Special Report: Flexo
When it comes to printing, PBM Graphics is an expert. As one of the largest commercial printers in the southeast and a Consolidated Graphics company, it services a variety of industries.
Since opening in 1983, the company has invested heavily in equipment and technology and with an arsenal of 11 offset and five digital presses, PBM produces almost all of its print projects in-house. A holdout was the outer packaging for the paper trading cards, which had been outsourced for years. In early 2011, the management team at PBM challenged this business decision and researched the possibility of broadening their equipment portfolio to include narrow-web flexo.
We learned that bringing the flexo process internally would significantly increase our efficiencies and turnaround times,” states Adam Geerts, president at PBM Graphics. “The cycle time to outsource is long and internalizing flexo just made good business sense.”
Specific Requirements for Flexo PressWhen researching press suppliers, PBM had some very specific requirements for its equipment; the current packaging projects called for larger than standard repeats, print quality needed to meet or exceed existing quality, and it needed to support the company’s commitment to lean manufacturing and sustainability.
After significant research and comparisons, the Mark Andy Performance Series P7 was the selected solution. A custom-engineered machine, the 8-color, full UV press is outfitted with die cutting, lamination, cold foil and backside printing capabilities, has a Martin unwind/rewind and an electron beam (EB) curing system by Energy Sciences Inc.
Typical in-line flexo presses handle print repeats up to 24 inches (610 mm). For this packaging project, a 30-inch (762 mm) repeat was required. The custom design team at Mark Andy took the challenge, re-engineering the print head to work with this larger diameter cylinder. The cold foil unit, lamination and unwind also needed to be adjusted. “This was definitely a non-standard machine solution,” Geerts comments, “Mark Andy was willing to partner with us on a venture out of the norm. They have been a true partner since the word ‘go,’ and we couldn't be happier with our decision.”
100 Percent Instant Curing with EBAnother unique aspect to the press is the EZCure EB solution, the first time ever incorporated into a narrow web in-line flexo press. “We were confident that the transition from rotogravure to UV flexo wouldn’t be a concern with regard to quality,” comments Jerry Henson, regional sales manager for Mark Andy Inc.
The EB solution provides a much higher quality lamination than standard UV, eliminating the requirement for direct line of sight curing required for photo-initiator based UV adhesives. This allowed for printing directly on the clear laminate material, giving the printed impression a crispness and clarity that is far superior to the UV laminating method of printing on the base material. In addition, the 100 percent instant cure achieved by electron beam was a requirement necessary to meet the fast turnaround times PBM sought, allowing them to slit and use the product immediately off the press. “Both our internal team and our end users are extremely impressed with the print quality and depth of the packaging coming off the new line,” according to Geerts.
PBM takes sustainability and green initiatives as seriously as they do quality. They incorporate a closed-loop recycling system, which includes virtually all materials (paper, plastic, etc.) coming off its presses. The company uses recycled materials and soy-based inks to meet customer demands and strives to incorporate materials and processes that will reduce VOC emissions.
Te short web path of the new flexo press has complemented the sustainability mindset at PBM, with a nominal amount of material waste generated and minimal consumables required for each press run. Always looking for ways to increase efficiencies and bring new value to their customers, the R&D team at PBM is now researching new and innovative ways to save even more on material waste. Working in conjunction with suppliers, the team is investigating a new process which has the potential of reducing material waste generated by up to 40 percent. The possibilities with this press are “almost limitless,” states Geerts.
Based on the efficiency PBM has experienced to-date, there is plenty of capacity to take on additional projects. Geerts has commented that they are looking forward to exploring new markets with this newly acquired technology. “Our sales and planning teams have been trained on the press’s capabilities and the opportunities that are available to us. We are looking forward to further expansion into the prime label and unsupported film markets.”
“We are now a turn-key provider to our collectible card clients,” says Geerts. “Our customers can come in, check the job and approve revisions within a day or two, versus the two-week turnaround time it took when we outsourced.” Obviously they played their cards right.