Corona treatment and sustainability

How can we make corona treatment more sustainable and protect the environment?

According to the 2020 Greenitaly Report, almost 300.000 Italian companies invested in sustainability and efficiency in 2019, the biggest investment for 10 years.

The main focus of this investment has been energy efficiency, renewable sources of energy, reduction in water consumption and production of waste, reduced contaminants and the use of secondary raw materials.

In October 2020, Symbola and Unioncamere released a survey involving 1000 manufacturing companies. The survey reports that the companies investing in green resources are more resilient and benefit from a competitive edge, even during the pandemic. The green companies’ exports have increased by 16% as opposed to the “traditional” ones, stuck at a 12%; sustainable companies have done more in terms of innovation (73% vs 46%) and investment in Research & Development (33% vs 12%).

The leading Italian company in the field of corona treatment, Ferrarini & Benelli, cares about the way resources are employed and about the environmental impact of surface treatments.

Corona discharge treats the surface of plastic films to enhance wettability and thus the levels of adhesion of inks and coatings employed in the processes of laminating and roto and flexo printing.

Wettability, also known as surface tension, is measured in dyne/cm. All inks and adhesives have their own surface tension; a substrate’s surface tension must be greater than the surface tension of its coatings in order to ensure a lasting bond. Corona treatment improves surface tension, but it is also responsible for the releasing of ozone in the atmosphere, which is harmful both to the environment and to human health. 

1 Destruction of ozone

When it comes to sustainability, the main goal of those who use Corona treatment is to destroy the ozone released into the atmosphere in order to remain below the threshold set by the law and protect employees’ health.

Ferrarini & Benelli have been building ozone destruction equipment for several years. Ozone is transformed into oxygen by a catalyst in a process which takes place at ambient temperature, meaning that no energy is needed to activate the reaction. Its durability is ensured by regular routine maintenance – cleaning of filters and regenerating the catalysts.

2 No waste

Implementing better solutions, like reinstating corona treatment on the printing or coating lines helps to reduce waste and inefficiency.

During the extrusion process, materials are corona treated to obtain the desired surface tension value and give the best possible printing or coating result. However, if too much time passes between the process of extrusion and converting, the surface tension value decreases over time. An inadequate surface tension might damage the printing and coating process, thus ruining the end product.

Those companies which are most motivated to minimise production waste, also reduce the potential environmental impacts of their processes by reinstating treatment at the printing or laminating stage of their production, thus mitigating any deterioration in the treatment level which may have occurred over time.

3 Solventless or water-based inks and adhesives

Switching from solvent-based to solventless adhesives and inks allows both energy consumptions and emissions to be reduced. However, these innovative types of inks and adhesives have higher surface tension compared to the traditional ones and have a harder time adhering to a plastic surface.

Corona treatment allows the converter to take this “green route” because it increases surface tension and achieves a good level of adhesion for these new inks and adhesives.

4 Cooperation in Research and Development

Ferrarini & Benelli has recently joined the smart and sustainable i-Label project. The company received recognition by Regione Lombardia in the context of the Research and Innovation Hub on the basis of the POR FESR 2014-2020.

i-Label aims to reduce the environmental impact of packaging of consumer goods, focusing in particular on the sectors of printing, labelling and packaging. 

i-Label was created to enable a group of manufacturers from the Lombardy Region who are active on an international level to share knowledge and skills. The group is made of:

  • Ritrama, member of Fedrigoni Group, manufacturer of self-adhesives
  • OMET, manufacturer of printing machines
  • Ferrarini & Benelli, manufacturer of surface treatment equipment for the adhesion of inks
  • VDG Lab, developer of lamps providing lights to dry inks
  • ILTI, manufacturer of labelling machines
  • Italian Institute of Technology, involved in the electronic aspect of the project

On one hand, the i-Label project focuses on reducing the amount of materials used in the production of self-adhesive and sustainable labels and by recycling materials, which would normally be considered as waste. On the other hand, the project developing manufacturing process for smart labels, capable of displaying useful information to the consumer (such as the origin of the product and the proof that the package’s seal has not been tampered with) through an electronic component self-powered by a photovoltaic cell.

These new processes will allow for a reduction of the production of plastic material, which will be significantly less thick, will have no liner and will cause less atmospheric contamination due to transportation.

Corona treatment and sustainability