21 April 2020

Spotlight on release liner supplier Loparex: Ian Grace discusses his career in PSAs and engaging in Europe’s Industry collective


He has been a speaker at numerous Conferences and technical events, and he has served as Vice Chairman of Afera’s Technical Committee for a number of years already. But Ian Grace took on another layer of responsibility in October 2017 when he was voted into Afera’s Steering Committee by the General Assembly in Turin. Mr. Grace, who was educated as a chemist and has been working in pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) tapes for 30 years, opened up to Afera Secretary General Astrid Lejeune about his company, his career and how both of those have come together in Afera.

Where does Loparex fit into the value chain?
With its Netherlands operation based in Apeldoorn, Loparex B.V. is a world leader in the production of release liners for a wide variety of applications. The Apeldoorn facility’s specialty is poly-coated kraft papers (PCKs), which are coveted for their occlusivity, good lay-flat and moisture resistance. PCKs are also the release liner of choice for applications in which the PSA needs some form of structure for repositionability or air egress. One such application is car, bus and train-wrapping, for which modern digital printing allows us to change colour weekly or serve as a moving advertisement.

“Until Infiana was taken over, the adhesive tape market in the U.S. was more our focus of supply, so Loparex is relatively new to Afera,” Mr. Grace explained. “When I joined Loparex as business development manager nearly 2 years ago, I was able to convince the management team of the advantages of active Membership, not only opening up business opportunities but informing us about E.U. and global issues affecting the Industry.”

Becoming a Member
Mr. Grace’s experience in the PSA industry began in the U.K., where he worked as a development technologist for Rexam Custom Coating. “I was focussed on precursors for advanced wound care, including the modification of acrylic PSAs for increased breathability or lower trauma,” Mr. Grace recalled. Among other roll-to-roll precursors, Rexam also produced window protection film of which the adhesion level had to be guaranteed along with optical clarity and UV resistance.

“Although Afera has Members in the U.K., I learned about the Association after moving over to the Continent, but I didn’t get the opportunity to join until taking over the role of market application engineer from Rudi Bohndorf at Mondi,” Mr. Grace reminisced. “The first event I attended was Afera’s Annual Conference held in Madrid in 2012, when I immediately joined the Technical Committee.” Since joining and participating actively in Afera’s projects and events, he said has developed a greater understanding of the tapes industry as a whole and gained easy access to key players across Europe and even in Asia and the U.S.

Engaging in the Industry collective
“Within Afera, there is a careful level of openness which gives you the opportunity to sound out an idea or initiate a project or collaboration with a supplier or customer,” said Mr. Grace, who has worked with other Members who are suppliers to Loparex, co-suppliers to the Industry, machine builders and customers. “And if you are happy to stand in front of an audience, it is also a great place to bring a new project, product, process or topic formally to the Industry.” He added that Afera’s event programmes are not limited to science and technology; they include many presentations on management, strategy, workforce, the environment and future/forward thinking. “There is a lot squeezed into those 2 events per year.”

Another aspect of the industry collective that Mr. Grace appreciates is something he says is not gained but rather “not lost”. “Afera helps us to steer away from regulatory disasters, keeping us informed of the changes to come and how to keep up with them, and challenging them when necessary.” In the future, Afera’s support in public affairs will grow significantly in importance.

On joining the Steering Committee
“It was an honour to be nominated to join the SC,” Mr. Grace related. “As part of a small, highly respected team, we are taking decisions which determine the Association’s course over the next 5 years, and this in turn helps guide the European tape industry in taking decisions about their own futures. As Evert [Afera President] says, we are all in this business together.” According to Mr. Grace, the SC Members are intelligent and motivated industry experts who “luckily are not always in agreement”, but everyone is heard and taken seriously, “and then we move forward. It is the most professional and selfless team I have worked with.”

“Although a single answer does not suffice when thinking about what I have gotten out of my association with Afera, I would say that building friendships with suppliers, customers and even competitors has been really enriching,” reflected Mr. Grace. “I have also had the opportunity to challenge and better myself, such as when I presented a paper at the Global Adhesive Tape Summit to over 300 of my international peers.”

Looking to the future, Mr. Grace thinks Afera will continue take its events, such as the Technical Seminar and Tape College, both of which he has supported in organising, and its communications tools to a higher level. “I also expect even more collaboration across industry associations of adjacent technologies, such as FINAT and RadTech Europe, and with international counterparts like PSTC.”

Current SC composition

Representing  Company  Candidates Until 
Tape Manufacturer      Lohmann Evert Smit 9/2021
Tape Manufacturer  Nitto Dirk Pittoors  9/2023 
Tape Manufacturer  tesa Reinhard Storbeck  9/2021 
Tape Manufacturer ABI Jacques Geijsen  9/2020 
Tape Manufacturer TBD     TBD  
Converter Egebant            İbrahim Hatipoğlu     9/2021 
Supplier Loparex Ian Grace 9/2020 
Supplier H.B. Fuller      Melanie Ott  9/2020 


If you are or know of an Active Member who is interested in joining Afera’s SC, please contact Afera Secretary-General Astrid Lejeune on +31 70 312 39 16 or send an e-mail here for more details about applying or nominating a candidate. Read Afera’s Statutes here.