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News from the flexo scene

Alternative to solvent inks for PE

A significant breakthrough in water based ink technology for flexo printing on PE film is claimed by Sun Chemical. The company is now offering “a viable and cost effective alternative” to solvent based inks that will allow printers to comply with pending European legislation while printing up to 600m/min.

From October, 2007, the Solvent Emissions Directive will require every printer using more than 15t of solvents/year to either invest in incineration units or find alternatives for 75 per cent of its solvent based print colours. In addition, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive legislates that printing firms using more than 200t of solvents annually must be in possession of a specific environmental certificate and must strictly apply procedures according to “best practice techniques”.

Sun Chemical’s innovation is the use of modified amine soluble resins, which crosslink after they transfer from the press to the substrate, making the inks fully water resistant when dry. Each of the inks – Barracuda, Piranha and Beluga – has been designed for specific applications.

Erik Segers, corporate product manager liquid inks, Sun Chemical Europe, says: “With the European legislation due to be introduced in October, only two real alternatives exist for printers currently using solvent based inks for flexo PE printing: they make a significant investment in incinerating equipment, or they find alternative inks and lacquers.

“With these latest products, we believe we now have a water based PE ink that not only offers printers comparable quality, but significant cost savings over solvent based inks. Water based inks are ideal for smaller printing businesses which do not have the capital to invest in the more costly incinerating equipment. Additionally, unlike the use of incinerators, water based inks will not increase printers’ carbon emissions, which could be taxed in the future to address concerns about global warming,” he warns.

“Early trials suggest the total cost of print could be reduced up to 20 per cent by switching from solvent based to water based ink. However, this could vary depending on a printer’s individual circumstances. The savings would be achieved primarily through the lower cost for emission treatment of the water based ink.”

He concludes: “Together with our Wetflex EB curing ink and UV based flexo printing inks, the new water based inks allow us to support our customers with a range of options that meet the new environmental regulations and help them meet the requirements of the steadily growing PE packaging market.”

F&K pushing up press progress

In a recent event at its Bielefeld headquarters, Fischer & Krecke introduced the Flexpress 46S-1K, “mega press” to an international group of invited guests.

With a printing width of 2,350mm, the huge new press is said to be capable of an extraordinary output while delivering exceptionally high quality print. The job run during the in-house demonstration featured a seven colour expanded gamut print with nine different commercial images at 150 lpi using direct laser engraved in the round continuous sleeves – all printed on 48 gauge film.

The whole demonstration, lasting approximately one hour including splicing, was carried out at 1,000m/min. Guests were invited to watch the press in full production mode, while off-the-reel samples were freely distributed, and are available to interested parties.

A second event in the Uniprint Knauer (formerly UV-Flex) package printing facility in Aichstetten, Germany, presented F&K’s Flexpress 16S Wetflex CI flexo press, engineered for commercial application of Sun Chemical’s WetFlex solvent-free printing process.

This machine has a print width of 1,350mm and repeat lengths of 320-1,050mm. With a mechanical speed rating of 600m/min, it is designed for printing and in-line lamination of foil, film and co-extrusions. An in-line laminating process can apply radiation cured adhesives.

The event at Uniprint also featured presentations by Sun Chemical, developer of the UniQure inks, and Energy Sciences, supplier of the electron beam curing system employed on the Wetflex press.

Orders and installations

Turkey’s SPS Etiket & Ambalaj has installed a second Omet Flexy 330 narrow web press to produce selfadhesive labels at its plant in Istanbul. The new press, which has a similar high specification to the first one, is an eight colour UV flexo line, fitted with a screen print unit, hot and cold foil capability, lamination, delam/relam, and turner bars. It also has a corona treater and web cleaner, video web control and auto register.

Algeria based Flexoprint is the latest North African converter to choose Omet technology for the production of high quality labels demanded by the leading international brand owners among its customers. Fitted with a corona treater, servo driven cooling drums and tension control, the seven colour Flexy line is currently producing jobs on both filmic substrates and light alufoil.

Etipol Printing Technology has delivered its second new Combi press to UK label printer Daymark. A total of 122 Combi label presses have now been supplied to customers across Europe, as well as in Australia, the Middle East, South Africa and America.

Soma Engineering has supplied its first CI press in the UK to Cropac, of Telford. The eight colour Flex Midi 1,320mm web width gearless press was supplied through the Czech Republic based company’s distributor, Engelmann & Buckham. The machine can print solvent based inks on a variety of extensible films at speeds up to 300m/min.

Northern Ireland label printer Label One has installed its fourth Gallus EM 280 narrow web flexo press. Owner and managing director Michael McGarry explains: “By investing in multiple EM 280 presses we avoid job queues because all jobs are interchangeable between the four machines. Whichever finishes first takes the next job and all four keep on rolling because they are built to last.”

More capacity at Apex Italy

Apex Europe Subsidiary Apex Italy has recently expanded its capacity drastically to cope with the “enormous sales growth and the increasing interest of Italian customers”. A new production hall of 900m2 constructed near to the original factory has almost tripled the operation’s production capability.

The new facility is equipped with the latest technology, including an “ultra innovative” plasma spray unit and laser engraving equipment developed by Apex itself.

Advanced Supplies second system

Preston, UK, based flexible packaging printer and converter Sabre Triad has purchased its second Visitech video web inspection system from Advanced Supplies. The first system was installed in 2003, on a six colour Arsoma flexo press running both water and solvent based inks.

This time, the company needed to replace a failing 10 year old inspection system on its four colour Timson flexo press.

“Following our first purchase of a Visitech system, the company had no hesitation in turning to Advanced Supplies when looking for a system for our Timson press,” confirms engineering manager David Smith

“One of the main advantages of the Compact Plus is that the camera and control module are housed together in one unit, making for a very neat and simple installation particularly on a narrow web press where space is limited. It is also very quick and simple to set up and has very user friendly and intuitive on-screen menus.

“In addition to that,” he concludes, “our first Compact Plus system has worked tirelessly without any problems and given our printers an extra level of confidence.”

Packaging prepress simplified

A new Esko JDF workflow installation at repro specialist and flexo plate maker Glatz Klischee, in Bregenz, Austria, is processing jobs through a JDF interface between an Aramis MIS system from QBF and Esko WebCenter and BackStage workflow.

The company’s customers are benefiting from a web portal “Glatz.netpack” that interactively tracks each job through all production steps, from the initial inquiry to final print approval. The result is said to be optimized communication with clients and a secure, fully automated workflow that delivers maximum efficiency.

Manfred Schrattenthaler, general manager of Glatz Klischee, comments: “The key advantages of Esko’s workflow are its uncomplicated handling and ability to establish a clear communication process for all participants. We can ensure that our customers profit from maximum security, error avoidance and transparency, without requiring any additional software.

“By integrating all participants in the packaging production chain, we build a stronger partnership not only with customers and clients, but also with designers in the design phase.”

Project manager Holger Stier adds: “With the help of the WebCenter Viewer, colour separations can be examined, screen rulings measured and versions compared – right down to the last detail.”

UV system suits wide webs

The new water cooled Maxwell WA UV curing system is specially designed for wider web width presses. Manufacturer UV Ray claims iIt provides “top flight curing performance with very low heat on the substrate (especially during stop/start conditions) and with lower energy running costs”.

Available with arc lengths up to 1,700mm and power up to 400W/cm. The water cooled UV processors circulate chilled water through extruded aluminium reflectors and housing components to remove the majority of heat generated by the UV lamps. Surplus heat is removed by a special air duct arrangement, with a carbon filter for ozone to reduce ambient air energy output.

Taking UV to the East

Fusion UV Systems recently hosted two UV curing seminars in Brno and Budapest. Over 100 attendees from Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak Republics participated in the one-day events, whose objective was to provide basic UV knowledge and fundamental process information about various UV curing applications.

Fusion UV presented two papers on the basics, chemistry and physical aspects of UV curing. Dr Eckert, from Arcotec, discussed surface pre-treatment, followed by Lechler Coatings’ Dr Lobert, who presented information about the latest developments in UV clear coats for industrial uses, followed by a paper from Henkel Loctite, about industrial adhesives and application methods.

Papers from George Koch and Ruco Druckfarben covered UV screen printing, and Aurelie Godan, of Akzo Nobel Powder Coatings, discussed recent developments in UV powders. Two papers from Fusion UV Systems about UV lamp techniques, existing installations, and recent projects in 3D curing closed the presentations.

Fusion UV plans to continue with UV seminars in Eastern Europe on a regular basis. The next is planned for Poland in 2008.

MPS and Drent Goebel in co-operation

In a new partnership, Drent Goebel will deliver offset printing towers to MPS for integration in that company’s new narrow UV flexo web label and packaging press lines. MPS says the co-operation is its response to increasing demand for offset print quality in the narrow web label and packaging market.

Eric Hoendervangers, managing director of MPS, says the company believes hybrid technology is the future for label and packaging printing, “not just because of its fantastic flexibility and capability, but the packaging market needs solutions for optimized (brand) colour accuracy, brightness and sharp details. The hybrid printing machine we can now offer will fulfill the required print quality in the shortest possible time and lowest cost price per 1,000 labels,” he claims.

Suppliers partner with Label Traxx

Coating material suppliers Acucote, Technicote, and Spinnaker have partnered with Tailored Solutions to interface with its Label Traxx print business management system for flexo label printers and converters. Their customers can now connect securely and reliably through their Label Traxx software to place orders.

Acucote, Technicote and Spinnaker join rollstock vendors Fasson, Green Bay Packaging, MACtac and UPM Raflatac, all of whom permit ordering through Label Traxx. In addition to entering orders quickly and reliably, Label Traxx users can check shipment status, manage inventory, and automatically receive order details from the vendors.

AKL FlexoTechnik acquired by Stork

German specialist manufacturer of in-the-round flexo sleeves AKL FlexoTechnik has been acquired by The Stork Prints Group. New managing director Edward Scheppink joins the Warburg based company from Stork Prints, where he was commercial manager for sleeve products at the group’s Boxmeer headquarters. Ronald van de Meer, one of AKL’s co-founders has also been appointed technical manager.

Founded in 1990 and now employing 50 staff, AKL supplies a wide range of flexo products to the label and flexible package printing markets. One of its most notable innovations is the OptiFlex thin sleeve, whose compatibility with any photopolymer is said to give customers “the only true open platform that does not restrict the use of a specific polymer material”.

Edward Scheppink comments: “We believe that in-the-round flexo sleeve imaging has enormous potential – especially because of the growth in the flexible packaging market, and the need for seamless-endless printing solutions in combination with laser technology for both LAM (Laser Ablation Mask) and DLE (Direct Laser Engraving). AKL’s expertise in this area will help us find ways to reduce further the cost of ownership of flexography.”

It makes sense

‘Common Sense Flexography,’ by David J Lanska, offers an in-depth examination including everything from process controls and techniques to equipment adjustments and maintenance, environmental and safety concerns, the future of the industry, and more. Case studies, technical tips, and troubleshooting suggestions highlight ideas to help make companies successful.

The author’s 25 years in the flexo industry have given him experience in various maintenance, production, quality assurance, technical service, and sales positions. A regular contributor to flexo special interest publications and a regular speaker at technical conferences, he is currently a member of the FTA’s Environmental and Membership Committees and the FTA Supplier Leadership Council.

‘Common Sense Flexography’ is available for $99 ($75 to PIA/GATF members).

Working towards sleeve standardization

In the summer of 2006, representatives from various sleeve manufacturers joined forces under the umbrella organization of the DFTA to achieve standardization of air cylinders in a common industry wide initiative.

Polywest and rotec have since agreed to combine their standardization efforts. The two companies are now considering the possibility of reducing the great variety of sleeve sizes. They say the definition of preferred sizes on which practical applications concentrate would open up an as yet untapped potential for cost savings within the flexo printing process chain.


Advanced Supplies
Tel: +44 (0) 1257 424231
Apex Italy
Tel: +39 0331 379 063
Drent Goebel
Tel: +31 (0) 313 671 911
Tel: +32 9 216 90 32
Tel: +45 43 52 35 11
Fischer & Krecke
Tel: +49 521 3048 0
Fusion UV Systems
Tel: +1 301 990 8700
Tel: +41 71 282 86 86
Tel: +31 (0) 316 29 12 60
Tel: +39 0341 367513
Tel: +1 412 259 1764
Polywest Kunststofftechnik
Tel: +49 (0) 25 61 93 21 0
Rotec Hülsensysteme
Tel: +49 (0) 25 61 98 26 0
Soma Engineering
Tel: +420 465 350 825
Stork Prints
Tel: +31 485 599 296
Sun Chemical
Tel: +44 (0) 1454 318 850
Tailored Solutions
Tel: +1 414 774 9997
UV Ray
Tel: +39 02 9356 6066

External weblinks
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Advanced Supplies
Apex Italy
Drent Goebel
Fischer & Krecke
Fusion UV Systems
Polywest Kunststofftechnik
Rotec Hülsensysteme
Soma Engineering
Stork Prints
Sun Chemical
Tailored Solutions
UV Ray