Gidue managing director Federico d'Annunzio says narrow web converters need to extend their capabilities
The primary goal of any industry is to achieve high productivity along with high quality. When too many converters achieve this combination, over-capacity, price pressure and the emergence of low priced foreign competition results.
Up to the early 1990s, the traditional method of producing high quality labels was by rotary letterpress, typically 200-250mm wide. Those presses generally sold for €700,000-€800,000 at today’s rates and operated at 40-60m/min. With the advent of UV flexo printing, this has changed dramatically.
UV flexo presses are now available in widths up to 830mm and operating at 100m/min with equal quality. A complete flexo printing and converting system can now be purchased for €300,000-€400,000. In just the past two to three years we have seen the emergence of entry level presses offering satisfactory quality for as low as €200,000-€300,000.
When the level of investment for a label press is reduced by one third and the level of productivity is doubled, the future of the pressure sensitive label industry becomes alarmingly clear. Over-capacity has caused a spate of consolidations through purchases and mergers, closure of many companies, shortening and narrowing of the supply chain and, overall, a buyers’ market syndrome. Only extremely well organized companies will survive.
Understanding the need for companies to reduce costs in a highly competitive market, we have re-designed our standard Flower printing head. Customers taking delivery of new Gidue presses with the UNI- Flower print head, who have previously invested in other press types and print cylinders, will be able to use those same cylinders on their Gidue print heads – significantly reducing tooling costs and inventory.
We also provide many ancillary options to broaden converting capabilities. These include rotary screen combination printing, lamination, hot and cold foil blocking, automated unwind and rewind systems, cutting and creasing modules, sleeve capability, accurate plate mounting equipment, quick change print heads, and operator friendly wash-up equipment.
Converters must adopt the ‘global packaging’ concept to survive and grow their business. In short, they must broaden their portfolio to meet the needs of today’s brand packaging managers. There is no single pressure sensitive label printing and converting method that has distinct advantages over others. The same applies across the range of packaging. A variety of decorating techniques will be demanded to launch new products, to ‘revitalize’ existing brands, for regional promotions, variable data and more.
Here there is an opportunity for the narrow web converter. The pressure sensitive label industry is the most complex and technically advanced in the entire graphic arts market. No one is using such a wide range of decorating techniques as today’s label producer – offset, flexo, UV flexo, silk screen, letterpress, die cutting, perforating, punching, embossing, foiling, rewinding, folding, sheeting, hologram and security devices – all in one pass in-line.
Sheet-fed printing is mainly offset litho, while flexible packaging is usually wide web flexo or gravure. Carton printing is mainly offset or gravure with off-line converting processes and high work in progress. UV flexo printing is a relatively new technology and has been used with wide success only in the narrow web world. The non label packaging industry has only a superficial knowledge of this process.
The consolidated know-how and the distinctive advantages of UV flexo in productivity, quality, unit cost, ease of use, consistency, and adhesion against other printing methods give an excellent opportunity for market penetration in the global packaging arena.
Narrow web converters must be aware of the opportunity they have within their grasp. We see opportunities for growth in the carton market, in the flexible packaging market, in special substrate construction converting and in the traditional sheet-fed offset market. Highly profitable and undiscovered niche markets need to be exploited.
Narrow web converters can also use their skills in UV flexo to penetrate the flexible packaging market where shorter runs, just in time deliveries and other negative forces are working against the wide web converter. The exceptional level of skills in quick change-over developed by label printers will become extremely useful in the wide web environment.
Mid web, 500 to 830mm wide flexo printing will provide the most important growth area for the flexible packaging industry and to foresee this we developed our Unipro series of presses. With their launch at drupa 2004, we are anticipating the needs of both the flexible packaging industry and the folding carton provider.
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