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Investing in Full Service Support

Investing in Full Service Support

31 Aug – PPM – Packaging and Print Media

Teqal, KZN-based specialist producer of injection moulded rigid plastics packaging for cosmetics and industrial products, has invested R39-million in plant automation and tool-making equipment, as well as in developing and launching South Africa’s first biodegradable cosmetics jar, and a full wraparound in-mould labelled jar.

‘A large percentage of our profits are reinvested in R&D, and this latest round of investments builds on our strengths of functional/technical designs and patents, plus in-house high-end tool-making, design and prototyping experience – all vital in adding value to packaging for the personal care industry,’ says product development & marketing director, Sean Kirkham.

‘As an owner-managed business, we partner with customers during every step of their creative packaging journeys – from design, prototyping, 3D printing, mould design and manufacture, right to decoration,’ he adds.

Teqal implements a high level of automation at its plant in Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone, its equipment purchase philosophy centres on durability, efficiency and production stability ahead of cost. This, Sean maintains, ensures manufacturing consistency and sustainability, which is what drives costs down.

Teqal’s extensive capabilities include decoration of moulded components either by hot foil stamping or direct printing. For hot foil stamping, a labour-intensive offline machine has been replaced with a high-speed, automated, inline system for applying foil decoration to caps, jars and other components.

A feature of this system is the robotic transfer of still-warm components from the mould directly into the machine, ensuring perfect foil adhesion and achieving a high gloss level, at the same time reducing the heat required during the process.

In addition, because the machine can accommodate non-round parts, such as square mascara containers or triangular closures, format versatility is enhanced, allowing Teqal to cater for evolving market trends.

Pushing jar design  boundaries

Teqal has also developed two new jars to help future- proof personal care and cosmetic brands.

A year ago, Teqal registered a patent for an in-mould labelled jar that provides the look of a shrink sleeve but without the associated cost, application and recycling challenges. Extra time available during the Covid-19 lockdown period was used to fast track production of this 500ml jar and cap, which Sean describes as ‘the next generation in jar design’.

‘We’ve removed the step from the side of the jar – which traditionally holds the in-mould label in place – by modifying the base with a radius angle that enables full surface coverage. By wrapping the full surface of the jar, including the base radius, it’s possible to decorate the full height of the jar,’ he states. The patented technology also enables the use of a satin-finished polypropylene substrate, not only giving the jar a soft satiny surface but also promoting 100% recyclability.

The second update has resulted in a revamped lid design. By placing a dimple in the centre of the lid, the jar can now nest, allowing for neat and easy stacking on retail shelves.

As Sean emphasises, combining the decoration process with the moulding process cuts total product cost and eliminates post-handling complications and customers’ high scrap rates for labels. Now, jars are simply placed on the filling line.

Facing the sustainability conundrum

Teqal has also expanded its Reflections face cream jars with the introduction of the country’s first 70% biodegradable jar, which is Seedling certified to degrade into CO2 and biomass according to European Standard EN 13432.

The jar’s external components are biodegradable – made from plant-based material sustainably sourced from industrial wood applications – while the critical components are made from HDPE, already stability tested for creams.

‘This means that brands already packaging face cream in an HDPE jar could comfortably move into a 70% biodegradable jar without any risks,’ Sean asserts. ‘The next step towards 100% biodegradability entails moulding the internal components in the biodegradable polymer. This development work requires a partnership with a local brand owner who is truly committed to sustainability as it requires samples for extended formulation stability trials. A lot of work has already been done in this field internationally. The process would also justify lobbying the Department of Trade & Industry for a reduction in the 30% import duty on biodegradable packaging materials, which currently places the biodegradable jar at two to three times the price of a standard alternative. The cost can, however, be offset against the positive brand positioning and marketing messaging,’ he concludes.

Tooled for accuracy

THE LATEST upgrade to Teqal’s toolroom is the addition of a high-performance CNC machine with cylindrical grinding capability, which opens up a new realm of tooling accuracy and caters for the industry’s migration towards bigger cavitation. It allows the manufacture of moulds with a long lifespan, ensuring consistently high- quality packaging components.

‘Our motivation is not to make an injection moulding tool as cheaply as possible but rather to make a tool that runs production faster and with greater stability, which brings the packaging component cost down,’ comments Dean Mitchell (pictured right), who is responsible for tooling, design and operations.

He adds that Teqal often agonises over tooling details because they’ll determine the company’s R&D capability for many years. ‘Our in-house capabilities ensure we can trial the tool, take it out, and make the necessary design changes and retry it until we’re satisfied. In many cases, we’ve achieved 30% faster cycle times by piloting a mould, running a single mould and/or changing the material so that the mould runs as quickly and efficiently as possible.’ In-house mould maintenance and repair capabilities also improve production efficiency by reducing downtime.

Furthermore, the company has been able to draw on a highly-capable and motivated talent base. ‘As we upgrade technologies, we continue to invest in our staff’s injection moulding production and tool-making skills through ongoing training,’ Dean concludes.