The first 74 Karat digital press in Germany with a plastics printing package went live early this year at Merkur Druck- and Kopierzentrum in Leipzig. With this package it is possible to print polystyrene, PVC, ABS, polyester and polycarbonate films, but not polyolefines such as polypropylene. The aqueous coating must also be suitable for plastics and film. Tippl, based in Vienna, offers a water soluble PVC coating, Tipadur-Printcoat P-1203 B3, specifically for the 74 Karat.
In December 2003 Merkur installed a 74 Karat with coater, IR dryer and film plus the plastics printing package. The press went live in mid-February, and within a few weeks it had gained the company new customers and attracted additional work from existing ones. At present one shift is sufficient to handle the jobs scheduled for the Karat, but another may soon be needed thanks to the press’s cost efficiency for longer print runs.
The Karat’s four colour system can simulate HKS and Pantone colours. Numerous special tones, including white, grey and metallics, are also available.The package for printing plastics and film comprises a number of machine components and materials, among them an aqueous coater and infra red dryer. The press must be capable of handling a maximum substrate thickness of 0.5mm. Typical jobs include packaging and display components, bank, telephone, staff and customer cards, mousepads, labels, POS banners and price tags, document sleeves and covers, calendars and educational material.
The washing system must be modified for use with special cleaning agents, and a bank of electrodes fitted to eliminate static on the film. Other components include an extra set of ink troughs to support faster changes at the Gravuflow inking units, and a different type of blanket. Although the press does not run with UV inks, UV compatible blankets have proved the most suitable.
On the materials side, the press must be run with waterless offset ink that can be dried by infra red radiation to enable it to adhere instantly to non absorbent surfaces. Merkur uses silicone-free Toracard TF inks supplied by Zeller + Gmelin.
Merkur managing partner Hans Huhn reports: “Adding this capability enables us to raise our competitive profile expand our client base, as the large number of new orders and prospects shows. Quality and cost efficiency are a huge improvement on silkscreen, though you have to keep a close tab on the cost of ink and blankets, which is higher than in silkscreen, and on job change-over times. But this option will boost our bottom line, there’s no doubt about that.”
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