While leakage prevention is often the primary driver behind the selection of induction foil sealing for automotive product containers, the technology has now moved on to offer other significant benefits for suppliers and retailers alike, as Selig’s Peter Tindale, Sales Director explains.
For almost five decades, automotive product manufacturers have relied on induction foil sealing to prevent leakage of a wide range of products, from lubricating oils and anti-freeze to detergents and polishes. Now, advances in the technology are offering further opportunities to improve the safety, security and, ultimately, the environmental performance of these automotive aftermarket products.
Spillages of potentially corrosive and toxic fluids pose health and safety risks to both the consumers of these products as well as staff working in the automotive aftermarket supply chain. Leakages can also be costly in terms of product loss and damage to adjacent stock. Robust packaging systems featuring secure, effective closures are thus essential for the safe, reliable and economical distribution, storage and use of these products.
Induction foil systems offer these benefits, along with other useful features, including prevention of accidental contamination – moisture ingress during transportation, for example – while providing visible evidence of tampering, pilferage or vandalism. Induction seals also improve customer experience by offering a variety of easy-open devices that form an integral part of the seal, and seals that incorporate reseal mechanisms to prevent leakage once the cap is replaced.
The seals can be over-printed to deliver additional usage or safety advice, or be used for brand reinforcement. And where there is a risk of product counterfeiting, induction seals can be equipped with overt or covert security features, making products harder to copy and giving consumers the confidence that they are purchasing the genuine article.
New drivers for adoption
Beyond these well-established benefits of induction foil seals, two imporant trends in the automotive retail sector are encouraging companies to adapt and extend their use of this sealing technology. The first of these is the challenge posed by new retail channels for automotive products, such as supermarkets, and the popularity of online shopping and e-commerce that has spurred the growth of direct-to-consumer distribution.
These channels place an additional premium on packaging security and spill resistance, particularly as products are likely to be transported in smaller, mixed lots by general purpose couriers or mainstream parcel delivery services. These time-sensitive delivery systems inevitably involve a bit of ‘rough handling’ and leading e-commerce players are now strong supporters of the use of induction foil sealing as best practice for the sealing of liquid products and the need to protect other packages shipped alongside them.
The second trend is a growing recognition of the importance of sustainability; here, induction foil sealing technologies create important opportunities for manufacturers to reduce both the cost and resource consumption of their products. For example, using a foil seal to ensure the integrity of a container allows the adoption of lighter structures since there is less need for strength and stiffness at the closure. In food distribution, that approach has allowed the weight (and material content) of a one litre bottle to be reduced by as much as 14%.
Seals and sealing methods
Selecting the most appropriate induction foil sealing solution for any application requires consideration of the physical and chemical characteristics of the product and packaging and of its mode of use. Induction foil seals are highly engineered laminates with each layer serving a specific function, from the creation of a secure bond with the container rim, to the provision of customer-friendly features such as ease-of-opening, tamper evidence or anti-counterfeiting motifs.
Seals are produced in single-part or two-part designs, the latter being supplied bonded with wax to a backing board. Heat from the induction sealing process melts the wax, allowing the parts of the seal to separate. The backing board is retained within the cap, serving a secondary sealing function once the primary seal has been removed from the container’s neck by the consumer.
In applications such as lubricating oils, the backing board may be made of an absorbent card or similar material, the sealing performance of which is improved by the small amount of product that soaks into the board. With corrosive or aggressive materials such as brake fluids, backing boards are made from special materials or have coatings that prevent damage from the contents of the container.
While two-part designs have proved very effective, single layer seals are now increasingly being adopted for smaller automotive product containers, especially single use products that do not require a resealable container. Advantages of these systems include lower costs, faster production cycle times and improved container recyclability characteristics. Single-layer seals also allow greater flexibility in the filling line - an important factor for companies dealing with large numbers of container sizes and those seeking to improve the agility of their manufacturing and distribution systems.