Brink Group is industry’s ‘best kept secret’
At K 2019, as at other trade shows, Brink Group could be found sharing a stand with plastics machinery manufacturer Stork. While the two companies are not affiliated, they are longstanding partners: “We are two companies, both from the Netherlands that work well together,” said Max Zinnemers, Brink’s international sales manager. “Their machines and our technology are a good fit.”
He continued: “We consider ourselves the best kept secret in the industry – we don’t advertise, and we don’t have to. We’re known by what we do, and we do it well.”
At heart, he said, Brink Group, has changed very little from the Dutch packaging tooling specialist it started out as, in 1963. “We have very traditional values and believe in standing by our customers.” At the same time, the company has evolved into a technological pioneer with a global reach and unmatched expertise in automation and IML solutions.
“We are always a step ahead of the competition,” confirmed Zinnemers.
He noted that currently, the mould technology business is under pressure to make even thinner-walled containers possible. This has become increasingly urgent, as brand owners have made promises to shareholders and stakeholders to reduce the use of plastic, he explained. It is a trend driven by the current anti-plastic mood of consumers as well as a desire to reduce the weight of the packaging. MuCell technology, in which gas is injected into the melt, allows the amount of material needed to be reduced. Brink is exploring developments aimed at decreasing packaging weight through mould technology – “without compromising its functionality, which must also be safeguarded,” said Zinnemers.
“We have been balancing on a very fine line of what is possible for a while now.”
At the same time, Brink Group has focussed on innovative approaches to IML automation. IML technology completely eliminates the need to stock blank containers, as the containers are produced and decorated with a label in a single step. At K 2019, the company introduced its Versatile IML Cell system, with which, instead of just one product, a number of different products can be made on a single machine.
“It’s unique,” said Zinnemers. “This is a multifunctional horizontal label drawer system that makes it possible to produce round, square, wraparound, five-sided, three-sided, duocup and more products with a single system. Simple product change-overs are completed within half an hour, big change-overs within an hour. The system works with single and multi-cavity moulds.”
The idea is similar to a cartridge system, where different cartridges are used for the different products. It was developed to enable converters to utilise the machine more efficiently; indeed, the development is in response to demand from the market. “Less plastic is being used and brand owners have been slow to develop new products and invest in new designs. Instead, they are simply repeating themselves with the current product range,” Zinnemers said. “For converters, this decrease can imply, for example, that they are running their injection moulding machine only 50% of the time – meaning the other 50% needs to be filled up. Yet new product designs are taking longer to materialise and the use of plastic is dropping. As a result, converters are having to look around for other products.”
The Versatile IML system means that converters are not required to invest in a new machine with new IML automation when switching to other products. Versatile means exactly that: offering different products with different label options, it is an ergonomic system, easy to use, with automatic label positioning in a closed loop. “And this is the ‘starter’ system,” said Zinnemers. “Other sets can be added, for which the delivery times are far shorter than for regular IML systems – another advantage for the converter.”
How does Zinnemers see the future of plastic packaging, if the use of plastic is, as he says, declining? It’s a topic about which, it turns out, he has thought a great deal. “We have a huge plastic waste problem, but we’ve created the problem ourselves.”
He has no faith in bioplastics as a solution. “We need to invest in real solutions to plastic waste, optimise recycling processes and infrastructure. There is so much plastic out there. And: why not develop a deposit system for plastic containers? Have people return them and get a refund?” he asked.
He is convinced there are systems that can be developed for injection moulded products that can ensure full traceability, which would considerably advance sorting and recycling processes. “It’s too early to talk about these options right now,” he said. But looking at the future, his hopes are high.