With the shrink sleeve market recording annual growth of between 6 and 8 percent, Hammer Packaging, located in Rochester, New York, invested in a brand-new VSOP web printing press with nine printing units and an additional flexo unit.

  • 1972: $3 million
  • 1992: $19 million
  • 2012: $105 million

A look at the sales volume of Hammer Packaging shows how dynamically the family business, which was founded in 1912, has grown in the past decades. Sales grew by 20 percent in 2012, the year of the company’s 100th anniversary, and president and CEO James E. Hammer is anticipating similar growth in 2013. “The entire packaging market is experiencing a healthy growth,” says the grandson of the company founder.  “Globally, growth in the shrink sleeve label segment is expected to be 6 percent to 8 percent annually.”


Convinced by Offset Printing

Hammer Packaging entered the shrink sleeve business segment for the food and drink industry, including big brands such as Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola and Minute Maid, six years ago. It did so with a VSOP, followed two years later by a second web printing press of the same type.

Since the presses were nearing their limits in terms of capacity, and Hammer Packaging had positive experiences with offset printing, the traditional company invested last year in a third VSOP web printing press from Muller Martini.

“As far as our business is concerned, we’re convinced by offset printing and its tried-and-tested technology,” says Hammer. “Offset offers considerable advantages over rotogravure printing, not least in terms of pre-press costs.”

Before opting for the new VSOP from Muller Martini, experts from Hammer Packaging performed extensive tests on the machine at Muller Martini’s Training Center Presses in Maulburg, Germany. They brought with them a list of 20 requirements for the new printing press. “Muller Martini fulfilled virtually all our requirements to our satisfaction and proved that the VSOP is the ideal machine for our business segments,” says Hammer.

Moreover, as Hammer explains, “Muller Martini has made some important technological upgrades to the VSOP.” One particular innovation is modern control technology. Thanks to the application of state-of-the-art control topology in the VSOP, the reliability of the machine has been increased and considerably fewer components are in use. That simplifies both operation and maintenance. The sleeve positioning improvement in the printing units reduces wear and tear on the air shaft in the case of frequent size changes.


Long and Short Runs

The packaging printing specialists from Rochester were particularly impressed during the demos in Maulburg by the versatility of the new printing press. “The VSOP can be set up quickly for new jobs, reaches a high production speed fast, and enables highly efficient changeovers between long runs and short runs,” says Hammer.

The days when shrink sleeves and packaging labels were printed for a whole year in runs of millions of copies are long gone. Today, there is demand for smaller, more varied print runs, enabling beverage producers in particular to compete for the attention of consumers at the point of sale with 360-degree packaging or tempt them to take part in competitions. “For us, that trend has three implications,” says Hammer. “First, we need to print at high speed. Second, we need quick changeovers. And third, we need to react flexibly to the wishes of our customers.”


Unique Products

For that reason, as Hammer explains, it is ideal for Hammer Packaging, which produces for customers in North America and Mexico, that the new VSOP has a flexo unit and nine printing units, as well as hot-air and EB drying. “Thanks to the combination of offset and flexo in the same printing press, we can print unique products that our competitors cannot produce in a single operation. That’s extremely important to us because there’s fierce competition on the shrink sleeve market in the United States.”

Hammer Packaging has a staff of 425 who work in three shifts in production, five days a week, or, at peak times, seven days a week. In order to keep increasing its productivity and be alert to new production forms, it also has its own R&D team. “That means we not only provide technical support to our customers,” says Hammer, “we also research new substrates, printing inks, coatings, printing techniques and methods of application because we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. In order to grow further, we need to be an innovation leader with regard to new products, new technologies and new machines, true to our company motto: ‘Listen. Learn. Lead.’”


New Hall for New Machine

In order to take advantage of synergies by installing the new printing press next to the two existing VSOP machines, Hammer Packaging made a swift decision to expand its existing production capacity. A 13,000-square-foot addition was completed within just two months. “We’re used to making quick decisions here,” says Hammer.

The new printing press was ready to begin operation even quicker - in less than a month. Installation began on November 26, 2012 and before the end of the year, the first customer jobs were produced using the new VSOP.


Innovative Electronic Control Technology

Thanks to the application of Muller Martini control topology in the VSOP, the reliability of the web printing press has been increased and considerably fewer components are in use. That simplifies both operation and maintenance.

The VSOP was developed for the production of labels, flexible packaging and other materials. The Muller Martini ink fountain was integrated into the VSOP to meet the highest requirements in this field, ensuring first-class printing quality and highest accuracy possible. The increased ink volume capacity enables the greatest possible degree of reproducibility.

Further advantages of the Muller Martini ink fountain include more precise adjustment of the ink zones, pre-adjustment using CIP 3/4 data.

The new VSOP features remote diagnosis tools such as Remote Access and Remote Online. That increases the availability of the machine and reduces downtime.