The Brescia Milk Depot, an Italian milk producer based in Brescia, is using an innovative packaging solution to help it serve the needs of a narrow, yet important, customer segment—the visually impaired.
Responding to a request in the fall of 2005 from the Italian Association for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, the Milk Depot embarked on a plan to add expiration dates in Braille to its milk products.
According to Milk Depot CEO Andrea Bartolozzi, the challenge fit well with the Milk Depot’s overall approach to business because the new initiative was consistent with the company’s goal to be socially responsible as well as profitable.
That desire to balance good business with social responsibility led the Milk Depot to a hot-melt adhesive solution. TheNordson (www.nordson.com) Braille adhesive application system was implemented at the Milk Depot in the November 2007. Featuring a three-module Nordson e.dot® gun, the Braille adhesive application system also incorporates a specially developed electronic Braille pattern controller and a Nordson adhesive melter.
When considering adding Braille to heat-shrink labels on its milk bottles, the Milk Depot had a choice of three technologies: embossing, UV-curable ink, or hot-melt adhesive. The company chose the hot-melt adhesive solution from Nordson because it could best support the Milk Depot’s production challenges.
"Technically speaking, the biggest challenge had to do with the fact that the Braille characters can’t be preprinted on the package," Bartolozzi explains. "They must be printed on the [filled, sleeved] bottles at speeds [from 9,000] to 12,000 bottles per hour."
Milk Depot applies the coding to 0.5-L and 1-L sleeved bottles of milk. The single line of Braille—actually three dots high in the 2x3-dot cell that makes up each character—is applied on a side panel below copy that explains the code. The expiration code is applied in day/month/year format.
A staggered three-module e.dot gun—one module for each line—each applies a single Braille code letter consisting of up to six dots.
The Nordson Braille application can accurately apply a 0.5-mm-high Braille code at line speeds up to 100 ft/min while delivering accurate dot patterns and minimizing adhesive stringing or tailing. This is made possible by a ball and nozzle/seat design in the e.dot electric gun that provides excellent repeatability, pattern control, and consistency.
The Nordson solution also easily integrated into the existing Milk Depot production line, helping to minimize start up time and cost. The Braille coder is located on the line between the Milk Depot’s sleever and a multipacker that produces 12-count, shrink-film trays.
The line operates for 16 hours daily.
The glue used is a standard hot-melt adhesive supplied by Beardow & Adams (www.beardowadams.com) in the U.K.
After the initial rollout in Brescia-area stores, the company began expanding the availability of the Braille expiration on products sold throughout the Lombardia region of Italy.
By incorporating Braille into its packaging, the Milk Depot is demonstrating leadership in the food industry. Until now, the use of Braille on packaging has been limited to the pharmaceutical industry. Adoption of Braille in packaging has been driven by a European Union directive that as of 2005 has required any pharmaceutical company selling products in Europe to use Braille to communicate the name of medicinal products, the proper strength, and whether the product is appropriate for babies, children, and/or adults. Although U.S. regulations lag in this area, U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies must develop and implement a Braille solution if they are to retain access to the large European marketplace.