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Rofin Laser Technology offers a range of laser technologies for the packaging industry, including the Starperfo Advanced, Starshape and Starscribe laser systems.

Many of the features incorporated in modern packaging would not be feasible were it not for the processing capabilities of lasers.

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) increases the shelf life of fresh and refrigerated food products.

For perishable food in particular, shelf-life has a great influence on its value.

The growth in markets such as healthy foods and snacks has driven the requirement for not only attractive presentation, but extended shelf life for products such as organic fruit, vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and cereals.

The freshness of these products is largely determined by air-ventilation and the preservation of humidity within the packaging.

Achieving this requires a series of precise and consistent perforations, which are produced using a laser.

An additional requirement has also arisen for multi-chamber trays used for multi-component snacks.

For these products each chamber requires perforating differently, to optimise the storage life of the ingredients within that particular chamber.

These perforations need to be generated ‘on-the-fly’ as the packaging material moves at high speed.

When a laser pulse hits fast-moving material, the resultant quality of the hole may not be as required.

If pulse duration and web speed exceed certain values, the holes can become visibly oval.

Historically, in many cases, material that had been produced at high speed may not have been of the accuracy required to allow the specified air exchange and may therefore have been deemed inefficient at best and at worst, unusable.

To eliminate these problems and match web speeds that can reach 500m/min, Rofin developed the Starperfo Advanced.

Using Rofin’s Web Movement Compensation system (WMC), Starperfo Advanced has the capability to control and optimise the perforation-hole dimensions, further enhancing the shelf life of fresh food products.

This means less waste, lower costs and more attractive pricing for the customer.

In today’s fast-moving world, snack foods, ready meals and convenience foods continue to grow in popularity.

Many of these foods are prepared in the microwave and prior to cooking, consumers are usually required to puncture the covering film to allow steam to escape.

Neosteam packaging, developed by Mondi Consumer Flexibles, ensures that microwave food retains its vitamins and minerals and is also easy to prepare.

This packaging concept incorporates a pressure regulation valve generated by laser perforation using a Rofin Starshape laser and eliminating the need to manually puncture the film before cooking.

In addition, the precise nature of laser processing enables the valve to be configured to match the individual steam properties of the particular product.

The consumer’s product experience can be adversely influenced if the packaging is difficult to open.

If the opening process requires too much initial force, this can result in spillages or even minor injuries.

Manufacturers must also consider the needs of the ever-increasing elderly population, where ease and consistency of opening are essential attributes.

Difficult-to-open packaging is often the result of poor or inconsistent quality of mechanically created opening lines.

Rofin Starscribe and Starperfo lasers are said to offer a reliable and consistent non-contact solution to a range of scribing and perforation applications.

Also known as selective weakening, the laser is set to ‘select’ a particular film layer(s) generating the easy-open tear lines while leaving the other layers, which are required to protect the product from light and humidity, intact.

Almost all packaging foils are so-called ‘multilayered structures’ consisting of several layers.

Different layers usually have different functions.

PET, for example, makes for stiffness and aroma conservation, PE for sealing and tear resistance, PP for water-vapour tightness and aluminium for the general light protection.

With easy opening, the supporting layer is selectively weakened without affecting other functionalities.

Rofin-Baasel UK Ltd is the UK sales and support subsidiary of Rofin Sinar Technologies Inc, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial lasers and is quoted on the USA NASDAQ stock exchange. Rofin makes lasers and laser systems for marking, welding, cutting, drilling and perforating and offers sources and solutions across all the main industrial laser technologies CO2, solid state and fibre lasers. Our lasers are employed in most manufacturing markets to give customers unprecedented results in terms of quality and throughput. We have over 30,000 installations in industries such as medical device, electronics, automotive, jewellery, tool and mould, aerospace and solar power. Examples demonstrating the range of capabilities of Rofin lasers include: * In-line packaging material manufacturers use our lasers to create ‘easy open’ perforated lines in packaging. * High street jewellers buy our microwelding workstations to make and repair jewellery. * Surgical tool and implant manufacturers produce clean and permanent identification marks on their products with Rofin markers. * Photovoltaic customers rely on laser operations from scribing to drilling to make solar panels and wafers. Rofin-Baasel welcomes the opportunity to show customers what lasers can do for them.

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