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R3d: the polymer bubbles that have the world fizzing with excitement

An interview with Miguel Pinhero, CEO of the Portuguese R3D company which has developed an original packaging solution made up of polymer bubbles.
R3d: the polymer bubbles that have the world fizzing with excitement
R3d: the polymer bubbles that have the world fizzing with excitement


Padded envelopes are not new. What improvements have you made to this technology?

It is true that we did not invent the concept. However, we have considerably improved on it. We want to give this product a higher-end image so that it can better serve the communication efforts of those companies that use them, much like what has been done for cosmetics.

It is the same idea as that behind cosmetics bottles. We had to develop a specific machine in order to achieve the level of quality that we desired.

R3D has been around for several decades. What is its story? 

We were originally a textile company. Like many European companies in that industry, we had to cope with increasing competition from Asia. We quickly realised that we would never be able to produce at a similar price. We had to react to this turn of events. So that is what we did around twenty years ago by delving into the polymer conversion market. We came up with the idea of creating sunshades to be placed on car dashboards to insulate them from the heat for when the car is  parked. We also thought that they would make ideal advertising media. We created a material made up of two bonded layers: the first is a recycled polymer (polyethylene or polypropylene) and serves to form the air bubbles, the second is aluminised PET. It was, and still is, quite an achievement. The material was perfectly developed and mastered in our workshops. We then came up with the idea of extending our range by adapting it for use in packaging.



What benefits does this type of packaging offer?

There are many: the bubbles absorb any impacts and thus protect the contents; they also have isothermal properties which guarantee that temperature is maintained to a certain extent. Aluminised PET perfectly reflects light and captures heat. It is also particularly pleasing to the eye and almost anything can be printed onto it. Its intrinsic properties and its high-end appearance have caught the attention of many customers, and particularly in the fields of cosmetics and wines and spirits. Finally, this new material is tear-proof, and therefore very resistant, which is crucial for packaging transported by post or courier.

What is your environmental policy?

It is very important since the polyethylene and propylene used to manufacture the bubbles come from recycled resins. We also have a very extensive waste management policy. All of our products are designed to generate the least waste possible, and any waste is collected and re-processed in our own facilities as our material is 100% recyclable. We sometimes also provide waste management services to partner companies.



All of our inks have an eco-label. Finally, we have our own solar power plant comprising 2,500 solar panels. It provides a large proportion of the electricity that we need. Our aim is to limit our carbon footprint to the greatest extent possible, a matter which we consider of utmost importance.

What are your latest innovations and your projects?

We are always looking to evolve . We recently started selling isothermal boxes for transporting goods at controlled temperatures. We have also implemented a new and more advanced printing technology aimed at making an entry  into the luxury market which demands irreproachable quality in all its products. It is fortunate that aluminised PET perfectly absorbs inks and therefore lets us create perfectly-crafted details.

We are currently continuing our work on the isothermal boxes as it is a very promising market on which we have to be able to offer a full range of products suited to all needs. In short, our policy is one of continuous improvement of all steps of the production process.



Finally, how are your products distributed?

First of all, I should mention that all our products are manufactured in Portugal. Our customers are primarily located in Europe, but we are always on the lookout for new markets on other continents as this type of packaging has not yet reached maturity throughout the world. Growth can still be leveraged in many places. Our development strategy is based on local distributors.

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