A lightbulb moment led to the development of a new material. Here’s how three companies came together to make that happen while incidentally demonstrating the importance of collaboration in the value chain.
“It’s truly a team accomplishment,” emphasised Owen Lightbody, who leads the performance films technical service team in Nova Chemicals’ Innovation department. So what is so special about HD-BOPE?
Quite a lot, apparently. As Nova Chemicals describes it, though, it is primarily an important building block to help brand owners reach their packaging sustainability goals.
A lot of application development done at Nova focusses on the development of new packaging solutions, explained Owen Lightbody. It is why, several years ago, the company became interested in oriented films and specifically, in biaxially oriented polyethylene – BOPE - in the first place.
“There is a huge emphasis on recycling and with BOPE, we saw we could help the industry transition to a circular economy,” said Lightbody. First, however, the company head to learn more about the oriented films and the processes used to produce these.
“It began with machine directional orientation and then we started learning about the tenter frame process and biaxial films - how the process dramatically improves the performance of polyethylene. Extremely impressive,” noted Lightbody.
“Then, during one of our first trials, we found that with LLDPE, we could make film the first day. But with HDPE – well, everything was failing, it wasn’t running through the machine and that’s when the lightbulb went on in our heads: this is what the market needs, this is where innovation needs to happen.”
However, it was clear that this was a project requiring more knowhow than the company had. It needed to find a partner able to provide the technical expertise that Nova was lacking.
“And when you look at the biax film market, there’s really one dominant player, and that’s Brückner,” Lightbody concluded. Nova reached out to Brückner and explained what it was trying to do. Their contact at Brückner, senior sales manager Sebastian Ruhland, immediately realised the potential for collaboration.
“We also saw HD-BOPE as the key to monomaterial packaging and therefore to recyclable packaging design,” he said. The companies have worked closely together ever since.