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Trexel, Bockatech partner to increase scope, benefits of foamed packaging

Wilmington, Mass.-based Trexel Inc., a foaming technology equipment maker, is working with Huntingdon, England-based Bockatech Ltd., to create reusable and recyclable injection molded packaging for food, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and industrial applications.

The partners are focused on advancing ways to complement Bockatech’s EcoCore technology, which was in some high-profile hands recently, including U.S. President Joe Biden at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) held Oct. 29 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

“EcoCore is a combination of materials, process and molding design innovations. There are several patents covering EcoCore, so for short we refer to it as a ‘technology,'” Bockatech Director Martin Blacher said in an email.

“EcoCore is used under license by converters to make their containers,” he added, likening packaging marked “made with EcoCore” to computers marked “Intel inside.”

The combination of manufacturing steps creates packaging that is lightweight, insulated, strong and durable. Applications include containers that need a thermal barrier or extra strength, such as to-go coffee cups, cold drink cups, noodle pots and industrial pails.

On LinkedIn, EcoCore licensee Paccor Packaging GmbH gave a shout out to the technology in a post pointing out world leaders were using its drinking cups at COP26.

“Play an important role in a transition towards a circular economy! Make sustainable choices!” the Düsseldorf, Germany-based packaging manufacturer’s post says.

EcoCore containers are made by injecting a gas laden melt, typically polypropylene, into a mold quickly at high pressure. The mold is opened almost immediately after filling. Expansion is controlled by skins — formed on the inner and outer faces of the container walls by cooling — that have molten and foaming resin in the center.

The EcoCore process reduces the cycle time to a level similar to traditional unfoamed thin-wall injection molded plastic components, according to a news release about the Trexel partnership.

Trexel has been focused on fast-cycle packaging applications, particularly for its P-series system, which uses MuCell brand foaming technology. The company says MuCell technology enables thinner wall molding from reduced material viscosity, injection pressure and clamp tonnage.

While EcoCore was originally developed using chemical foaming agents (CFAs), Bockatech is working with Trexel’s MuCell brand technology that uses nitrogen gas (N2) for foaming. Trexel says N2 promotes smaller cell size and results in much lower weight percent of blowing agent.

“The collaboration between Bockatech and Trexel was started to enable us to get a better understanding of the actual benefits of using gas foaming agents, in place of chemical foaming agents for packaging,” Chris Bocking, founder and chief strategy officer at Bockatech, said in the release.

“EcoCore moldings, made with MuCell, feature different cell structures to those made with CFAs. This results in containers that take advantage of specific expansions designed for MuCell N2 and we’re looking forward to sharing more about the excellent results from the collaboration later this year.”

MuCell technology also allows greater design freedom by eliminating flow restrictions during cavity filling and offering the ability to pack end-of-fill features through foaming.

In addition, the technology opens the door to produce opaque packaging that can be recycled in the clear recycling stream.

The release says Bockatech is using Trexel’s MuCell in the development of innovative and more sustainable retail food packaging for one of the best-known U.S. food brands as well as caps for a leading FMCG brand in Europe.

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