Teknor Color, the company behind the project, believes that the facility will add to the company's ability to provide multi-plant bottle manufacturers with the advantages of single-sourcing their supplies of colour concentrates.
"For packagers that outsource bottle production to multiple moulders, or for bottle manufacturers with multiple locations, Teknor Color provides a single central resource for colour matching in all of the materials used for their product lines," said Louis R. Cappucci, vice president of Teknor Apex and business manager of Teknor Color.
This is an important consideration, with bottlers and manufacturers looking to increase efficiency and cut costs where possible. Raw material prices have rocketed - Chemical giant BASF increased the price of its styrene polymers Polystyrene (PS), Terluran (ABS) and Luran (SAN) by €250 per metric ton in Europe as of 1 September, blaming a continuing erosion in margins caused by further increases in raw material costs.
Dow has also increased the prices of its packaging materials. "Our price increases in 2004 have not compensated for the tremendous rise in raw material costs during the first half of this year," said Markus Wildi, commercial vice president for Dow's plastics portfolio in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Key production equipment in the new pilot plant includes an extrusion blow moulding system with capacity for small-scale commercial quantities of one-, two-, and three-layer PP and PE bottles, an 80-ton injection moulding press for injection-blow preforms and tooling for PET preforms for both beverage and cosmetic / personal care bottles.
The launch of the pilot plant coincides with Teknor Color's commercial introduction of PETek concentrates for PET, based on unique technology that the company says enhances the shelf appeal of bottles and increases productivity for manufacturers.
While Teknor Color has long supplied colorants for polyolefin (PP and PE) bottles, including many special-effect formulations, the new concentrates are its first for PET.
"Teknor Color now provides a complete range of products and services for bottle manufacturers and consumer-product packagers," said Cappucci.
"We are fully prepared to cooperate in the development of new bottles based on any of the major resins, and we provide an attractive alternative for manufacturers of existing packages because of our pilot-plant capabilities for duplicating and precisely colour-matching any bottle on the market."
Sample bottles produced in the new pilot plant help customers maintain strict control over their brand identities, according to Meritt M. Siers-Foster, colour technologist and manager of Teknor Color's pilot laboratory.
"The more diversified the product line, the greater the challenge in maintaining absolute colour uniformity from one package to the next," Siers-Foster said.
"A national-brand programme may involve both single-layer and multi-layer bottles, call for bottles based on both polyolefin and PET resins, and include other types of packaging requiring us to supply matching colours in resins such as polycarbonate or polystyrene. This is why it is vitally important for designers to see colours as they appear in real bottles, not just colour chips."
The new pilot plant is located at the company's Rhode Island headquarters. Teknor Color also operates a fully equipped colour laboratory at each of its five US production facilities.
"The laboratories are linked to a central database to assure consistency from one location to the next," said Cappucci.