Italy’s IMA equipment and systems group marks Earth Day launching its OpenLab facilities
Marking Earth Day this month, Italian-headquartered industry machinery group IMA has launched its OpenLab facilities – advanced laboratories and testing areas, dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies and production optimisation processes, writes Neill Barston.
As the company explained to Confectionery Production, it has prioritised environmentally conscious development for a number of years, underlined by the publication of its annual sustainability report continually evolving best practices.
Furthermore, the group has strongly committed to reducing its impact from its industrial manufacturing operations, and to implementing its sustainable steps towards the future.
OPENLab represents a concrete part of the Company’s IMA Zero project, part of the NoP Program (No-Plastic Programme), focused on delivering its environmental goals.
Whether they are recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, paper-based materials or ultra-thin films, OPENLab analyses and finds innovative new solutions before they hit the market, offering customers innovative solutions ready to be tested on specific packaging lines. As previously reported, the company has developed a number of machinery lines dedicated to the confectionery and snacks sectors.
Thanks to the implementation of the most modern digital infrastructures, together with think tank spaces, environments dedicated to the generation of ideas and the prototyping of materials, the Group aims at building a connection between knowledge and skills coming from machines, packaging manufacturing and customers.
Moreover, thanks to this project, IMA intends to boost its support towards the territory, increasing its economic attractiveness and developing research projects and collaborations with private and public entities, universities and multinationals in the sector.
OPENLab’s goal is to merge studies, experimentation and industrial development activities on materials including all laboratory phases, from design to engineering, of products and processes. A service offered to customers and partners of the Group in all the business sectors served by the business, including food and dairy markets.
As the business added, its programme includes on-site material testing on dedicated machines under the supervision of its engineers and researchers, not to interrupt the customer’s production cycle, simulate real manufacturing conditions, avoiding costs related to production stoppages.
OPENLab’s team of experts has a specific background in materials, machines and packaging processes; a trained staff is constantly dedicated to the activities of the Laboratories, supporting tests and trials.
They are able to help customers to test new materials directly on the machines dedicated to this activity and constantly available in the different testing areas.
Moreover, this excellent staff with all-round skills and experience can study and evaluate any technical failures that prevent materials being used correctly on the packaging machine. Whether it is a different material composition or a mechanical failure, the team is able to make a diagnosis and restore optimum performance accordingly.
Thanks to OPENLab, over 3.800 film structures were analysed and over 400 films tested in the period 2017-2021: with these figures, IMA Group has its sights set on the future. The goal is to create a powerful database containing compositions and performances of all materials in relation to different machines.
OPENLab Bologna (IT)
OPENLab Bologna is a laboratory dedicated to research and testing with an area of 100 m². Built with green building materials and equipped with the latest digital infrastructures, the Lab is located at its headquarter premises in Ozzano dell’Emilia (Bologna, Italy). Being close to a number of IMA divisions, it is possible to quickly perform tests on dedicated machines on site, facilitating the whole network and analysis process.
Not only does the Lab conduct the entire experimentation process under the guidance and supervision of skilled engineers as well as researchers from IMA Group, but it can also offer laboratory analysis and production tests that simulate real-life conditions. Such service leads to avoid the interruption of customers’ production cycle and costly mistakes.
OPENLab Lugano (CH)
With over 400 m² of total surface, OPENLab Lugano is equipped with an analytical lab integrated into a testing area/show room.
In the testing area, different horizontal form fill seal machines are available (rotative, Long Dwell, D Cam, Box motion etc.), which are fully dedicated to conduct tests and supervised by skilled IMA technicians. In particular, they are available for internal experts’ activities such as prototyping, R&D and technological innovation; for clients, to perform tests on new materials or new upgrades; for packaging producers, to carry out processing tests on new packs before entering the market.
The laboratory also has a dedicated showroom area, where the newest machine models and technical developments are displayed to allow clients to find out more about IMA’s latest solutions.
OPENLab Arezzo (IT)
OPENLab Arezzo boasts a test area of 200 m², where vertical form fill seal lines are available both for internal analysis and for customers’ tests. It is also equipped with a 50 m² cold room test area (minimum temperature 0°C product continuous feed), where IMA’s experts carry out tests on machines at very low temperatures. This area is extremely important to examine whether the machines are suitable for particularly cold environments or when dealing with frozen products.
OPENLab Lowell (USA)
The company’s lab facilities in Lowell, USA are still under development, but are being tailored for the region. It will aim at finding new sustainable materials that will be specifically suitable for the American market, thereby guiding IMA’s partners towards materials’ evolution. According to the business, this testing area will allow the experts to find the perfect combination between materials and machines, intended to obtain the best possible performance. Not only internal operators, but also customers and partners will be able to perform tests on machines based within the site.