in ECOPET Project

Initial Samples produced from resin mould:
The initial phase of this project involved production of batches of hand pulled sample ECOPET trays. The samples were produced using a CNC machined resin mould pattern and formed on a lab scale sample vacuum-forming machine in 500µm thick rPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors before the centre sections were cut out using a sharp blade. It was noted that the peripheral cut could have been better and that the internal cut-outs where nicked and that a smooth clean cut profile was required.
This method of sample production is not practical for the production of larger volumes but is a very cost effective way of determining the characteristics and functionality of innovative product offerings prior to spending limited resources on developing full prototype tools without the necessary safeguards.

Prototype Tooling:
Due to the possibility of the development tool having a 4 stages (form / punch / cut / stack) production process the TFT780 machine was chosen. The tool has been designed to operate a three stage process – form / cut / stack.
The initial tool was a single impression unit due to the machine constraints (maximum tool size in mm = 780.00 x 575.00) the tool was designed with a sprung loaded tool frame, manufactured from 3 pieces and mounted to the tool build up. The tool build up consisted of a base plate, water bolster and CNC machined mould, the mould was be vented with 0.6mm drills and had a light air blast finish.
From the manufacturing process of the tool frame, the pressure box was designed to be machined from solid, allowing us to explore the best solution to the design and manufacture of the tool frame and pressure box. The plugs were made from poured syntactic resin.
The cutter was designed to cut the peripheral and the internal cut outs at the same time using double level cutting. The anvil was been designed to allow for double level cutting with steel cutting plates. A standard pusher was used which was designed to push the product from underneath with side plates locating around the peripheral only. A standard 2 level catcher using “S” flippers on the first and second level was employed.

Results:
During the manufacturing process the team members determined that the best way to manufacture the tool frames and or pressure boxes on single impression tools would be to CNC machine them from solid. By doing this we can help eliminate any errors that may occur during the manufacturing process. The different designed tool frame and pressure box both worked under the development conditions and further analysis testing is required to determine which one would be better for ECOPET tooling. Although the pressure box worked, the product from the tool lacked definition and webbed between the male up-stands resulting in the pressure box being re-designed a number of times to allow for better material distribution around the up-stands.

The plug material also became an issue to be addressed in that it was leaving marks on the product and had to be redesigned to allow for better clarity across the product. The two level cutter and anvil worked but not successfully all the time initially, although the product was successfully separated from the web, the internal cut left nicks on the product which did not facilitate ease of set up and running of the development tool over higher volumes.

Due to stacking and de-nesting issues encountered with the initial tray samples produced it was decided to introduce additional holes into the tray design to reduce surface contact and prevent trays from sticking together. This required a complete review of the original design of the cutter and anvil. A bespoke punch and die unit was developed to cut out the centre sections which ran on the vacant station on the machine.

Results
By reducing the amount of work and complexity on the cutter and anvil and introducing a punch and die unit the development tool produced a high quality sample. The cutter and anvil ran more efficiently and the initial set up time was reduced along with the complexity of the design. The punch and die design produced a product that meets the initial design requirements – tray samples without nicks on the internal cut outs.

The initial cutter design did not suffice, as the initial set up of the cutter wasn’t central and the product produced having an offset cut. A further development that had to be addressed was the introduction of a rotating mould feature to enable placement of de-nest features at different points on the tray facilitating more efficient stacking and de-stacking of trays.

Figure: 2.1 Punch & Die Design


Figure: 2.2 Cross Section of Punch & Die Design
Process Food Tray
Samples produced on resin mould
20 hand pulled samples were initially produced for this project. The samples were produced using a CNC machined resin pattern and formed on our lab scale sample vacuum forming machine in 500u ECOPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors. Following evaluation of hand pulled samples it was decided to proceed with full prototype tool.

Prototype Tooling
The process machines at Holfeld Plastics that would best suit the development tool requirements and also allow good control on the stacking station were the TFT780 machines (maximum tool size in mm = 780.00 x 575.00) the tool has been designed to run 3 stages – form / cut / stack.
This tool contained 12 impressions, running 3 across the width and 4 in the index.
The tool frame design from the tray was CNC machined from a solid aluminium plate instead of 3 separate sections, this design allows for greater strength in the frame, it will reduce the possibility of errors during manufacture and reduce the chances of a water leak between the different plates. The moulds were CNC machined from aluminium, vented with 0.4mm drills and water cooled.
The pressure box technology developed was modified a number of times given that the final tray product requires a top seal and the top of the tray needs to be as flat as possible. To achieve this we redesigned the pressure box into two separate sections. The main body was designed to house the plugs and act as a support for a fixed flange clamping plate. The flange clamp was profiled to match the U flange in height and profile. The plug material again was poured syntactic resin.
To achieve an equal flange around the peripheral of the tray, the standard cutter required a redesign to allow for movement on the cutter block. The cutter locator would first locate the cutter block in position before cutting the product out of the web. The cutter blocks were designed to float on shoulder bolts with CNC machined nylon locators.


Results
The tool design itself worked well with the innovative frame design working to strip the product from the tool while keeping the tool frame cold. The fixed flange clamping worked well in keeping the top of the U flange flat and allowing the finished product to be sealed without any problems.
Again with this tool set the consortium experienced problems with the plugs. As the tray material on longer production runs retaining heat and this heat in turn transferring to the plug material causing them to heat up. The plugs were marking the material and causing problems with the aesthetics of the tray. On the initial sample runs the development tool had to be taken off the machine as it was not functioning correctly at the higher speeds, on inspection the plugs were found to have cracked!
As the finished cutter required an equal cut flange around the peripheral, the development of a floating cutter to create an equal flanged product was proposed. The floating cutter works on the locators on the cutter locating in the product (the cutter block moves on shoulder bolts) prior to product cut out. It was found that after a period of time the cutting plate showed wear, as the product kept cutting in the same place, the material on the cutting plate had to be assessed and reviewed.
The shuttle stacker was a new development in the style and workings of the catcher. The catcher (see figures 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5) shows the product being stacked and pushed towards the centre of the catcher before being swept from the catcher out of the machine. The design modifications to the catcher on each side plate and bringing the product towards the centre was very innovative, the results from the trials proved the design worked well. Nevertheless the overall weight of the pusher caused problems that required the overall weight of the pusher to be significantly reduced.

Figure3.0: Product Design Coleslaw


Figure 3.1: Floating Cutter Assembly

Figure 4.1: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.2: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.3: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.4: Catcher Design Assembly

Several modification of the tooling for the Olive/Coleslaw trays was necessary. The plug material had to be changed due to the problems encountered. After analysing different types of materials Delrin was chosen. A new set of plugs were produced and fitted into the pressure box with very positive outcomes from the various trials conducted. Due to the problems with cutting, the cutting plate material was changed to a harder steel D2 to eliminate the recurring marking of the cutting surface.
The pusher and catcher design were also redesigned to reduce the overall weight of the pusher. The rod material was changed from solid bar to an extruded section while the pusher cups were changed from aluminium to nylon and cut outs machined into the base plate. By introducing these changes the weight has been reduced by 10 kilos, allowing for faster operation of the light design.

Results
With the change in the plug material from poured syntactic to Delrin. The Delrin plugs dramatically altered the look of the tray as the rPET film did not cause the plugs to break while in prototype trials. Delrin® FG150 NC010 is a high viscosity acetal homopolymer for extrusion processes. It has low die deposit and low porosity. It has been developed for consideration in applications and parts for the food industry. Delrin can be used in between a wide temperature range -50ºC - 200ºC.
The change in the anvil material from Hardox 500 plate to D2 cutting plate dramatically improved the cutting performance. The D2 cutting plate was hardened to 60-62 rc, which is the same hardness as the blades, thus the blades did not cut into the top surface of the cutting plate, the cutting plate in return didn’t damage the blade tip. During subsequent trial runs on thermoforming equipment the D2 steel cutting plate worked very well.

Figure 4.5: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly

Figure 4.6: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly
Soft-Fruit trays
Prototype Tooling
The thermoforming machines at Holfeld Plastics that best suit the development tool requirements for fruit trays were the RDKP72g machines. These machines allow good control on the cutting and stacking station, but not necessarily on the largest bed size. However, as the tray size was well below the maximum allowable the RDKP72g machine was chosen, (maximum tool size in mm = 695.00 x 545.00). The tool design incorporates a stage process/form / cut / stack.
The development tool consisted of 6 impressions, 3 across the width and 2 in the index. To try and reduce the material width, the cut spacing on this tool was reduced to 6mm. The tool was designed with a fabricated tool frame with spider bars in the index, given the corner de-nests. The castings were produced with the internal and external details already known, the only CNC machining applicable centred upon the A/B de-nesting, plus machining of the moulds to the correct size and in drilling the 4mm diameter waterways.
The cut spacing was reduced to 6mm, and the catcher side plates to 4mm. With the use of only 4mm catching plates the standard stainless steel “S” style flipper is not feasible as the groove the flippers sits into is 3mm deep, this would leave only 1mm of plate thickness and would be very weak insufficient to prevent buckling.
To overcome this problem an injection moulded flipper was used that would snap into place so that if a problem arose during the trial run, instead of damaging the catcher unit (a very expensive unit) the flippers snap instead. The flippers are made of blue polypropylene for safety reasons, as they can be easily identified, if a small piece breaks away and falls into an empty food tray.

Results
The object on this development tool set was to evaluate the differences between CNC machine moulds and sand castings and to try and reduce the tool size as much as possible to save on material. By having a fabricated tool frame over a CNC machined frame, the overall tool size was reduced by 2mm, not a large saving, but by reducing the cut spacing from 12mm down to 6mm (50%) then the overall saving on the external tool size was 20mm.
Using an injection moulded flipper design allowed the product to move through the catcher and stack very easily (one of the benefits of the injection moulded flipper is that only the part that comes into contact with the product moves, unlike the standard “S” flipper where there is a full mechanical movement across the length of the flipper).

Figures

Figure 5.1: Fruit tray design


Figure 5.2: Pusher Design Assembly


Figure 5.3: Catcher Design Assembly

Figure 5.4: Catcher Design Assembly


Figure: 5.5: Injection moulded PP flipper design

Results
The object on this development was to evaluate the differences between CNC machine moulds and sand castings and to try to produce multi-cavity ECOPET tools suitable for high speed operation.
By machining the external details on the castings, we reduced the possibility of sand becoming trapped on the external U flange face and causing problems with cutting the product.
Although the sand castings reduced the amount of CNC time on the machine, the quality of the castings varied along with having a tolerance of ±0.5mm. With simple profile products the costs incurred by producing a foundry pattern and the costs of castings are nearly the same as CNC machining the moulds! The quality and accuracy of the machined moulds are also greater.
As before the floating cutter and anvil worked well, with the development product produced having a clean equal flange, again the only problem being locating off centre of the internal of a casting where there is a ±0.5mm tolerance on the casting. This means that although the cutter is locating and working correctly the internal variant could cause the external cut to be uneven. However, by increasing the internal divider plates from 4mm to 6mm, the strength of the catcher improved greatly while the A/B element also continued to work well given that this part of the design process remained unchanged.
The floating cutter and anvil worked well, with the development product produced having a clean equal flange, with the moulds being CNC machined the problems of internal variances were eliminated. The primary distinction between trays produced in subsequent trials being that the tray depth was shallower consequently no additional problems were encountered with the pusher arms and catchers.

Snack Pot
Development of the tooling for Snack pot tray type

Samples produced on Resin mould
20 hand pulled samples were initially produced using a CNC machined resin pattern and formed on a lab scale sample vacuum forming machine in 650µ RPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors.

Prototype tooling
Moulds CNC machined from solid, with double level water cooling (diameter 5mm waterways) and slot vented base inserts. Sprung loaded CNC machined and profiled tool frame, water cooled and hard anodised. A fabricated water cooled zinc plated pressure box was created with the Delrin plug material tested in previous tools being replaced with Hytac WFT material which delivers a polished finish.
Instead of floating on shoulder bolts, to retain heat in the blades at all times, the cutter blocks were made from 2 pieces. Standard anvil assembly, but the thickness of the cutting plate material was reduced from 20mm plate to a 3mm Bohler plate. Pusher has CNC machined nylon cups with 2 level catcher and injection moulded PP flippers. See figures below for product drawing and floating cutter design.

Results
The use of Hytac WFT plug material further improved the aesthetic finish of the rPET trays. This material should be the plug material of choice for production of clear rPET trays as surface finish and aesthetic quality is of critical importance in these applications.
The use a thinner anvil plate allowed the plate to be more flexible when being cut against and allowed for easier shimming. The innovative new design of the floating cutter block introduced in this prototype resulted in better cutting of the ECOPET material. PET is an abrasive material and as a result is much easier to cut with hot blades. By getting heat to the cutting blades before start of the trial run, and by retaining heat during stoppages, the new design allowed for more rapid start/restart in processing the material. In full production this would result in significant reduction in down time at start of production runs and after stoppages during reel changes.


Figure 6.1: Snack pot product

Figure 6.1 Innovative floating cutter with superior blade heating


1.1 Progress on all work packages against initial objectives
Workpackage 1: Management
All objectives planned for this WP in this reporting period of the project have been achieved. Deliverables D1.5, D2.3, D2.4, D3.1, D3.2, D3.3, D3.4, D4.4, D4.5, D5.3 have been completed on schedule. In addition to the Kick-off meeting in Month 1 with four additional project meetings of the project steering committee (PSC) were conducted in the first project reporting period at month M6, M12, M18 and M23. At each of these meetings ongoing progress and issues that may have come to the fore in the intervening months and that remained unresolved were discussed and an agreed plan of action put in place. Thankfully no new issues were reported at the penultimate PSC meeting with the only outstanding issue being the write up of the final report to be delivered on time to the EACI project officer, given the untimely departure of the Project Coordinator to pursue a new career in a related field of endeavour.

Workpackage 2: Up-scaling process for high volume runs
All objectives planned for this WP in this reporting period have been achieved. Deliverables D2.4 and D2.5 have been completed on schedule as outlined above. Numerous Thermoforming trials were required to determine the optimum ECOPET sheet processing temperate to deliver good quality formed trays. In addition these trials demonstrated that heating requirements to achieve these sheet temperatures are lower than those required for similar gauge standard RPET material. Thus ECOPET can be run with ceramic heaters set at slightly lower temperatures or with higher line speeds. The quality (cell size) of the extruded ECOPET sheet used was critical to the quality of the thermoformed trays, especially in deeper trays. In deep trays low cell size for the ECOPET is required so that high quality trays can be manufactured.
The consortium have designed, manufactured and trialled (internally and with end users) a range of ECOPET trays, initially using single cavity resin moulds. A number of these tray designs have been approved by end users and have moved to design, manufacture and trial of full production tool sets. In total four full production tool sets have been completed and are now being used to produce commercial volumes of ECOPET trays for the following end users including Hasbro: Ireland, Prodisal: France, DBM: Scotland, Good4U: UK, Tendercut: UK and Lynns Country Foods: Northern Ireland

Workpackage 3: Material Evaluation and Customer trials
All objectives planned for this WP in this reporting period have been achieved. Deliverables D3.1, D3.2 and D3.3 were completed on schedule and reported upon elsewhere in this report. D3.4 customer samples and successful customer trials have been undertaken with Hasbro, Prodisal, DBM, GOOD4U, Tendercut and Lynns Country Foods.
D3.1 To date ECOPET has won the supreme award for sustainable packaging design at the Repac 2013-2014 Awards. The scope of the award is broad, covering aspects such as packaging integrity but also the ECO-friendly sourcing of packaging materials, increased use of recyclates and changing to simple, more recyclable materials. Packaging supplement: A special publication by the Fresh Produce Journal November 2013.
EC regulations in relation to ECOPET material have been addressed. Characterisation of the mechanical, thermal and gas barrier performance of ECOPET packaging has been completed. ECOPET material is 21% less dense than standard rPET. Some reduction in mechanical performance of ECOPET compared to standard rPET has been observed which may require increase in tray gauge (thickness) compared to standard rPET for the heaver end of the market. However, ever here some savings in final tray weight is achievable compared to standard rPET and virgin PP. ECOPET still outperforms virgin PP to a very high degree with respect to gas barrier performance for common Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) gases, namely O2 and CO2. Thus ECOPET as a packaging material would be the material of choice in MAP applications. Carbon Footprint of 1 kg ECOPET trays was calculated to be 0.3 kg CO2 eq./kg. When compared with current industry standard virgin PP the consortium have demonstrated that a saving of over 85%, or 1.8 kg CO2 eq./kg, can be achieved by switching to the ECOPET formulations examined in this study.

Workpackage 4: Exploitation and business plan
All the objectives planned for this WP in this reporting period have been achieved.
D4.3 With regard to the UK market the approach taken was to target THE LARGE retail end users that have signed up to the Courtauld Commitment have been identified. Retailers that have signed up to the Courtauld Commitment has agreed to actively pursue a companywide policy to reduce carbon footprint of their packaging by 10% by 2016, These companies are prime targets for this new innovative packaging technology, as ECOPET has the potential to meet and surpass their carbon footprint reduction commitments if it is widely adopted..
In the coming months SPZ and HPL will continue to organise meetings with the leading end users and make presentations to these companies of the environmental benefit of adopting the new product offerings, as well as the very the positive results that can be delivered in terms of sealability, aesthetics, recyclability and reduced weight and transport costs.
D4.3 Meeting with large UK retailers, to meeting have been arranged with TESCO, ASDA, Marks & Spenser, The Co-operative and Sainsbury’s all of whom have signed up to the Courtauld Commitment to reduce carbon footprint in their sector by 10% by 2016
Deliverable D4.4 Display of ECOPET profiles at trade shows in Ireland and UK has been achieved on schedule. D4.5 has been achieved ahead of schedule in terms of the large multiples, while D4.6 and D4.7 are on schedule to be achieved by month 30 and month 33 respectively in terms of the large multiples with samples of ECOPET on display at trade shows in Britain and on European continent as outlined below:
D4.5 The trade show targeted by the consortium to display the very first hand pulled samples of ECOPET product offerings was PACKAGING INNOVATIONS Benelux 2012 (28/11/2012 - 29/11/2012, Amsterdam, Netherlands). This tradeshow showcases innovative packaging design and opportunity targeting key decision makers from food industry in the greater Benelux region and was instrumental in bringing the Innovative ECOPET packaging to the attention of end users in the greater Benelux region.

PACKAGING INNOVATIONS Germany 2013 (23/01/3013 - 24/01/2013, Hamburg, Germany). This tradeshow showcased innovative packaging design and opportunity targeting key decision makers from food industry in Germany and further afield

FRUIT LOGISTICA 2013 (06/02/2013 -08/02/2013, Berlin, Germany) is The World's Leading Trade Fair for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Business and an ideal location to showcase prototype ECOPET packaging in the northern continental European market, given that more than 2,400 companies from across the entire fresh produce value chain were present in a single location, including global players, as well as small to medium innovative enterprises.

Picture shows the IRISH Minister for the Environment on the Holfeld Plastics Stand at FRUIT LOGISTICA Trade FAIR, Berlin


IFFA 2013 (4-9th May 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany)
IFFA is the leading international trade fair for processing, packaging and sales in the meat industry. It has been the international platform for the meat-processing industry and the world’s foremost forum for investment decisions since 1949. Thanks to the great depth and breadth of the range of products on show, as well as the exceptionally large number of international exhibitors and visitors, IFFA gives a convincing demonstration of its outstanding position in the sector every three years.

D3.4 In addition, the consortium had meet all the major UK retailers (Marks and Spencer, Tesco, The Co-operative, Asda and Sainsburys) on at least one occasion leading up to the final reporting period and had made presentations on the environmental superiority of ECOPET trays with a range of samples being produced and demonstrated with the specific needs of the end users being addressed without delay based on the ongoing feedback from intermediaries and end users alike. Despite the fact that ECOPET had not been specifically targeted at Irish and UK end users in 2012, the consortium nevertheless, attended and displayed ECOPET products on its stands at two of the biggest UK/Ireland trade shows in 2012 namely:
Packaging Innovations London 2012, Business Design Centre, Islington London, 4-5th October 2012
National Fruit Show 2012, Kent Event Centre, Maidstone Kent, 17-18th October 2012

D4.6 The consortium was expected to launch ECOPET trays/material, with food packaging end user companies in Ireland and in the UK six months post project completion. This deliverable is on target to be achieved in that the following Irish and UK customers are currently in negotiations with the consortium partner HPL to purchase ECOPET trays and or sheet.
Hasbro: Ireland is currently negotiating to purchase an initial 52 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet worth €29,268 DBM plan to purchase 658,000 ECOPET trays in two separate tray designs worth €26,782 and 73 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet material worth €85,340 giving a total potential sales value of €112,000. Good 4 U: UK is in discussion with the consortium partner HPL to purchase 240,000 ECOPET trays worth €17,500, Tendercut: UK are also negotiating a potential purchase of 320,000 ECOPET trays worth €25,500 and Lynns Country Meats have agreed to take over 550,000 ECOPET trays and 54 Tonnes of ECOPET worth €67,000 as soon as it becomes available giving a grand total potential commitment of €251,268 from Irish and UK barely two months post project completion
D4.7 launch ECOPET material in continental Europe within nine months post project completion, this target is on target to be achieved in that Prodisal: France is in discussions to purchase an initial 500,000 ECOPET trays and 50 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet to the value of €66,000 as soon as it becomes available in the new year.
Two months post project completion the consortium are in negotiation for 3,8 Million ECOPET food trays of various shapes and sizes with a potential worth in excess of €200,000 and 125 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet sales are actively under consideration worth €125,000 giving an overall sales potential of €325,000 by end of first quarter 2015.

Workpackage 5: Dissemination Activities
D5.2 All objectives planned for this WP have been achieved. Project information sheets have been updated and forward to 1720 end users of Holfeld’s R&D circulation.
Deliverable D5.3 layman’s has been prepared and uploaded electronically
D5.4 evaluation report two years post project completion will in turn be delivered on schedule, as provided for in the grant agreement. A product brochure specific to ECOPET has been completed and distributed to all potential customers and has been made available at the tradeshows the consortium partners have attended throughout the lifecycle of the ECOPET Project. Holfeld Plastics have also updated their website (www.holfeldplastics.com) and added several new pages on ECOPET and the environmental advantages of this innovative product offering verses the current state of the art food trays.
Table 1: Deliverables listed in Annex I of the Grant Agreement which correspond to the present reporting period.
Del. N° 1 Deliverable name 1 Type1 WP N° 1 Delivery date from Annex I 1
Delivered (yes/no) and status (draft/final) Submission with report² Forecasted delivery date Comments on progress
D1.1 Kick off meeting Milestone 1 M1 Yes/Final PR1 M1 Completed
D1.2 Collective roadmap for website Milestone 1 M1 Yes/Final PR1 M1 Completed
D4.1 Roadmap to full business plan Deliverable 1 M3 Yes/Final PR1 M3 Completed
D1.3
Consortium agreement Legal document 1 M3 Yes/Final PR1 M3 Completed
D1.4
Project website Milestone, website 1 M6 Yes/Final PR1 M6 Completed
D1.5 Project review meetings Milestone 1 M1, M6, M12,M24 M1,M6,M12, M18,M24 meetings delivered PR1& Final Report M1, M6,
M12, M18,
M24, All meetings completed
D2.1 Delivery of high volume hermoform tools Deliverable 2 M8 Yes/Final PR1 M8 Completed
D2.2 Optimisation of extrusion conditions Deliverable 2 M10 Yes/Final PR1 M10 Completed
D1.6 Project reports Report 1 M10, M24,
M48 PR1 Completed
Final report Completed PR1 & Final Report
M12, M26,
M48 PR1+ Final report
Completed
D2.3 Integration of atmospheric plasma process for depositing Citrox Deliverable 2 M12 Yes/Final Final Report M26 Completed
D2.4 Trialling of high volumethermoform tooling for mushroom trays Deliverable 2 M12 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D3.2 Full LCA Deliverable 3 M12 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D3.3
Address food contact legislation Deliverable 3 M12 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D4.3
Meeting with large UK retailers Deliverable 4 M12 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D5.1 Project information updates Deliverable 5 M12
M24 Yes/Final PR1+Final report M12 Completed
D5.2 Project presentations Deliverable 5 M12 onwards Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D3.1 Evaluation of packaging performance Deliverable 3 M14 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D3.4 Preparation of samples for customer trials Deliverable 3 M14 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D2.5
Optimisation of conditions for high volume thermoform trials Tray samples 2 M18 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D4.4
Display of profiles at trade show in Ireland and UK
Deliverable 4 M18 Yes/Final PR1 M12, onwards Completed
D3.5 Delivery, trials and testing of high volume profiles Delivery 3 M23 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D4.5 Display of material at trade show on European continent Deliverable 4 M23 Yes/Final Final report M23 Completed
D5.3 Layman’s report Report- 5 M24 Yes/Final Final report M26 Completed
D4.6
Launch material in Ireland and UK Deliverable 4 M30 Yes/Final Final report M30 Ongoing
D4.7
Launch material with small and large companies on continental Europe Deliverable 4 M33 Yes/Final Final report M33 Ongoing
D5.4 Evaluation report Report 5 M48 No/Draft M48 Ongoing

1.2 Identified deviations, problems and corrective actions taken in the period
The primary concern in the delivery of this very successful Project was the sudden departure of the project coordinator and the company’s project specialist to private enterprise shortly after the mid-term review. This departure in itself was not a major concern, as Partner HPL was able to replace the Coordinator with an equally qualified expert in the field. The difficulty centred upon partner CTX who withdrew its licencing agreement for the supply of Citrox formulations to partner HPL and thereafter supplied just one litre of concentrate to the consortium for any additional shelf-life testing. Thankfully all the shelf life testing had been completed in period one of the project.
The reason given for this action was simply CTX wanted to pursue a new relationship with the two individuals that had opted to establish their own company and these individuals had convinced Partner CTX that its best interest lay with the new entity rather than the consortium.
Fortunately for the project the Citrox trials undertaken in the earlier part of the project prior to the mid-term review at HPL and at end user premises clearly demonstrated the value of Citrox in enhancing shelf-life, once an effective delivery system could be found. Every trial undertaken using the highly sophisticated plasma treatment delivery system, ended in failure until a special meeting of the project steering committee has called to brainstorm the Citrox delivery system and develop a solution to the Problem.
Nobody wanted to go to the mid-term review without a solution to this dilemma. The solution to the failed Citrox delivery system was brilliant in its simplicity, HPL had an in-house process for inserting pads into trays for soft-fruit prior to being shipped and this process only took place once the formed trays were cooled to ambient temperatures. However, as the pads were manufactured externally, the pad producer was more than happy to incorporate a Citrox delivery system to the pad material prior to cutting and folding. Varying concentrations of Citrox solution were added from 0.5% to 2.5% with the optimum solution strength being a 20 Mg dose of 1% solution. This process proved to be very effective but it added 2% to the cost of the pad which the retailers were unwilling to pay for given that all soft fruit spoilage costs are borne by the producer not the retailer.
Trials with poultry however generated a white scum at the leading edges of the packed chicken which was harmless but astatically unacceptable to retailers and customers alike, ensuring that Citrox in its present format could not be utilised with poultry. Again trials with red meat were equally good but unfortunately the meat lost its red hue without the modified atmosphere making it unattractive to end users.
So even though the supply of Citrox caused some concerned at the time the end result was that the large multiples were more interested in getting ECOPET with its high barrier properties, reduced weight, ABC stacking technology and better sealability which would give the retailers the extra two days in any case and also significantly reduce their CO2 emissions at no extra cost.
The original plan was to display the initial samples of ECOPET material/tray products, first in Ireland and UK by Month 18 and then in Continental European Market by Month 23. This was achieved by showcasing the environmentally friendly innovative ECOPET product offerings at every opportunity. Interest in the beginning was muted but as time passed and the various production and delivery hurtles were sorted and the specifications of the finished samples were being delivered upon the interest of some of the leading buyers in Britain and further afield in France and the greater Benelux region was being tweaked.
The consortium partners found a number of the smaller companies in Ireland, UK and France were keen to switch from the current industry standard virgin PP packaging to ECOPET given its recyclable properties. In the Irish and UK markets the current focus is firmly fixed on cost reduction whereas the environmental performance and other unique selling points of ECOPET (Aesthetics) are more interesting to continental European companies.
However, now that the recession in Ireland the UK has turned a corner for the better, a renewed interest in this innovative product offering is very evident from the large multiples. Even though no orders have been confirmed by the large multinationals large number of samples are being shipped on a weekly basis and it is only a matter of time before ECOPET catches the attention of one or more of the large multinationals.

1.3 Progress regarding performance indicators
The key performance indicators for the project will be assessed at three periods: six months post project completion, nine months post project completion and 2 years post project completion (Month 48). However, already the first two of these performance indicators have been achieved in that costumers from Ireland, UK and France have placed orders for ECOPET to the value of €320,100 in the first two months project completion and the consortium is equally convinced that the third performance indicator will also be achieved ahead of schedule.

2 Progress regarding market uptake and exploitation
ECOPET trays are set to be launched onto the Irish, British and French markets in that negotiations are underway for in excess of 3,8 Million ECOPET trays and 125 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet for six end users in Ireland, UK and France.
Prodisal: France are currently negotiating to purchase 500,000 ECOPET trays worth approx. €33,000 and 54 Thousand linear metres of ECOPET sheet worth in the region of €32,500 giving a potential sales value of €65,500
Hasbro: Ireland are actively testing 50 Tonnes of ECOPET Sheet with a potential value of €29,250
DBM: Scotland are discussing terms on 700,000 ECOPET trays in two separate tray designs with a potential value of €26,782 and 73 Tonnes of ECOPET sheet material worth approx. €85,340 giving a potential sales value of €112,000
Good 4 U: UK will purchase 250,000 ECOPET trays as soon as they are available worth approx. €17,500
Tendercut: UK have agreed to purchase 350,000 ECOPET trays worth approx. €25,500
Lynn Country Foods: Northern Ireland is currently in discussions for 2,000,000 ECOPET trays worth €67,250
Two months post project completion the potential initial sales of ECOPET trays is approaching 3,8 Million food trays worth in excess of €228,000 and ECOPET sheet sales have reached 123 Tonnes worth in excess of €117,000 giving an overall sales total of €345,000

3 Work plan for the next period (max 1 page)
3.1 Planned activities in the next period
The following deliverables that are required to be achieved post project completion are outlined below with appropriate timeline but already two of the three deliverables have been achieved within two months of the project completion date.

D4.6 Launch ECOPET Food Trays in Ireland and UK targeting small and large end users alike by months 6 post project completion (Already well on the way to being achieved).

D4.7 Launch ECOPET product offerings on continental Europe targeting small and large end users by month 9 post project completion (Already well on the way to being achieved).

D5.3 Submit a final evaluation report two years post project completion month 48


Continue to display ECOPET material at trade show across European given that ECOPET trays attracted the keen interest of significant end users from Canada and the USA at FRUIT LOGISTICA 2014 (05/02/2014-07/02/2014), Berlin, Germany) at which were more than 2,400 companies from across the entire fresh produce value chain, including global players, as well as small to medium innovative enterprises.


Continue to target end users in Ireland, UK and in continental Europe and continue discussions with interested parties from USA and Canada. New soft tooling beyond the scope of that foreseen in the ECOPET Project, is now been built at the consortium partners own cost to meet the specific needs of a large multiple based in Canada with significant reach into the greater US market.

Additional trails will be carried out with end users on ECOPET trays supplied by the consortium. The consortium will attempt to increase the volume of sales in the ECOPET trays which have already entered the market and will actively promote the new product offerings at targeted environmentally focused trade shows to secure additional customers for the cost neutral, environmentally friendly ECOPET food trays.

3.2 Planned meetings, post project will continue with the consortium partners actively promoting the respective innovative product offerings of both partners at trade shows and dissemination activities alike.

Project Context and Objectives:
Description of work performed and main results
The primary task to be achieved in this reporting period was to ensure that the multi-cavity high speed tooling designed, built and delivered on site for product testing performed extremely well. Another key issue being the bespoke rPET master batch formulations from CMB which were of equal importance to the beyond state-of-the-art tooling to ensure the achievement of the ECOPET project objectives.
Another key issue being the inline modifications that had to be delivered upon by partner HPL to validate the thermoforming process in the delivery of the 75% increase in processing speeds without having to totally re-design the manufacturing process or having to add very expensive high performance chilling equipment.
By end of the project the consortium can confirm that the multi-cavity tools are functioning to specification and are now achieving the specified throughput performance. The Master batch formulation is compatible with the increased cycle times and the process lines are delivering the specified throughput without any indexing, forming, distortion or quality issues with the ABC stacking profile trays.
The Citrox formulations when applied to the sheet material prior to thermoforming using Holfeld’s state-of-the-art plasma equipment did not survive the heat of the thermoforming process even at the lowest possible temperatures. Nevertheless, a working solution to this dilemma was quickly perfected by partner HPL utilising their Pad making equipment to automatic insertion pads impregnated with Citrox solutions of varying concentration from 0.5%, to 2.0% into food trays had been formed and cooled to atmospheric temperatures.
The difficulty with the proposed process was in convincing the pad supplier to modify their process to incorporate dosing heads to impregnate the pads with 1% Citrox solution concentrate which was deemed the optimum strength from an efficacy point of view. The initial trials were conducted on a process line that was surplice to requirements at the time at the pad manufacturer’s premises and having completed a range of studies from 5mg to 100mg the ideal quantity was found to be 20mg per square metre leading to a totally reliable Citrox delivery system post thermoforming without no downside effects.
ECOPET food trays with Citrox impregnated pads have been shown to reduce food waste by increasing the shelf-life of soft fruits, cooked and uncooked meats, prawns etc., by up to two days. Again throughout this project the consortium came to understand that not only Citrox solution but any other approved Citrox-like additives such as the natural extract from pomegranate had the same positive effect as Citrox.

Project final results and potential impacts
This project has the potential to eliminate more than a million tonnes of PET waste currently going to landfill across Europe and do so in a cost neutral way. Prior to the advent of this demonstration project, the cheapest food tray product offering on the market remained PP which is not recyclable but now thanks to the high volume, high speed production runs achieved with the beyond state of the art tooling the fully recyclable ECOPET food tray offering can for the first time be manufactured on a cost neutral basis to that of the market leader PP.
End users wishing to project an environmentally friendly image by switching their food trays from PP to ECOPET which is made from recycled PET, the environmental impact is huge in that for every tonne of PET material diverted away from landfill 2.7 Tonnes of CO2 emissions will be eliminated from our atmosphere and 1.8 Barrels of crude oil (a non-renewable resource) will not have to go into making virgin PET material.
The overall objective of the ECOPET project is to upscale the production of an innovative recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) packaging material from pilot scale to commercial volumes, and to launch this revolutionary new product into the European food packaging market. This objective is well on the way to being achieved in that barely two months post project completion active negotiations are underway with end users from Ireland, Britain and France so far for the supply of ECOPET food trays and sheet material worth in excess of €320,000.
The objectives set out for this reporting period have been achieved by the consortium. These deliverables include D1.5 Project review meetings at month 6, 12, 18 and 24, and D1.6 final Project Report by end of month 26. D2.3 Integration of atmospheric plasma process for deposition of active Citrox coating at industrial scale by month 12. D2.4 Trialling at industrial scale of high volume tooling for mushroom trays by month 12. D3.2 Full life cycle Analysis by month 12. D3.3 Address food contact legislation month 12. D4.3 Meeting with large UK retailers month 12. D5.1 Project information updates month 12 and 24. D5.2 Project presentations from month 12 onwards. D3.1 Evaluation of packaging performance month 14. D3.4 Preparation of range of samples for customer trials.D2.5 Optimisation of conditions for high volume thermoforming trial. D4.4 Display of profiles at trade shows in Ireland and UK. D3.5 Delivery, trials and testing of high volume packaging profiles to end users and potential customers. D4.5 Display of material at trade show on European Continent. D5.3 Layman’s report month 24. D4.6 Launch material in Ireland and UK with target small and large companies. D4.7 Launch material with small and large companies on continental Europe.
D1.5 A total of five project meeting took place throughout the life time of this project, the first being the Kick-off meeting which took place on Thursday 6rd September 2012 at the project coordinator’s premises in Arklow, Ireland. The EU project officer confirmed his attendance for the kick-off and all projects partners were in attendance. The precise nature of each partners tasks and duties were clearly delineated and the need to ensure timelines would be maintained at all times.
Any concerns or issues were to be forwarded to the coordinator without delay and in instances where the coordinator would not achieve a satisfactory outcome the offending issue would be brought to the project steering committee. Thankfully the many issues that occurred throughout the lifetime of the project were resolved without recourse to the project steering committee.
The second meeting took place in Holland at Cumapol’s Head office on Friday 1st February 2013, in attendance were partners TMB, CMB, HPL and SPZ unfortunately no participant was available from CTX. The project progress against deliverables were assessed against the timelines and all the deliverable D1.1, D1.2, D4.1, D1.3, D1.4 and D1.5 for the period had been completed on time and to a very high standard.
The third project meeting which was the mid-point project meeting occurred in July 2013 in Arklow, Ireland. There was only one issue of concern raised at this meeting D2.1 the optimisation of the high volume thermoforming tools were reviewed. Failure to deliver these high performance tools would mean the project had no chance of success but each concern raised regarding the high speed trials under way such as indexing, locating, clamping, thermoforming speed, release, cooling and ABC stacking were systematically re-engineered until the high performance, high speed tools were a working reality.
The fourth project meeting took place in Brussels on the 5th September with a midterm review scheduled for the 6th at the Commission offices, Place Rogier. He review overall went well in that any issue of concern raised by the project officer and or independent reviewer were addressed to their satisfaction nevertheless, two deliverables had to be reworked to reflect the issues discussed at the review meeting but not sufficiently outlined in the documentation, D4.1 and D5.1 which were resubmitted a week later and approved.
The fifth project meeting took place in February 28th 2014 at TMB, Bridgewater with the only item of significance being once again the distinct lack of Citrox solution to run very large volume runs of ECOPET trays with pads impregnated with Citrox. However, by this stage in the project, the added value of Citrox had been circumvented by the overall enhanced performance of the ECOPET product offering.
The final meeting of the Project took place with partner SPZ in Dusseldorf on Thursday 10th of July where the project coordinator outlined overall project performance and each partner gave an update of progress on the specific deliverables assigned. The coordinator outlined the outstanding issues for each of the partners in attendance that had to be addressed in the remaining time frame. The following project partners attended this meeting HPL, TMB, CMB and SPZ. The representative from partner CTX for health reasons was able to attend and no alternative was put forward.

Project Results:
D2.2 Deals with the design, manufacture and optimisation of the innovative ECOPET material formulation for use in a wide range of food tray packaging markets and end users. The thermoforming conditions for ECOPET material have been optimised after numerous speed, temperature and cooling cycle trials. Characterisation of the mechanical, thermal and gas barrier performance of ECOPET packaging has been completed successfully. In this final reporting period the updated status on ECOPET is provided with particular attention being paid to, Nucleation, Grade, Chain extension, Seal ability, High temperature performance and High Barrier.
Nucleation
To generate small regular cell size in the ECOPET process, the nucleation of the cells can and has to be controlled by special additives. A critical issue being that the adhesion between the PET and the nucleator is minimal. When the pressure is reduced, at the moment the polymer leaves the die the nucleator additives needs to create small evenly distributed voids thus allowing the gas to expand in these voids and creates small cell sizes.
To this end Partner Cumapol developed a number of different grades of master-batch based on two different theories and at the end of these material trials two master-batches with superior performance characteristics were presented to HPL namely CumaBatch X2100 and CumaBatch X2600
CumaBatch X2100 – Polymeric Nucleating Master-batch. PTFE is a good nucleator for PET processes, the concerns with PTFE is the high melting temperature (<300°C), and therefore the distribution of the PTFE particles in the PET matrix. A good distribution is essential for a good cell size distribution. The master-batch produced incorporates fluorinated ethylene propylene or FEP which is a copolymer of hexafluoropropylene and tetrafluoroethylene. It differs from the PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) resins in that it is melt-processable using conventional injection moulding and screw extrusion techniques.
FEP is very similar in composition to the fluoropolymers PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFA (perfluoroalkoxy polymer resin). FEP and PFA both share PTFE's useful properties of low friction and non-reactivity, but are more easily formable. FEP is softer than PTFE and melts at 260 °C. This master-batch was produced in large quantities and delivered to HPL for ongoing testing with ECOPET production trials. Feedback from HPL regarding the latest version was very positive with no production issues being identified at any stage of the process.
CumaBatch X2600 – A second nucleating additive being micro talc, again a good distribution is the key to high performance. Cumapol developed a range of master-batches with improved disperse-ability of the micro-talc during the manufacturing process. Multiple large volume samples were delivered to Holfeld for ECOPET trials and Cumapol simultaneously undertook a series of preproduction trials of this series of masterbatch in separate trials of their own but utilising the same equipment as that available at HPL.

D2.4 Chain extension
For ECOPET to function correctly, a chain extender is necessary to increase the melt strength of the rPET. This melt strength is necessary to ensure the blowing agent in the polymer maintains a closed cell structure. Chain extension can be done by addition of epoxidized polymerics, like Joncryl (BASF). The difficult technical issue with the Joncryl is that when added as a raw material, the chance of gel formation due to irregular dosing is high, giving a unstable melt strength. There are master-batches readily available in the market place with PET and Joncryl however, during the production of the master-batch, the epoxy groups in the Joncryl react with the PET matrix and in so doing generated gels and unstable processing.

PMDA (Pyro Mellitic Di Anhydride) also reacts with end-groups of PET giving high melt strength. The chance of gel formation is also high, but Cumapol developed a master-batch preventing the PMDA from reacting with PET end-groups and in so doing allows superior melting and distribution of the PMDA during extrusion. This Master-batch was delivered to Holfeld for high speed trials, but was also tested for rheology effects during PET extrusion giving sheet density of about 350kg/m3 with 1.8% addition of the X3100 masterbatch.

The trials were undertaken on a twin screw extruder to get good mixing effect. The blowing agent was nitrogen. The chain extender and the nucleating agent were added at the extruder inlet, together with the dried rPET. Drying is undertaken down to 20ppm in a desiccant dry air dryer with a dewpoint of -40°C. Nitrogen is injected two thirds of the way down the barrel of the extruder which immediately is evenly distributed across the rPET melt by mixing action of the extruder screw. The melt viscosity of the polymer/gas mixture is lower than the polymer without gas; therefore the melt temperature is reduced to 255°C. The die is circular to be able to expand in three directions. Samples of the sheet were delivered to Holfeld for testing with positive feedback on all the key parameters.

D2.5 Sealability
When rPET trays are produced, it is important to be able to seal a lid on the tray. The current method is to laminate a ldPE film on top of the tray. The disadvantage is that rims, and other cutting waste, which is generated during thermoforming cannot be recycled back to produce a clear tray. For this reason a polyester top-layer is desirable, but sealing performance has to be good enough to be able to seal through contamination of the packed food on the sealing edges. With standard PET, the sealing circumstances (time, temperature, pressure) are rather severe when contamination is on the edge that it starts to crystallize, giving hazy (slightly opaque) and poor sealing strength.
To overcome this dilemma Cumapol developed a modified rPET with 10% isophthalic acid to reduce Tg, Tcc (crystallization rate) and Tm. This already gives an improved performance, especially when the lidding film has an outer layer from the same material. Again numerous samples of the film made by Cumapol have been forwarded to Holfeld for testing of the sealing performance and feedback on the optimum sample.
To further enhance the sealing performance the percentage of isophthalic acid was increased, and a very large batch of 11,000kg was forwarded to Holfeld for final evaluations.
Cumapol has also conducted a literature study and selected an alipahtic polyester to be built in the 10% modified resin, to further enhance the sealing behaviour. The theory being that small, equally distributed areas of low melting (120°) polyester build in the polymer chain enhance the sealing behaviour even further. The first samples of this latest material have been produced, and will be extruded and tested on lab-scale equipment in the coming months. More alternatives will be tested and evaluated post project completion.
High temperature performance
Cumapol through its ongoing research has also greatly enhanced temperature stability of food trays. The current standards in PET are the A-PET trays. The trays are completely amorphous, and have temperature stability up to 60°C. There are also C-PET trays in the market, they have a temperature stability of up to 220°C due to the crystalline structure of the PET, but the complexity of the processing is much higher, and large investments in thermoforming machines and moulds are necessary. The idea is to develop a PET resin which can be produced on standard A-PET production equipment, but with temperature stability up to 140°C.
These trays when fully developed will be suitable for microwave applications but this application is outside the scope of this current project but has huge potential for the airline industry, toy manufactures and prepared meals, the growth of which is currently being hampered by the unavailability of microwaveable rPET trays. The consortium with fully evaluate the potential of this new product offering and may submit a further proposal for funding if the end user take up and environmental impact can be established.
To obtain such resin, the Consortium will have to develop a tri-polymer with fast and slow crystallizing pieces in the polymer chain. The fast crystallizing parts generate crystals which, give’s the temperature stability, but are so small that they are hardly visible to the human eye, and therefore will not affect the clarity of the tray. The slow crystallizing parts stop the crystal growth and provide the ability to thermoform the tray even when some crystals are already formed.
Cumapol over the course of this project have initiated many trial batches and constantly evaluated the results in order to gain sufficient insight into the optimal processing window/performance ratio. The selected materials have been thoroughly evaluated and tested with regard to crystallization rate, clarity and temperature stability. High volumes of sheet material and trays have been successfully produced at the higher processing speeds with the optimum formulations derived.

D2.4 High Barrier
To improve the shelf-life of products packed in ECOPET such as red meat, poultry, fish, soft-fruits the barrier of the ECOPET material has to be high. At the same time the barrier properties of ECOPET need to be lowered to allow mushrooms packed in such trays to breathe more easily, to better facilitate the release of water molecules through the tray wall material.
Both HPL and Cumapol plan to further investigate the possibilities of lowering the barrier performance of PET trays so that this new innovative and cost neutral environmentally friendly recyclable material can also become the material of choice for mushroom growers.
The current solution is to apply a porous top film to the ECOPET trays but the cost of this top film is ever so slightly higher than the current market leader which is sufficient to make the mushroom growers shy away from the ECOPET option for the time being. Nevertheless both HPL and CMB will continue working Post Project Completion to develop a more cost effective solution and already have a few options identified which will be investigated and further developed.

D3.2 Carbon footprint
A carbon footprint study has been completed to PAS 2050 CF standard; this work calculated the Carbon Footprint of 1 kg ECOPET trays to be 1.7 kg CO2 eq. / kg. When compared with current industry standard virgin PP it was demonstrated that a saving of over 85%, can be achieved by switching to ECOPET formulation examined in this study.
D3.5 The project consortium partners have designed, manufactured and trialled (both internally and with end users) a range of ECOPET trays, initially using single cavity resin moulds. A number of these tray designs have been approved by end users and have moved to design, manufacture and trial of full production tool sets. In all four full production toolsets have been completed and are now being used to produce commercial volumes of ECOPET trays for end users including Hasbro, Prodisal, DBM, GOOD4U, Tendercut and Lynns Country Foods.
To date successful production trials have been completed with Hasbro: Ireland, Prodisal: France, DBM: Scotland, Good4U: UK, Tendercut: UK and Lynns Country Foods: Northern Ireland. These initial sample production runs have now been evaluated and negotiations are under way with six companies 1 French, 2 Irish and 4 British end users to purchase ECOPET food trays and or ECOPET sheet within two months of project completion. The projected initial orders for ECOPET will be in excess of €300,000. In the months ahead, Holfeld Plastics will actively target other food packing markets directly and through the strong working relationships with the consortium partners such as CMB, TMB SPZ with a strong focus on whole bird chicken, Prawns, Mussels and Collator trays for shelf-ready packaging.

D2.4 Toolset development in ECOPET Project

Initial Samples produced from resin mould:
The initial phase of this project involved production of batches of hand pulled sample ECOPET trays. The samples were produced using a CNC machined resin mould pattern and formed on a lab scale sample vacuum-forming machine in 500µm thick rPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors before the centre sections were cut out using a sharp blade. It was noted that the peripheral cut could have been better and that the internal cut-outs where nicked and that a smooth clean cut profile was required.
This method of sample production is not practical for the production of larger volumes but is a very cost effective way of determining the characteristics and functionality of innovative product offerings prior to spending limited resources on developing full prototype tools without the necessary safeguards.

Prototype Tooling:
Due to the possibility of the development tool having a 4 stages (form / punch / cut / stack) production process the TFT780 machine was chosen. The tool has been designed to operate a three stage process – form / cut / stack.
The initial tool was a single impression unit due to the machine constraints (maximum tool size in mm = 780.00 x 575.00) the tool was designed with a sprung loaded tool frame, manufactured from 3 pieces and mounted to the tool build up. The tool build up consisted of a base plate, water bolster and CNC machined mould, the mould was be vented with 0.6mm drills and had a light air blast finish.
From the manufacturing process of the tool frame, the pressure box was designed to be machined from solid, allowing us to explore the best solution to the design and manufacture of the tool frame and pressure box. The plugs were made from poured syntactic resin.
The cutter was designed to cut the peripheral and the internal cut outs at the same time using double level cutting. The anvil was been designed to allow for double level cutting with steel cutting plates. A standard pusher was used which was designed to push the product from underneath with side plates locating around the peripheral only. A standard 2 level catcher using “S” flippers on the first and second level was employed.

Results:
During the manufacturing process the team members determined that the best way to manufacture the tool frames and or pressure boxes on single impression tools would be to CNC machine them from solid. By doing this we can help eliminate any errors that may occur during the manufacturing process. The different designed tool frame and pressure box both worked under the development conditions and further analysis testing is required to determine which one would be better for ECOPET tooling. Although the pressure box worked, the product from the tool lacked definition and webbed between the male up-stands resulting in the pressure box being re-designed a number of times to allow for better material distribution around the up-stands.

The plug material also became an issue to be addressed in that it was leaving marks on the product and had to be redesigned to allow for better clarity across the product. The two level cutter and anvil worked but not successfully all the time initially, although the product was successfully separated from the web, the internal cut left nicks on the product which did not facilitate ease of set up and running of the development tool over higher volumes.

Due to stacking and de-nesting issues encountered with the initial tray samples produced it was decided to introduce additional holes into the tray design to reduce surface contact and prevent trays from sticking together. This required a complete review of the original design of the cutter and anvil. A bespoke punch and die unit was developed to cut out the centre sections which ran on the vacant station on the machine.

Results
By reducing the amount of work and complexity on the cutter and anvil and introducing a punch and die unit the development tool produced a high quality sample. The cutter and anvil ran more efficiently and the initial set up time was reduced along with the complexity of the design. The punch and die design produced a product that meets the initial design requirements – tray samples without nicks on the internal cut outs.

The initial cutter design did not suffice, as the initial set up of the cutter wasn’t central and the product produced having an offset cut. A further development that had to be addressed was the introduction of a rotating mould feature to enable placement of de-nest features at different points on the tray facilitating more efficient stacking and de-stacking of trays.


Figure: 2.1 Punch & Die Design


Figure: 2.2 Cross Section of Punch & Die Design
Process Food Tray
Samples produced on resin mould
20 hand pulled samples were initially produced for this project. The samples were produced using a CNC machined resin pattern and formed on our lab scale sample vacuum forming machine in 500u ECOPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors. Following evaluation of hand pulled samples it was decided to proceed with full prototype tool.

Prototype Tooling
The process machines at Holfeld Plastics that would best suit the development tool requirements and also allow good control on the stacking station were the TFT780 machines (maximum tool size in mm = 780.00 x 575.00) the tool has been designed to run 3 stages – form / cut / stack.
This tool contained 12 impressions, running 3 across the width and 4 in the index.
The tool frame design from the tray was CNC machined from a solid aluminium plate instead of 3 separate sections, this design allows for greater strength in the frame, it will reduce the possibility of errors during manufacture and reduce the chances of a water leak between the different plates. The moulds were CNC machined from aluminium, vented with 0.4mm drills and water cooled.
The pressure box technology developed was modified a number of times given that the final tray product requires a top seal and the top of the tray needs to be as flat as possible. To achieve this we redesigned the pressure box into two separate sections. The main body was designed to house the plugs and act as a support for a fixed flange clamping plate. The flange clamp was profiled to match the U flange in height and profile. The plug material again was poured syntactic resin.
To achieve an equal flange around the peripheral of the tray, the standard cutter required a redesign to allow for movement on the cutter block. The cutter locator would first locate the cutter block in position before cutting the product out of the web. The cutter blocks were designed to float on shoulder bolts with CNC machined nylon locators.


Results
The tool design itself worked well with the innovative frame design working to strip the product from the tool while keeping the tool frame cold. The fixed flange clamping worked well in keeping the top of the U flange flat and allowing the finished product to be sealed without any problems.
Again with this tool set the consortium experienced problems with the plugs. As the tray material on longer production runs retaining heat and this heat in turn transferring to the plug material causing them to heat up. The plugs were marking the material and causing problems with the aesthetics of the tray. On the initial sample runs the development tool had to be taken off the machine as it was not functioning correctly at the higher speeds, on inspection the plugs were found to have cracked!
As the finished cutter required an equal cut flange around the peripheral, the development of a floating cutter to create an equal flanged product was proposed. The floating cutter works on the locators on the cutter locating in the product (the cutter block moves on shoulder bolts) prior to product cut out. It was found that after a period of time the cutting plate showed wear, as the product kept cutting in the same place, the material on the cutting plate had to be assessed and reviewed.
The shuttle stacker was a new development in the style and workings of the catcher. The catcher (see figures 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5) shows the product being stacked and pushed towards the centre of the catcher before being swept from the catcher out of the machine. The design modifications to the catcher on each side plate and bringing the product towards the centre was very innovative, the results from the trials proved the design worked well. Nevertheless the overall weight of the pusher caused problems that required the overall weight of the pusher to be significantly reduced.

Figure 3.1: Floating Cutter Assembly

Figure 4.1: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.2: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.3: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly


Figure 4.4: Catcher Design Assembly

Several modification of the tooling for the Olive/Coleslaw trays was necessary. The plug material had to be changed due to the problems encountered. After analysing different types of materials Delrin was chosen. A new set of plugs were produced and fitted into the pressure box with very positive outcomes from the various trials conducted. Due to the problems with cutting, the cutting plate material was changed to a harder steel D2 to eliminate the recurring marking of the cutting surface.
The pusher and catcher design were also redesigned to reduce the overall weight of the pusher. The rod material was changed from solid bar to an extruded section while the pusher cups were changed from aluminium to nylon and cut outs machined into the base plate. By introducing these changes the weight has been reduced by 10 kilos, allowing for faster operation of the light design.

Results
With the change in the plug material from poured syntactic to Delrin. The Delrin plugs dramatically altered the look of the tray as the rPET film did not cause the plugs to break while in prototype trials. Delrin® FG150 NC010 is a high viscosity acetal homopolymer for extrusion processes. It has low die deposit and low porosity. It has been developed for consideration in applications and parts for the food industry. Delrin can be used in between a wide temperature range -50ºC - 200ºC.
The change in the anvil material from Hardox 500 plate to D2 cutting plate dramatically improved the cutting performance. The D2 cutting plate was hardened to 60-62 rc, which is the same hardness as the blades, thus the blades did not cut into the top surface of the cutting plate, the cutting plate in return didn’t damage the blade tip. During subsequent trial runs on thermoforming equipment the D2 steel cutting plate worked very well.

Figure 4.5: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly

Figure 4.6: Pusher & Catcher Design Assembly
Soft-Fruit trays
Prototype Tooling
The thermoforming machines at Holfeld Plastics that best suit the development tool requirements for fruit trays were the RDKP72g machines. These machines allow good control on the cutting and stacking station, but not necessarily on the largest bed size. However, as the tray size was well below the maximum allowable the RDKP72g machine was chosen, (maximum tool size in mm = 695.00 x 545.00). The tool design incorporates a stage process/form / cut / stack.
The development tool consisted of 6 impressions, 3 across the width and 2 in the index. To try and reduce the material width, the cut spacing on this tool was reduced to 6mm. The tool was designed with a fabricated tool frame with spider bars in the index, given the corner de-nests. The castings were produced with the internal and external details already known, the only CNC machining applicable centred upon the A/B de-nesting, plus machining of the moulds to the correct size and in drilling the 4mm diameter waterways.
The cut spacing was reduced to 6mm, and the catcher side plates to 4mm. With the use of only 4mm catching plates the standard stainless steel “S” style flipper is not feasible as the groove the flippers sits into is 3mm deep, this would leave only 1mm of plate thickness and would be very weak insufficient to prevent buckling.
To overcome this problem an injection moulded flipper was used that would snap into place so that if a problem arose during the trial run, instead of damaging the catcher unit (a very expensive unit) the flippers snap instead. The flippers are made of blue polypropylene for safety reasons, as they can be easily identified, if a small piece breaks away and falls into an empty food tray.

Results
The object on this development tool set was to evaluate the differences between CNC machine moulds and sand castings and to try and reduce the tool size as much as possible to save on material. By having a fabricated tool frame over a CNC machined frame, the overall tool size was reduced by 2mm, not a large saving, but by reducing the cut spacing from 12mm down to 6mm (50%) then the overall saving on the external tool size was 20mm.
Using an injection moulded flipper design allowed the product to move through the catcher and stack very easily (one of the benefits of the injection moulded flipper is that only the part that comes into contact with the product moves, unlike the standard “S” flipper where there is a full mechanical movement across the length of the flipper).

Figures

Figure 5.1: Fruit tray design

Figure 5.2: Pusher Design Assembly

Figure 5.3: Catcher Design Assembly

Figure 5.4: Catcher Design Assembly


Figure: 5.5: Injection moulded PP flipper design

Results
The object on this development was to evaluate the differences between CNC machine moulds and sand castings and to try to produce multi-cavity ECOPET tools suitable for high speed operation.
By machining the external details on the castings, we reduced the possibility of sand becoming trapped on the external U flange face and causing problems with cutting the product.
Although the sand castings reduced the amount of CNC time on the machine, the quality of the castings varied along with having a tolerance of ±0.5mm. With simple profile products the costs incurred by producing a foundry pattern and the costs of castings are nearly the same as CNC machining the moulds! The quality and accuracy of the machined moulds are also greater.
As before the floating cutter and anvil worked well, with the development product produced having a clean equal flange, again the only problem being locating off centre of the internal of a casting where there is a ±0.5mm tolerance on the casting. This means that although the cutter is locating and working correctly the internal variant could cause the external cut to be uneven. However, by increasing the internal divider plates from 4mm to 6mm, the strength of the catcher improved greatly while the A/B element also continued to work well given that this part of the design process remained unchanged.
The floating cutter and anvil worked well, with the development product produced having a clean equal flange, with the moulds being CNC machined the problems of internal variances were eliminated. The primary distinction between trays produced in subsequent trials being that the tray depth was shallower consequently no additional problems were encountered with the pusher arms and catchers.

Snack Pot
Development of the tooling for Snack pot tray type

Samples produced on Resin mould
20 hand pulled samples were initially produced using a CNC machined resin pattern and formed on a lab scale sample vacuum forming machine in 650µ RPET. The samples were then cut to size around the peripheral with scissors.

Prototype tooling
Moulds CNC machined from solid, with double level water cooling (diameter 5mm waterways) and slot vented base inserts. Sprung loaded CNC machined and profiled tool frame, water cooled and hard anodised. A fabricated water cooled zinc plated pressure box was created with the Delrin plug material tested in previous tools being replaced with Hytac WFT material which delivers a polished finish.
Instead of floating on shoulder bolts, to retain heat in the blades at all times, the cutter blocks were made from 2 pieces. Standard anvil assembly, but the thickness of the cutting plate material was reduced from 20mm plate to a 3mm Bohler plate. Pusher has CNC machined nylon cups with 2 level catcher and injection moulded PP flippers. See figures below for product drawing and floating cutter design.

Results
The use of Hytac WFT plug material further improved the aesthetic finish of the rPET trays. This material should be the plug material of choice for production of clear rPET trays as surface finish and aesthetic quality is of critical importance in these applications.
The use a thinner anvil plate allowed the plate to be more flexible when being cut against and allowed for easier shimming. The innovative new design of the floating cutter block introduced in this prototype resulted in better cutting of the ECOPET material. PET is an abrasive material and as a result is much easier to cut with hot blades. By getting heat to the cutting blades before start of the trial run, and by retaining heat during stoppages, the new design allowed for more rapid start/restart in processing the material. In full production this would result in significant reduction in down time at start of production runs and after stoppages during reel changes.

Figure 6.1: Snack pot product

Figure 6.1 Innovative floating cutter with superior blade heating

Potential Impact:
Project final results and potential impacts
This project has the potential to eliminate more than a million tonnes of PET waste currently going to landfill across Europe and do so in a cost neutral way. Prior to the advent of this demonstration project, the cheapest food tray product offering on the market remained PP which is not recyclable but now thanks to the high volume, high speed production runs achieved with the beyond state of the art tooling the fully recyclable ECOPET food tray offering can for the first time be manufactured on a cost neutral basis to that of the market leader PP.
End users wishing to project an environmentally friendly image by switching their food trays from PP to ECOPET which is made from recycled PET, the environmental impact is huge in that for every tonne of PET material diverted away from landfill 2.7 Tonnes of CO2 emissions will be eliminated from our atmosphere and 1.8 Barrels of crude oil (a non-renewable resource) will not have to go into making virgin PET material.
The overall objective of the ECOPET project is to upscale the production of an innovative recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) packaging material from pilot scale to commercial volumes, and to launch this revolutionary new product into the European food packaging market. This objective is well on the way to being achieved in that barely two months post project completion active negotiations are underway with end users from Ireland, Britain and France so far for the supply of ECOPET food trays and sheet material.

List of Websites:
www.rpet-fc-demoproject.eu

Related information

Result In Brief

Contact

Ted O'Keeffe, (Operations Director)
Tel.: +35340241234
Fax: +35340232553
E-mail
Record Number: 187907 / Last updated on: 2016-08-18
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