Over 250 participants from 61 countries. From global trends to technological innovations in the context of advanced controls using Artificial Intelligence. Space is therefore given to the new products that SACMI is developing throughout the world in collaboration with leading industry players. Sustainability, a focus on opportunities and the regulatory framework, from new standards to the PCR recycling approach
On 18 and 19 October, SACMI Imola hosted 'Green & Digital', a global networking event to discuss the prospects for sustainability and digital innovation in the Rigid Packaging sector. Over 250 participants including international customers and experts, representing 61 countries around the world, "a prompt and wide-ranging response from our international customers and partners to common challenges and projects," explained SACMI President Paolo Mongardi.
The two-day event at SACMI featured internationally renowned guests and experts, providing the right stimulus and context for international customers to explore the various technological opportunities being offered. First to take the floor was Dominic Cakebread, Global Packaging Service Director of GlobalData PLC, who gave a speech on the main global trends in the industry.
Driven by Asia, the packaging market is set to exceed 4.7 billion units sold by 2026. Growth therefore still remains strong, albeit constrained by the inflationary spiral, on the one hand, and by a new regulatory framework that is increasingly sensitive to environmental impacts on the other. In particular, consumers around the world increasingly see sustainability as an essential value of packaging, even if they are not always willing (or able) to pay more for it.
From Sensors to Artificial Intelligence
On the first morning, with an initial link-up from the workshop, the audience at SACMI Imola’s Auditorium 1919 was taken straight to the heart of the digital technologies and innovations that SACMI offers the sector. What does this mean in concrete terms? Machines capable of self-adjustment, making it easier for operators to use the system and control the process. SACMI's mantra is to translate these opportunities into tangible advantages in terms of cost effectiveness, plant efficiency-availability and the ability to be better prepared for the challenges imposed by environmental regulations.
Some of the leading solutions are already on the market, installed and valued by customers all over the world, such as the new CM-Flow extruders, which are standard on almost the entire range of latest-generation CCM cap presses. The advanced sensors on the machines – Smart Pack - providing advanced control functions for temperature control, dose positioning and hydraulic oil status and Smart Care, a true gateway to SACMI's digital services that will soon include GILDA AI, a new chatbot-style assistance tool.
The range of SACMI Computer Vision solutions (CVS and software) are common to all systems and evolve quality control into process management, detecting potential deviations in advance and assisting the operator by suggesting the appropriate corrective action.
Self-tuning machines and product development
The afternoon visits to the various departments focused on these two pillars of the SACMI offer. Machines that consume less and more efficiently and that self-correct the process, thanks to AI, are just one aspect that SACMI complements with the product development and design services provided by the Rigid Packaging Laboratory. The laboratory is the only one of its kind capable of carrying out all the tests on materials and products prior to industrialisation, in practice a complete cap and neck development service that allows functionality, environmental performance and consumer experience to be optimised. A strong point of the facility is the certification by major international brand owners, including PEPSI and Coca-Cola, essentially an absolute guarantee for customers when developing and industrialising new proposals or accelerating the transition to standards that are more efficient.
The latest generation solution that allows the PVS156 vision system to be integrated directly into the preform press (IPS) was also presented. Also in this case, following the logic of developing 'vision' towards more advanced process control and management functions.
Space was also given to cap assembly and post-processing solutions, with the SACMI-Velomat offer completing the range for the multi-component cap sector (e.g. sport caps but also dispensers, etc.).
New neck-cap standards and the recycling challenge
The entire morning of 19 October at the SACMI Auditorium was dedicated to the subject of sustainability. More than any other sector, Rigid Packaging has undergone major transformations in the last 20 years, with overall reductions in cap and container weights of more than 50%.
Today's challenge is called 26/22 mm. This is a transition, for example in CSD, which is leading to the replacement of the traditional PCO1881 with the new GME 30.40 and similar standards. This is why SACMI has developed the largest family of caps on the market for the new standard, including a tethered version, with a focus on SACMI's practical and flexible post-processing approach.
Richard Novomelski, Managing Director, Closures & Labels Category at Coca-Cola, was the special guest in Imola to explain to the audience what is happening globally in terms of product innovation with a view to sustainability.
The challenge of recycling is potentially disruptive. Conditioned – to a large degree – by the diversified global regulatory framework for the management of PCR (post-consumer recycled resins) for food grade use, recovery and reuse are gaining ground worldwide, with concrete installations, as far as PET is concerned, being now relatively common. What remains to be written, however, is the way forward for the recycling of HDPE caps for food use. Concrete and working examples of ‘total circularity' are so far limited to the USA and the UK, while Europe grapples with the debate on the new PPWD (Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation) that will revolutionise the sector, in all likelihood, by 2030.
These were the premises of the concluding round table on the regulatory framework, during which Alessandro Falzoni (Head of SACMI Rigid Packaging Laboratory), Daniel Rubenstein, Partner at Steptoe&Johnson LLP, Food Contact Materials Regulation, Paolo Glerean, Head of Sales and Marketing at Aliplast spa and Chairman of RecyClass, Patricia Fosselard, President of Natural Mineral Water EU, and Richard Novomelski, Managing Director, Closures & Labels Category at Coca-Cola, exchanged ideas.
Priority identified, a D4R approach – Design4Recycling – even in cases where the market does not (yet) enforce a recycled content. While the technology is already available: the same SACMI CCM cap press shown at the event produced HDPE caps in a continuous cycle by regrinding the caps that were produced. SACMI presses suitable for processing preforms with 100% rPET are already on the market.
Between Artificial Intelligence and sustainability challenges, SACMI chose to dedicate a specific slot of the day to after-sales services. These services, which have always been one of the Group’s strengths, have also evolved digitally with new remote assistance packages, spare parts kits and preventive maintenance, and the new functionalities of the SACMI S.P.A.C.E. portal. From product development to the management of systems over time, from proactive problem solving to new remote and on-site training services, this was an important opportunity to reaffirm the principle of partnership, and much appreciated by customers.