3M Hillington is a global leader in the production of high performance label solutions. Philip Yorke talked to Dominic Meina, business development manager West Europe, about the company’s move into new market segments and the latest innovative products to be launched at Labelexpo Europe in September.
Global brands don’t come much bigger than 3M with a turnover approaching $30 billion, over 80,000 employees and a sales presence in more than 200 countries worldwide. Performance Labels is a growing division of the 3M Group and serves a wide range of markets from the automotive sector, to electronics, white goods, healthcare, general industrial and the print and graphics industries. 3M was founded in Minnesota in 1902, but it wasn’t until 1951 that the company became firmly established in the UK in Bracknell, Berkshire. 3M Hillington was subsequently established as the result of the acquisition of Smith & McLaurin’s speciality Performance Label business which has proved to be a very sound strategic move. The acquisition placed 3M in a stronger position to meet the increasing demands of its European customers for a wider range of high-performance labelling solutions. Today the Converter Markets and Materials Division (CMMD) of 3M in the UK, based at Hillington near Glasgow, provides a broad portfolio of pressure-sensitive label products and advanced thermal transfer and laser printing applications. This is in addition to labels requiring speciality combinations of materials, topcoats and adhesives. Furthermore, 3M Hillington has advanced technical and laboratory capabilities supporting converter-driven product development, global 3M Performance Label manufacturing facilities and OEMs. This is especially important for converters supplying OEMs manufacturing automobiles, computers, mobile phones where the product identification system is required to be durable for the lifetime of the product.
New products, new patents
At the forthcoming Labelexpo trade fair in September, expect to see many new, ground-breaking CMMD products. One of the many reasons for the success of the performance labels division is its business model where the company works closely with converters to ensure customers get what they need when they need it. Meina said, “With the 3M Performance Label business we have an accelerated growth platform that offers significant manufacturing capabilities globally, with factories located in key markets such as Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the US. There is a need for large OEMs to have international partners such as 3M for their challenging global requirements. At Labelexpo this year we are showcasing an entirely new range of products for the electronics industry designed for use as screen protective overlaminates. These will be the next generation of performance overlaminating films for the mobile, hand-held industry offering exceptional optical clarity and removability.” Meina added, “At Labelexpo we will also show new adhesives developed for the automotive industry where the trend towards using composite plastics to reduce weight and therefore improve vehicle efficiency makes it difficult for labels to stick. We have developed new adhesives just for this application but are finding new applications in security and RFID all the time. In addition, our performance labels are used in premium market sectors such as the pharmaceuticals industry where speciality paper labels are used for labelling ampoules. The 3M adhesives are used to adhere to the ampoules where silicone is used as a slip agent to avoid scratching as the ampoules go through the filling lines. “Also at Labelexpo we plan to show novel thermal transfer printed systems where high resilience to attack by chemicals and solvents is required. We will also have displayed for the flexographic printing industry the latest 3M Cushion Mount flexo plate mounting tapes with various foam densities with our featured ‘air escape’ microchanneled liner which allows bubble-free application. “At 3M Hillington the focus is very much on working closely with our clients to meet not only the challenges of today, but also those of tomorrow. It may come as no surprise therefore that last year alone 3M Company registered 589 patents for new products, in addition to the 45,000 already in existence.”
Meeting the challenges of miniaturisation
The range of performance labels available from 3M is almost infinite, with wide-ranging technological innovations being employed to meet the fastmoving challenges of manufacturing industries. 3M’s unique expertise in tape and adhesive technology provides an array of resources for manufacturers and meets the unique bonding challenges posed by the increasing demands of products and substrates. Many of these new tape solutions will also be exhibited at Labelexpo. 3M company provides a value-added service that offers customers a superior, dedicated facility for design applications as well as engineering support solutions to meet today’s toughest industry challenges.