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Converting Today recently caught up with Aviv Ratzman, chief executive and co-founder of Highcon, the Israel-based manufacturer behind the Euclid digital cutting and creasing machine

Three years on from helping form the company, Ratzman talks Drupa, commercial availability and the manufacturer’s strategy for the future.

CONVERTING TODAY: Following the highly successful launch of the Highcon Euclid at Drupa, what remains to be done to bring it to market? When can we expect to see productive installations?

AVIV RATZMAN: The launch of the Euclid was very successful, and for a small, new company we received a lot of attention. The machine reliably performed digital cutting and creasing demonstrations several times a day throughout the show. This demonstrated that it was a machine nearly ready for market, resulting in us receiving a number of signed letters of intent.

Beta tests are continuing as the Euclid is put through its paces. At Highcon, production is under way and we are on course for deliveries to our first customers in early 2013.

CT: The concept of digital finishing is a new one, and converters tend to be pretty traditional and cautious. How is Highcon going to persuade them that investment in such new technology is a good idea?

AR: Almost every converter we’ve spoken to has told us about the increasing demand they face for short run, on-demand packaging from their customers. Up to now, such orders were fulfilled with very narrow margins, even at a loss. With the demand for targeted segmentation rising all the time, the Highcon Euclid offers a cost-effective means to save time and money, and meet these demands profitably.

While the Euclid is a wholly new concept, it is built on proven technologies. Laying down polymers and curing them with UV is well established, as is the use of high powered laser cutting. It is Highcon’s digital, direct-to-pack concept that is a wholly new approach: separating the cutting and creasing functionality into two processes to leverage the technologies and enabling maximum flexibility, responsiveness and efficiency.

CT: What’s the target market for the Euclid? Isn’t it really for niche applications?

AR: If you look at the trends in the converting sector, you will see that they are similar to those in commercial print: shorter runs, faster turnarounds, more design changes, plus the pressure on margins, and the need for on-demand production. These trends apply to all converters.

By eliminating the need for die making, the Euclid can turn jobs up to 10,000 sheets that aren’t profitable into jobs that are. Since the Euclid is process independent, it can do that whether the folding carton is printed flexo, litho, gravure or digital, and enables converting on demand.

For converters, being able to offer time saving, cost-effective, on-demand converting can stimulate the market for short run folding cartons and bring new customers into the market. For example, for small local manufacturers and retailers, high quality folding cartons are now feasible, enabling them to compete against large enterprises on the shelf.

CT: Can you talk us through the timings of creasing and cutting on the Highcon Euclid?

AR: The Euclid accepts package files in a standard DXF format. Using that data, setting up the DART (Digital Adhesive Rule Technology) takes minutes. The exact time will depend on the length of the crease line, but is about 15 minutes.

Once the DART has been set up and UV cured (3 minutes), the sheets move through the system at the rate of 1,500sph for a B1 sheet; 3,000sph for a B2 size sheet.

CT: Apart from the efficiency savings, what are the other advantages offered by the Highcon Euclid?

AR: Converters will have different objectives, but two elements are very important: first, the Euclid offers new creative opportunities that are more affordable and cost-effective. Laser cutting enables more sophisticated design elements and allows security elements to be added, including markings, partial cutting or burning serial numbers.

Secondly, with the Euclid, converters can save time and money at every stage of the process. Remaking a DART to accommodate late changes or correct errors takes minutes, and overall labour costs are also reduced.

CT: In what ways do you see the folding carton market developing in the near to mid-term?

AR: No matter how the economy performs, brand-owners will act very competitively. Product differentiation and pressure on margins will drive converters to change their methods of pricing and production but packaging isn’t going away.

Highon CEO Aviv Ratzman: “New creative opportunities” Aviv Ratzman

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