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News from the world of flexo printing

Digital driving across the USA

A recent Flexographic Technical Association survey of prepress trade shops across North America indicated that use of digital plates is on the rise. Today, 15.8 per cent of customers serviced by these flexo prepress providers were said to insist on digital technology – within five years, 53.2 per cent of all plates produced are expected to be in digital format

Currently, 93.7 per cent of those surveyed make conventional photopolymer plates, and 44 per cent make digital photopolymer plates. The majority of plates produced – 84.2 per cent – are manufactured using conventional, analogue technology. Most members of the sample audience said they expected their ratio of digital to conventional plates to change.

On average, respondents predicted that their ratio of digital to conventional plate usage will change over the next two years to 31.3 per cent digital and 68.7 per cent conventional. In five years, the projected ratio was 53.2 per cent digital to 46.8 per cent conventional. The majority – 85.7 per cent – also pointed to a trend toward higher line screens and cited a gradual move toward 200 lpi.

Half of those sampled admitted to having experienced intensive competitive pressures in the past year. They said economic uncertainties were driving cost concerns and spawning a number of initiatives designed to maximize efficiencies. Reliance on adoption and implementation of measurement tools, particularly FTA’s Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) programme, were found to be commonplace.

The majority of prepress providers who commented on sales trends reported that even in a slow economy, business was on the rise. Even in 2002, many claimed that sales growth will come in at between 10 and 15 per cent. The least optimistic pointed to slow, steady growth of 5-10 per cent.

More information from: Robert J Moran, FFTA – TEL: +1 631 737 6020 ext. 17. EMAIL: rmoran@flexography.org

Inspection solution debuts

The eight colour Mark Andy 2200 flexo press at Daventry, UK, based Multi Labels marks the world debut of First Vision Solutions – an advanced auto register and quality monitoring system . This is claimed to enable the press to keep “near perfect” register from start to finish of a job. It also automatically marks the web whenever print deviates from a master copy stored in the computer memory.

Additional features of the system due to come on-line soon are network links for office based production control parameters, avoiding shopfloor keyboard use, also full computer reports for customers, and management reports for post run analysis of job data. Future plans include the ability to scan bar codes ‘on the fly’ at normal run speeds, to offer 99.99 per cent ‘Grade A’ scans to every label.

Multi Labels director Roger Monk confirms the system is already proving itself with material savings and inter-station print register to within 40 micron. “This is unknown in rotary flexo and gives peace of mind to the printer and superb clarity to the label,” he enthuses. “Our decision to buy this combination will allow us to print to standards few others could hope to achieve.”

More information from: Mary Sullivan, Mark Andy – TEL: +1 636 532 4433. EMAIL: msullivan@markandy.com

Proofer mimics press

RK Print Coat’s new FlexiProof 100 sample preparation system is said to simulate accurately flexo printing for all prepress applications, including computer colour matching and customer samples, quality control and printability testing.

This compact benchtop system eliminates the need for pilot runs on presses and enables the user to set standard test procedures. It can be used to determine wear and scratch resistance, flexibility, gloss and other parameters.

Main components of the FlexiProof 100 are identical to a standard flexo press – yet it occupies a bench space of just 55 x 45cm. Top speed is 100m/min, and there is a swing-in doctor blade with safety cover, a quick change ceramic or steel anilox, and a photopolymer printing plate.

The system handles a standard substrate size of 105 x 297mm, with a print area of up to 240 x 75mm.

More information from: Tom Kerchiss, RK Print Coat – TEL: +44 (0)1763 852187. EMAIL: sales@rkprint.com WEBSITE: www.rkprint.com

Flexo forums flourish

Comco’s latest ‘Educator Seminar’ was a two-day event for carton and flexible packaging converters, and label printers. Held at the company’s Milford facility, near Cincinnati, it attracted over 250 visitors from around the world.

“We are thrilled with the success of the seminars,” says national sales manager Denny McGee. “The goal is to provide a venue for buyers, printers and other industry folk to obtain knowledge and information not readily found in other forums. If we can provide industry partners with some of the key ingredients to manage their businesses better, it’s a win, win situation for all of us!”

On both days Comco technicians performed live set-ups, makereadies, press runs, and change-overs for a line-up of folding carton and flexible packaging jobs on one of the company’s 22in ProGlide MSP lines. Delegates also had the opportunity to visit tabletop exhibits that ranged from prepress and plate making to UV curing and magnetic tolling/cylinders.

John Eulich, president of Comco parent Mark Andy, promises: “We look forward to continuing this vital and progressive educational format to the packaging industry.”

More information from: Mary Sullivan, Mark Andy – TEL: +1 636 532 4433. EMAIL: msullivan@markandy.com

Uteco unveils Amethyst press

Launched at a recent ‘open-house’ in Verona, Uteco’s Amethyst eight colour CI press is designed for “top quality production” and rapid job changes.

It has an on-board sleeve change system, for both plate cylinders and ceramic aniloxes, will accept print sleeve mandrels of different diameters, and is claimed to provide the best print quality.

The design features elimination of hydraulics and use of the latest AC vector drive systems. A hand-held controller allows the main operations and adjustments to be effected from a remote position while the press is running.

If required, the machine can be fitted with Uteco’s automatic wash-up system.

The Amethyst is available in web widths up to 1,650mm. Its top speed is 300m/min.

More information from: Alan Attard, Eurograv – TEL: +44 (0)1932 336262. EMAIL: alan@eurograv.co.uk WEBSITE: www.eurograv.com

Simpson’s second Gallus

Simpson Label Co has installed a second Gallus EM 410 UV flexo line at its plant near Edinburgh. The eight colour machine mirrors its 1998 predecessor: “To provide us with contingency support, enable us to continue to improve our production efficiencies, and cater for the growing volume of quality work being attracted by our UV flexo facility,” according to managing director David Hedley.

Both presses are running on double-day shift operation.

The new machine is fitted with an Arcotec corona treater, Teknek web cleaner, two die cutting stations, an oil heated hot foil unit, matrix waste removal, free standing rewind, auto register control, BST web video and break detector, and full GEW Nuva UV/hot air drying. It joins Simpson’s suite of 10 presses that include rotary letterpress, rotary screen, hot foiling and embossing, and digital technology, in addition to UV flexo.

The company, a subsidiary of the Dutch NSD Labelling Group, has customers in the health and beauty markets, beverages, pharmaceuticals, higher end food products and the liquor trade. Its entry of a whisky label clinched a ‘Gold’ at last year’s EFTA International Awards. The winning label, for Pinwinnie Royale Scotch Whisky (pictured), was produced on the Gallus in six colours plus a varnish, on a metallized paper stock.

More information from: Gallus Group UK – Tel: +44 (0)1763 242244. www.gallus.ch

Edale advance in France

UK based manufacturer Edale reports the installation over 20 of its flexo presses in France since agent Euro-Graphique took on the company’s representation in that country.

One of the customers is label printer DIMA which, last year, moved to new premises near Caen, and took delivery of an Edale Beta press. Owner-manager Claude Quentric reveals: “We finally narrowed our choice down to three manufacturers – all offering excellent presses at comparable prices. The Beta seemed to have the edge in terms of print quality and, above all, speed of cylinder change, which is a key factor for us.”

At the opposite end of the country, near Avignon, another label printer, Go-Stick, has invested in a different Edale press, the Alpha. Go-Stick specializes in short runs, and owner Patrick Goddi confirms: “That’s what our Alpha is designed for – we don’t want to take on the major label printers”.

Back in the UK, a further Alpha has gone to Bond Labels, in Basildon – the company’s second Alpha within a few months – and Edale recently sold yet another of this model to Vest Pack, a label printer located in the Faroe Islands.

More information from: James Boughton, Edale – TEL: +44 (0)1794 524422. EMAIL: james@edale.co.uk

Ink pumping free from foam

An ink pump that reduces air bubbles in flexo printing inks has been introduced by Printco UK.

The FoamFree pump is said to be suitable for both solvent and water based inks, as well as all varnish coatings. Tests of pre-foamed ink are claimed to have improved their density from 64 to 97 per cent in just 10min.

The new pump can be installed quickly and easily, says Printco.

More information from: Bob Snedker, Printco – TEL: +44 (0)1327 811114. EMAIL: rs@printco.powernet.co.uk

Ten colour gearless

The first Tachys F10G gearless 10 colour flexo press has been sold to Toronto based Winpak Technologies. Developed from Flexotecnica’s eight colour Tachys model, the F10G has a monobloc base and side frame structure supporting a double walled steel drum with a 2.4m diameter. This size provides a print repeat up to 750mm while maintaining a relatively low profile print section.

More information from: Stella Govette – Engelmann & Buckham – TEL: +44 (0)1420 82421. EMAIL: sgovette@buckham.co.uk

Return on Rotatek

Spanish label converter Gráficas Tenerife, has installed a six colour Rotatek Newflex 330 flexo press. The company counts on a quick return on its investment, since the new press can handle a variety of jobs. Modular construction permits use of units for delam-relam, hot and cold stamping, silkscreen, and rotary die cutting. Top speed is 150m/min, and maximum web width 350 mm.

More information from: Santi Garcia-Cascon Rotatek – TEL: +34 936 745 250. EMAIL: sgarcia@rotatek.com

Masterclass meets the challenge

EFTA has created a new method of training and development for its members. Earlier this year it brought people with a range of disciplines together in its first Master Class training programme, which had one main objective – taking a concept from design to print.

In less than three days, the course – led by group of experts – enabled delegates to explore the stages of conceptual design, reprographics, plate making, mounting and printing. More importantly it was designed to allow them to evaluate how each stage impacted on the end result, and to demonstrate the effect of reprographic decisions on the final outcome.

The programme started at Connect Digital Imaging, in Bury, where two teams were formed with a brief to design a printed cover for the new EFTA Training Manual. The key element was to keep the design simple and at all times think about its application in the production process.

At the end of the first day, both groups’ designs were discussed and the delegates as a whole chose one to go forward to the next stage. With the teams now merged as one with a chosen design, day two involved the creation of a reprographic brief and approval of both a proof and negative films. The group then travelled to BASF for the plate making stage, when it explored how to take the design apart (focusing on details of colour separation, grips, bleeds and screen ruling) and then restructuring it to maximize press efficiency.

After using EFTA’s own FACE CDs to demonstrate plate making, the group was required to complete several tests and discuss the results. BASF then produced the plates, which were mounted by JM Heaford.

Day three was spent printing on the Solaflex machine at Coates Lorilleux, where the delegates were able to witness the final product of their labours. This final session was tackled in two stages.

First the print from conventional plates was made, with the group considering factors such as ink viscosity, density and dot gain. Stage 2 was to evaluate the print results from a set of plates produced by EFTA’s experts using the same design. A comparison of both approaches raised a number of important points in how the delegates could improve the efficiency of printing.

The success of the Master Class was achieved because it gave the delegates a genuine, hands-on insight into each of the stages from design to print and emphasized how decisions taken at every stage have a definitive impact on the final result.

EFTA plans to run more of these Classes in the future.

More information from: Lesley Hide, European Flexographic Technical Association (UK) – TEL: +44 (0)1458 241455. EMAIL: hiding@efta.co.uk WEBSITE: www.efta.co.uk

A new year of training

EFTA has announced its residential training programme for 2003:

FLEXO AWARENESS LEVEL 2: INTERMEDIATE

This course covers the basics of flexo and looks at Inks, Colour, Repro, Aniloxes, Plates and Mounting Tapes. It is presented by experts in each of these fields and culminates in a practical printing day, when the theoretical elements of the course are put into practice. It is suited to people with up to five years’ experience of flexo printing and those associated with the process but not necessarily directly involved in printing.

FLEXO AWARENESS LEVEL 3: ADVANCED

This course builds on the elements studied in the Intermediate course with greater emphasis on fingerprinting and interpreting the results of the Fingerprint Test which the students will perform. It is suited to highly experienced printers, and those associated with reprographics or with a technical role which requires an in-depth understanding of the process.

Both courses take place at the National Print Skills Centre in Leicester. Students are expected to sit an examination at the end of the course to test their knowledge and marks are also awarded for participation in the programme

DATES

LEVEL 2 LEVEL 3

February 18-21 March 11-14

May 13-16 October 7-10

June 24-27

September 9-12

November 11-14

COSTS

Level 2 EFTA Members £700+VAT

Non Members £900+VAT

Level 3 EFTA Members £850+VAT

Non Members £1,100+VAT

Course fees include all tuition, course materials, hotel accommodation and meals.

To learn more contact Les Taylor, EFTA technical and training manager, on +44 (0)1458 241455. Email les@efta.co.uk

More information from: Lesley Hide, European Flexographic Technical Association (UK) – TEL: +44 (0)1458 241455. EMAIL: hiding@efta.co.uk WEBSITE: www.efta.co.uk

Learn about Lean Manufacturing

EFTA has launched a new programme of seminars and workshops focused on helping members achieve cost savings by working towards World Class manufacturing status through the adoption of Lean Manufacturing techniques.

An introductory seminar explaining the concept and the tools available to manufacturers to implement Lean Manufacturing techniques in the flexo industry will be held at the Woodside Training Centre at Kenilworth on December 2, 2003. Two workshops explaining the tools and techniques together with how to implement the programme will be held on January 8 and 15, 2003.

Lesley Hide, managing director of the EFTA, will be leading the programme together with Dr John Thomas, who has worked widely in the print and packaging industry introducing similar programmes.

For more information contact Lesley Hide at EFTA on +44 (0)1458 241455. Email hiding@efta.co.uk.

More information from: Lesley Hide, European Flexographic Technical Association (UK) – TEL: +44 (0)1458 241455. EMAIL: hiding@efta.co.uk WEBSITE: www.efta.co.uk