Case StudyBobst Manchester Ltd

Helping industry develop innovative food packaging material

An innovative transparent and highly effective food packaging material has been developed through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Scheme with Manchester Metropolitan University.

The challenge

Bobst is a world-leading supplier of vacuum coating equipment and services to food packaging manufacturers and flexible materials industries.

The company’s core business is to supply vacuum roll coating platforms to film producers and convertors for the food packaging market.

Bobst recognised it had a business need to develop new streams of revenue through applying higher-value, innovative technologies. As a result, it undertook a 3-year PhD level Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Manchester Metropolitan University. The aim of the project was to develop and produce innovative transparent food packaging materials using the University’s novel expertise in surface characterisation techniques.


The company recruited a KTP Associate through Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Carolin Struller. The company aimed to build on her research at the University on aluminium oxide as a transparent ceramic barrier coating on polymeric web materials, such as polypropylene. The company had already supported Carolin during this PhD project at the University.

Aluminium oxide can be used as a barrier layer against water vapour and oxygen, which can permeate through polymer packaging material and spoil the food product inside. An ultra-thin aluminium oxide layer is sufficient to protect the food for many times longer than the untreated polymer. As a transparent material, it also allows the consumer to view the product and being non-metallic, it is suitable for use in the microwave.

Modern day packaging is a complex process. The KTP Associate developed all the stages necessary to take this research from the laboratory to a commercially viable process for food packaging. This involved developing processes for:

Bobst are now able to market this product as a product that can be used by businesses to package foods.

Benefits to the company

Bobst now have an innovative new packaging product to take to market which provides more effective food packaging,  improves shelf life and reduces costs and waste. The company gained

‘We highly recommend Manchester Met as an institution to collaborate with’

Nick Copeland, Director of R&D at Bobst said “Bobst would strongly recommend Manchester Metropolitan University as an institution to work with on a KTP or another collaborative project.

“We have had good supervisory support from the team involved in the KTP, and the research was also awarded ‘outstanding’ by Innovate UK. The project has also led to the development of another KTP.”

Benefits to the academic

‘Bobst sells to a worldwide market and so there are wide possibilities for this product.’

Dr Carolin Struller said: “The aluminium oxide coating can be produced on a modified metallizer and thus results in versatility as one machine can be used for two processes, opaque aluminium metallization and transparent aluminium oxide coating, without compromise. Bobst sells to a worldwide market and so there are wide possibilities for this product.”