Two of the latest technologies emerging in the thermoforming market are plant based PLA (polylactic acid) and preprinting. Shepherd has recently formed a number of trial parts combining both of these exciting new offerings.
Notable qualities of the PLA include:
- Bio-based polymer (resin is derived from renewable feedstock such as corn)
- Thermoformed PLA exhibits more stiffness than other clear grades such as PVC, RPET or PET, which may enable forming in thinner gauges to achieve the same end result.
- PLA thermoforms using conventional equipment and setup procedures.
- Discarded PLA is suitable for use in industrial compost facilities.
- Current PLA material has a limited heat distortion temperature (should not be exposed to temperatures beyond 110 degrees F), and is therefore limited to frozen food applications or highly controlled life cycle.
- Additives are currently under development which will enable PLA packaging to perform similar to other current material offerings.
Notable qualities of preprinted inks include:
- Vegetable-based, and are biodegradable.
- Pre-printing on the plastic prior to forming reduces the need for secondary application of labels and may improve the overall product image.
- Special design software and print experience is required in order to achieve the necessary distortion to produce the required image on the formed package.
- Preprint is currently restricted to high volume applications due to the lengthy set-up involved in both the printing and thermoforming processes. However we are currently working on low volume solution.