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Robin Meade reports from the BPIF Cartons workshop in Germany

For the first time in years, a near balance exists between supply and demand in the UK carton industry and the expectation, despite a recent blip, is that the trend will continue. However, converters are faced with another challenge – to develop the products for which customers will pay more than just a commodity price.

The industry group BPIF Cartons and suppliers, principally press manufacturer KBA with Sun Chemical, Kodak, Bobst, Robert Horne and Merck, championed the call for innovation at a workshop to demonstrate how new products and effects can command a premium.

Some 50 of the UK carton industry’s leading players attended the event at KBA’s demonstration and R&D centres in Radebeul, Germany. On show were a number of jobs run on KBA’s large format sheet-fed and super large format Rapida 205 presses, which included several industry ‘firsts’ through the combination of materials and prepress and finishing techniques. Among these were a substrate and new inks and coatings for printing on plastics, low migration inks for food packaging, pearlescent reticulation on a single coater, and applications that avoid using special inks.

BPIF director Mike Hopkins said: “The great thing here is in one place you can see and talk about printing techniques, different finishes; and not just cartonboard, plastics as well, and hopefully that gives everyone a chance to see something of interest. Innovation is the lifeblood of the industry.”

He added: “The carton industry is the healthiest it has been for several years. Supply and demand has reached balance and some converters have been able to say ‘no’ to their customers. That has been a welcome relief. But there is still the need to look to the product and to providing something that will make the customer want to pay more for it.”

The large format presses and super large Rapida 205 are becoming increasingly popular with packaging producers. And there was a wake-up call at the showpiece KBA customer near the press manufacturer’s factory, where Ellerhold, principally a poster printer, is diversifying from a business fast being subsumed by LED displays. Palletized beer carton blanks stretched the length of a multi unit press.

The jobs demonstrated during the workshop were varied and driven by varying market trends. In some cases it was the printing, substrate, inks or coatings that were new, and in others it was prepress techniques or the finishing.

The new Bobst Starfold 145 folder gluer launched a week previously produced a wine bottle carrier with UV inks and a high rub resistance UV coating on 1.6mm Abbey Kraft fluted board using a low hardness blanket. Nigel Tracey, Bobst sales director for folder gluers, said the Starfold runs a greater variety of substrates and styles of boxes, and reduces gap and fish-tailing variation by 50 per cent in the AccuFold, using a calibrated roller section and a mechanical squeezebox.

Sun Chemical product manager Bob Greenslade said brand owners are becoming increasingly twitchy following food recalls and the onus was falling on printers to ensure products were fit for purpose. Sun demonstrated its UV SunCure low migration CMYK and Pantone inks and varnish on a cereal packet printed on Ensocoat SBS 400 micron.

However, he added: “Simply changing to low migration ink will not necessarily produce low migration print. Migration can occur at all stages within the print process from the presses, the paper, the environment and the inks, and all aspects of the work flow need to be reviewed.”

The environment also featured prominently in substrates and consumables. A carton was produced on 400 micron Printablade using vegetable based offset inks with water based varnish, printing a low cost security measure through a metemeric image with readable and non readable green inks. Viewing through a red filter revealed a green security image.

The environmentally friendly PP Pripak, which is 35 per cent lighter than other plastics, was also demonstrated. Mark Nixon, UK sales director for KBA, noted that while recent figures revealed the UK packaging market had increased 4 per cent, printing on plastics had advanced 13 per cent.

A metallic gel pack was produced on Priplak Stardust Silver with a new range of SunCure UV inks, and a coating with registered foil blocking from Bobst. Another job showcased a spot gloss coating that produced a transparent window on the matt side of the substrate with the ability to print around a crease, giving a two, three side or all round continuous window not possible with window patching.

Kodak provided its Approval proofing and Sword plates for the workshop, and demonstrated its Spotless technology using between five and seven colours to produce 70-93 per cent of Pantone colours. Another process demonstrated was the FMsix patented six colour process for cartonboard printing by Printech Systems, which links FM and AM screening to provide 90 per cent of colours on a six colour press, or the remaining 10 per cent when extended to seven colours.

Morgan Beake, of DS Smith Cartons, concluded: “I have seen machines that are truly flexible and seen the special effects, and I have been impressed. What I will take away with me is the opportunities that flexible offset presses give and the markets these effects give.”



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