China flexible packaging industry status analysis


     In the packaging industry, flexible packaging has become one of the most important packaging forms for shelf sales with brilliant colors, rich functions and diverse forms of expression. The progress of the domestic flexible packaging industry has greatly promoted the development of food, daily chemical and other industries, and the development of these industries has in turn further stimulated the demand for flexible packaging market, so that the flexible packaging industry has obtained a huge market momentum. With the development of functional flexible packaging materials and the continuous improvement of processing technology, flexible packaging is playing an increasingly important role in many fields. This article introduces to you the basic situation of the domestic flexible packaging industry.

Flexible packaging industry equipment and technical level

     In recent years, with the progress of technology and the development of the market, customers' requirements for product quality and service continue to improve, the competition between enterprises is intensifying, coupled with the great changes in the political, economic and social environment, making the domestic flexible packaging industry gradually become a completely competitive industry. The profit space of the entire industry is getting smaller and smaller, the loss of enterprises is increasing, and one after another once brilliant enterprises are falling on the road of cruel competition - the era of meager profits is coming to us with an irreversible trend.

     The domestic flexible packaging industry in the modern sense has more than 20 years of development history. Over the past 20 years, the domestic flexible packaging industry has grown from small to large and developed rapidly, and has now reached a more mature stage, showing a clear trend of collectivization and scale. World-class printing enterprises are accelerating their development in China by means of absolute holding, new wholly-owned production enterprises and holding companies, mergers and acquisitions of advantageous Chinese enterprises. Domestic flexible packaging and color printing enterprises are aware of the crisis and huge opportunities, and also use various ways to expand the scale of the industry and develop to the marginalization of the industry.

       The low-grade narrow gravure flexible packaging production line is countless. In addition, in recent years, through the continuous efforts of China's flexographic workers, coupled with the use of the world's most advanced laser direct plate making technology and high-quality ink, flexible plate and other consumables, flexographic soft packaging product quality is increasing, more and more widely used.

With the continuous improvement of the level of equipment and raw and auxiliary materials as well as the increasingly rich experience in production, operation and management, the technical level of China's flexible packaging industry has advanced by leaps and bounds, and product quality has been greatly improved. Only in terms of printing quality, the printing level of China's flexible packaging industry can be said to have reached a very high level, and the printing quality is much higher than that of similar products in developed countries and regions in Europe and the United States.

       The main gap between the flexible packaging industry and developed countries is reflected in product standards and medium and high-end modern packaging materials, especially in the development and production applications of special and special functional packaging materials.

Flexible packaging equipment manufacturing industry

      China's gravure composite flexible packaging equipment manufacturing industry only ten years of history, on the basis of the introduction of equipment, through digestion and absorption, imitation and independent development, in recent years has made great progress. At present, China has been able to produce printing speed of 300 meters/minute, width of more than 1000mm gravure printing machine, dry compounding machine, extrusion compounding machine, slitting machine and bag speed of more than 100 sections/minute of all kinds of automatic bag making machine. At present, the domestic equipment has been technically mature, for the domestic flexible packaging industry to supply a lot of equipment, Shaanxi North, Zhongshan Songde, Shantou Zhanglight machine, Shantou Huaying and other enterprises almost completely occupied the domestic high-grade intaglio flexible packaging equipment market.

      In recent years, with the development of the domestic flexible packaging industry, the domestic flexible packaging machinery market has also become flat. The flexible packaging industry in many overseas regions is constantly developing, so many flexible packaging equipment manufacturers have set their sights on overseas markets.

       With excellent cost performance, Chinese equipment has quite strong market competitiveness in the international market, especially in Southeast Asia, West Asia and Northeast Asia. In addition, plate making companies, film manufacturers, ink and adhesive manufacturers have also made efforts to overseas markets.

Flexible packaging film substrate

     In recent years, China's flexible packaging film substrate industry has been rapid development, domestic BOPP, BOPET, BOPA, CPP, PE, VMPET, VMCPP and other flexible packaging film substrates can not only meet the needs of the domestic market, but also exported to foreign markets.

      BOPP is the most used material in the field of flexible packaging, which is widely used in food, medicine, tobacco and other fields with its advantages of light weight, transparency, non-toxic, moisture-proof, low permeability and high mechanical strength. In the past few years, the production of BOPP thin film has a high profit, which has stimulated the rapid development of BOPP thin film industry, resulting in serious overcapacity in some areas; BOPET film has the advantages of good flatness, excellent sealing, high temperature resistance, high tensile strength, good transparency and light gloss, etc., and the amount of BOPET film in the packaging market has increased rapidly; BOPA film with its soft, puncture resistance and other special properties, widely used in high temperature cooking food, boiled food, vacuum food packaging, and domestic BOPA film production capacity is steadily improving.

      At present, some of the more advanced technology of flexible packaging printing factories continue to put forward new requirements for the printing performance and composite performance of the film substrate, such as shallow screen printing performance, transparency, composite strength and so on. Customer requirements for BOPP heat sealing film is very different, due to the large number of new and old types of domestic packaging machinery, the technical level is very different, no BOPP heat sealing film can run smoothly in all packaging machines. Along with the development of the BOPP film industry, BOPP film is endowed with many new features, also produced some new market segments, such as ultra-thin BOPP film, high transparent BOPP film, BOPP film printing performance, resistance to ultraviolet BOPP film, environmental protection and biodegradable BOPP film, prevent atomization BOPP film, BOPP color film, BOPP standard film, BOPP can print shrink smoke film, metallocene catalytic system BOPP film, high barrier BOPP film, BOPP synthetic paper, BOPP twist film, etc. All these provide a good basis for BOPP film production enterprises to adopt differentiation strategy.

     In addition, film substrate manufacturers have shown an obvious trend of scale and group development, and the price competition has gradually become rational, and more price discourse power has been obtained.

Flexible packaging printing ink

      The intaglio inks currently used are generally made of chlorinated polymers. In the ink production process, chlorinated polymers need to use strong solvents (such as toluene and other aromatic solvents) to dissolve, in the printing process also need to use toluene to adjust the viscosity of the ink. Currently, chlorinated polymer ink systems are considered non-environmentally friendly products. Because the  chlorofluorocarbons it volatilizes in its production will destroy the atmospheric ozone layer; In the ink production and printing process, the use of aromatic solvents such as toluene can cause harm to the health and safety of workers. In addition, solvent residue in packaging is another important issue that needs to be paid attention to. Because toluene and other aromatic solvents are slow drying solvents, it is easy to remain in the dried ink layer, which will pollute the packaging contents and produce odor.

     The production of flexible packaging gravure ink is restricted by many regulations, so the development and application of green gravure ink that meets the requirements of environmental protection will become an inevitable trend. Zhejiang New Oriental Ink, Tianjin Dongyang Ink, DIC ink and other enterprises have become the first batch of enterprises to obtain China environmental label green ink product certification. The environmental protection development of flexible packaging gravure ink is as follows.

(1) Reduce the solvent residue of existing ink products. This is mainly for BOPP film special ink, the countermeasures are mainly: as far as possible to choose good solvent release binder, add additives, in order to facilitate the volatilization of aromatic hydrocarbons. However, because the binder system itself determines that the aromatic hydrocarbons cannot be eradicated, from an environmental perspective, this is a product that must be eliminated.

(2) benzene-free ink. In theory, this type of ink does not contain aromatic hydrocarbon solvents, but the storage, transportation, manufacturing process and use process of raw materials will be more or less mixed with a small amount of aromatic hydrocarbon solvents.

(3) alcohol-soluble ink without benzene and ketone. Due to more stringent solvent residue requirements, major ink manufacturers have introduced alcohol-soluble inks. This kind of ink does not contain aromatic hydrocarbons and ketone solvents, only contains esters and alcohol solvents, with low odor, high ink brightness characteristics, its application will improve the competitiveness of gravure printing in the field of packaging printing.

(4) general purpose ink. At present, the ink used by flexible packaging enterprises is basically a kind of ink corresponding to a substrate, and the ink used by various substrates can not be universal, resulting in the increase of ink inventory varieties of flexible packaging enterprises, difficult management, on-site operation processes, and residual ink is difficult to digest. How to recycle leftover ink is one of the important issues facing flexible packaging gravure printing enterprises. Universal inks can effectively solve the above problems, suitable for a wide range of film materials, and can also bring benefits to the standardized management of color.

(5) Water-based ink. Water-based ink avoids the pollution of volatile organic compounds, improves the printing environment, is conducive to human health, especially suitable for food, beverage, medicine and other products with high hygiene requirements. In addition, it can also reduce the fire hazards caused by static electricity and flammable solvents, and reduce the residual solvent odor on the surface of the printed matter. Water-based ink has been widely used in paper printing.

However, there are still a series of problems for thin film substrates, and only white ink has entered large-scale application, while other color inks are gradually entering the market.

Compound adhesive

      At present, the composite adhesives used in the domestic flexible packaging industry mainly include two-component polyurethane adhesives, water-soluble acrylic adhesives, water-soluble polyurethane adhesives, alcohol-soluble adhesives, solvent-free adhesives and so on. The development of China's soft packaging industry is closely linked with the technological progress of domestic two-component polyurethane adhesives, but in recent years, under the impact of the tide of environmental protection, two-component polyurethane adhesives have been challenged by unprecedented challenges, showing the following development trends.

(1) Development and application of composite adhesives with high solid content, low viscosity and low solvent residue. Domestic adhesive production enterprises have matured, technology development strength has been greatly enhanced, there have been some representative enterprises such as Zhejiang New Oriental, Beijing Chemical Research Institute, Beijing Gaomeng Chemical Industry.

At present, adhesives with high solid content and low viscosity have become an important development direction of dry composite adhesives. Under the same coating amount, the use of high solid content adhesives can effectively reduce the use of solvents, and has the following advantages: reduce solvent consumption; Reduce drying load, improve production efficiency, reduce energy consumption; Reduce solvent residue. Previously, the main agent solid content of two-component polyurethane adhesives was 35% or 50%, and now it has been increased to 75% or 80%; Two-component polyurethane adhesives with 75% solid content account for 60% of the market share, and the market share of two-component polyurethane adhesives with 50% solid content is shrinking and is now less than 30%.

(2) Development and application of water-based adhesives. The advantage of water-based adhesives is to replace organic solvents with water, there is no potential danger of combustion and explosion, does not pollute the environment, is non-toxic to operators, and the cost is low. However, the coating performance of this adhesive is poor, and the wettability of the composite substrate is poor, resulting in low adhesion. At present, ordinary water-based adhesives are only suitable for some lightweight packaging, and for some demanding material structures, the performance of water-based adhesives needs to be further improved.

In 2007, water-based adhesives were widely used, which not only benefited from the recognition of consumers, but also benefited from the cultivation of the water-based adhesives market by manufacturers, but also benefited from the rising cost of solvent-based adhesives due to the continuous rise in the price of two-component polyurethane adhesives.

(3) Development of solvent-free adhesives. Solventless adhesives are basically composed of two-component polyurethane adhesives, and the main agent and curing agent have high viscosity at room temperature, but still have fluidity and are semi-solid substances. Solvent-free recombination process does not have organic waste gas emission problems, simple equipment, less energy consumption, suitable for reducing costs, saving resources, and protecting the environment, so it will be the main development direction of the future composite process. At present, solventless adhesives can be used in most of the middle and low grade composite soft packages, but due to the constraints of composite quality and other factors, solventless composite can not completely replace dry composite. In the long run, with the increasingly strict environmental regulations and the continuous development of the economy, the proportion of solvent-free adhesive products will continue to rise.

(4) Development and application of alcohol-soluble polyurethane adhesives. Alcohol-soluble polyurethane adhesive can use ethanol as diluent, in general, the solvent residue is less, and ethanol is cheap, which can effectively reduce the compound cost. In addition, alcohol-soluble polyurethane adhesive has good compatibility and bonding properties for alcohol-soluble inks, and it can be cured at room temperature, saving the cost of curing. Because of these characteristics, alcohol-soluble polyurethane adhesives will gradually occupy a certain market share.

Gravure plate making

      In recent years, affected by the rapid development of the domestic packaging market and the rapid update of international gravure plate making equipment, gravure plate making technology in China has developed rapidly, plate making enterprises have blossomed everywhere, plate making quality has been greatly improved, and the plate making cycle has been shrinking. The number of domestic electronic engraving machines has reached hundreds, in this regard, China has become the world's largest regional plate-making base. With the increasing number of platemaking enterprises, the corresponding rise in total production, more detailed market division, coupled with the intensifying price war, resulting in a sharp decline in corporate profits, platemaking prices have fallen to a lower level. Therefore, some large gravure plate making companies have turned to transfer printing plates, leather embossed plates, anti-counterfeiting plates and other fields.

Hunan Kexin Packaging Co., Ltd.
RM1124,Bld 1, Jinqiao International Weilai Town, Changsha, China
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