Packaging for retail-oriented products and agricultural chemicals was well represented in this year's Flexible Packaging Association awards competition (see stories on p. 40 and p. 58). Rounding out the list of FPA winners were three entries that had little in common except relying on innovative combinations of materials to get its products to market. The most unusual of the three and certainly the largest is the foil/polyester bag (1) used by Heller Industries of Florham Park NJ to protect convection reflow ovens. These large ovens used to manufacture printed circuit boards and costing more than $50 each are at least 6' x 5' x 10'. Heller ships 400 to 500 of them globally each year via air or ocean freight. If these units are not protected from moisture and condensation they begin to corrode which leads to costly service calls for replacement of damaged components. Until last year Heller protected its ovens with low-density polyethylene films containing a volatile corrosion inhibitor (VCI). This additive causes a chemical reaction that prevents corrosion but only for a limited period. "We were getting numerous complaints from customers abroad concerning moisture retention that led to corrosion and damage" says Heller traffic manager Reynold Brown. The VCI films also were too labor intensive adds Brown. Supplied in rolls they had to be cut into pieces that were then laid out on the floor and taped together before being draped around the ovens. The wrapped ovens were then packed in wooden crates. Now used in place of the VCI films are the FPA award-winning premade bags supplied by LPS Industries (Moonachie NJ). LPS makes the bags from laminated rollstock it receives from an unnamed converter in Europe. The rollstock structure is 48-ga polyester/extruded LDPE/ .005-mil foil/HDPE. For each bag LPS workers cut four sheets from the roll and use a handheld clamp-style heat-seal device to seal four sheets together. These become the sidewalls of the bag and a fifth sheet becomes the top. Bottom sheets are shipped to Heller separately. At Heller the first step in the packaging process is placement of a bottom sheet on the bottom of the wooden shipping crate. An operator then puts four bolts through holes in the crate bottom and through the foil-based sheet. A caulk-like tape is added to the area of the sheet where the bolts penetrate so that an air-tight barrier is assured. Next the oven is lowered by fork truck and secured to the bolts in the crate floor by O-rings and wing nuts. Then the premade bag is lowered over the oven manually and heat-sealed to the bottom sheet again by means of the clamp-style tool. When three sides are sealed and moisture-absorbing desiccant packs have been added an operator inserts a vacuum hose that evacuates ambient air inside the bag and oven. This minimizes the amount of oxygen present thus reducing the possibility of condensation forming on the oven as it undergoes temperature fluctuations during an overseas journey. The evacuation is not total however because that would cause the material to cling too tightly and possibly tear on a sharp edge. Before the premade bags became available it took Heller 50 to 60 minutes to prepare an oven for shipment. Now it takes 15. The overall appearance is improved too generating higher customer satisfaction. And the cost? "These bags are competitive" says Brown. "They may be 10 percent more than what we used before but the payback is tenfold. We haven't received a single customer complaint since switching."