Bobst making the connection

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Bobst, an impressive Swiss company founded in the nineteenth century, is one of the world’s top suppliers of finishing systems for labels, flexible packaging, corrugated and folding carton industries. It has production facilities in eleven countries across the globe and has been making gradual steps into digital systems for a few years. Increased investment into digital technologies is boosting the company’s capacity to provide digital support and options for its customers, including more environmentally friendly products.

Packaging customers are not universally keen to embrace wholly digital models or indeed more environmentally sustainable approaches to production. But at least Bobst is making the right noises on their behalf. A number of recent announcements signpost the company’s intentions for future growth. Bobst is investing in a cloud based digital production management system called Bobst Connect which will improve process control and automation for its customers. Reduced waste, efficient energy management and improved process control will all have a positive effect on customers’ environmental impacts.

Bobst is also working closely with its supply chain, customers and the brands they serve to develop paper-based flexible packaging materials. Because of its complex workflow and supply chain experience, Bobst is well-placed to help brands respond to public opinion and pressure for recyclable or reusable packaging. Companies such as Nestlé, Coca Cola, Unilever and many more have committed to using 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. But achieving this depends on having the right materials.

Using its complete workflow Bobst and its partners have been looking at paper-based alternatives to Ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH). EVOH is a highly resistant thermoplastic commonly used in food packaging to provide an effective barrier. It protects food, cosmetics and medicines against oils and oxygen, mostly in the form of plastic films. EVOH isn’t cheap though so it’s often added to cardboard, other plastics or foil as a laminate layer. This composition makes it hard to recycle because the layers need to be separated. Alternatives are lacking on the market so Bobst is working with partners to look at paper-based options that will scale and be economically and environmentally viable.

Their first product, due for release on the 22nd July, 2022, is OneBarrier a vacuum metalised structure consisting of a paper base with a barrier layer of aluminium to stop migration of water, gas and oxygen. It works for coffee and chocolate and other forms of packaging where odours and flavours need protecting and grease is prevented from migrating. OneBarrier was developed in partnership with UPM, Siegwerk and Michelman and because it is a paper based monomaterial it can be recycled. The next step is deployment in the market, the ultimate test.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIFespaFujifilmHPKodakMiraclonRicohSplash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.