April 2015 Roundtable on Printing
Managing Director Americas
Goss International Corp.
1 year with the company
Product Manager, Rotec
Flint Group Flexographic Products
15 years with the company
Heather P. Barrett
Global Director of Marketing
MacDermid Printing Solutions
10 years with the company
Business Development Manager, Business Unit Web Fed
Bobst North America Inc.
3 months with the company
Q: What are some of your current offerings for printing onto flexible packaging films?
Adler: Flint Group Flexographic Products develops, manufactures and markets an extensive portfolio of printing consumable items for printing on flexible packaging films including: Rotec sleeves and adapters, Nyloflex photopolymer printing plates, plate-making equipment, and Nylosolv wash-out solvents.
There are three key commercial sleeve products that offer the printer a range of options for improving print operations, whether it is for tightly controlled register, lower dot gain or dampening of bounce. The Rotec premium sleeve has among the tightest control of OD, outside diameter, in the industry. This predictable feature allows printers to register plate mounted jobs more precisely, controlling waste and improving productivity. The OD range on Rotec premium sleeves (and Rotec label sleeves for narrow web market) is so tight it compares to steel cylinder tolerances.
A uniquely different product, Rotec compressible sleeve, is based on a standard construction but with a compressible outer coating for consistency of print. This outer compressible layer is always the same thickness, which allows press operators to familiarize themselves with it for ease of consistency of impression setting. It uses a 0.005-inch mounting tape to adhere the printing plate to the sleeve. With the ground surface and flat tape, this combination yields control of print screens and solids for combination print designs. It offers the printer latitudes in print speed and plate savings, especially on long print runs.
The third offering is a new, uniquely different cushion covered sleeve. The Rotec high-speed sleeve aids in minimizing bounce typically induced by hard print edge graphics. It allows the printer to increase in speed from 50 percent improvements to over 100 percent. This is dependent upon press, maintenance, graphics, and speed expectation.
Flint Group’s diverse range of photopolymer printing plates for flexible packaging includes the industry standard Nyloflex ACE digital printing plate. This highidurometer photopolymer plate runs clean on press and provides excellent ink transfer on film and foil applications to result in high ink density and homogenous, smooth solids. The plates display a long run life and excellent stability in printing, which result in a significant increase in efficiency.
A complete line of plate making equipment complements Flint Group’s line of printing plates. Most recently introduced, a new generation Nyloflex automated plate processor combines washing, drying and light finishing stages into a smooth sequence of fully automated plate processing without the need for operator handling between steps. Flint Group’s Nylosolv C washout solvent with low odor, completes the package for plate making operations.
Barrett: MacDermid has a broad portfolio of flexographic printing plates that are ideally suited for printing on flexible film. LUX In-the-Plate is a game-changing, new technology exclusively from MacDermid that provides all the benefits of LUX Lamination, but with the convenience of flat-top dots right out of the box. No additional platemaking steps or equipment are needed to take advantage of the print quality and consistency that LUX flat-top dots provide. LUX ITP offers one-to-one, mask-to-plate imaging capability, thus eliminating the need for a bump curve. By removing the bump curve, printers are able to expand the available color gamut and print a smaller dot. LUX ITP is a durable and extremely low tack plate, which is perfectly suited for long and clean running print jobs. It has been designed to be processed in either solvent or in MacDermid’s LAVA thermal systems.
Digital MWW was designed for optimized white ink laydown, providing higher opacity, reduced mottle and improved over print performance. Digital MWW’s formulation can be combined with the MacDermid LUX lamination process, along with specific advanced prepress screening techniques, to give a true step change in white ink laydown. This step change can also result in direct savings in ink, due to the ability to move from a two pass process to a single station of white ink.
Digital Rave is MacDermid’s workhorse plate, demanded by plate makers and printers around the world as their plate of choice. Digital Rave’s laser ablative mask improves dot shape and extends image latitude, while also eliminating sources for dust and light diffusion, resulting in increased plate quality and consistency. Printers can expect to achieve significant reductions in dot gain on press, with minimal tonal correction required in the screening process. Highly durable and reliable, Digital Rave plates offer longer runs, less dot wear and reduced tack. Its high durometer reduces dot gain in screens and minimizes banding due to press bounce.
Jacques: Bobst’s wide range of market-leading equipment for the flexible packaging industry does not only include flexo and gravure printing presses but also machines for coating and laminating, extrusion coating and laminating, and vacuum metalizing. In total, Bobst’s offering of machines for the processes above amounts to more than 25 different versions. Taking into account that many of these machines are capable of being customized to specific requirements of printers and converters, this unique product offering means that users can be sure of an unrivaled productivity when they use Bobst equipment.
Q: What types of printing does your company offer/supply to in the flexible packaging marketplace: offset, flexographic, rotogravure/gravure, and/or digital printing?
Barrett: MacDermid supplies printing plates specifically for flexographic package printing. Due to recent advances in flexography, including the advent of LUX flat top dots, advanced surface screening and high-definition printing, flexography has made great strides in quality in the past several years, producing packaging that rivals or even beats the quality standards established by gravure and offset.
Jacques: Bobst offers flexographic presses through Bobst Bielefeld, and rotogravure and coating/laminating equipment from Bobst San Giorgio.
Adler: Flint Group offers a wide range of Rotec sleeves and adapters and Nyloflex photopolymer printing plates as well as ITR (in-the-round) sleeves for use by printers in the flexible packaging industry. These products support print efforts in both flexographic and offset print, and Flint Group welcomes press OEM (original equipment manufacturers) special requests for specially designed sleeve/adapter products.
Q: Does your company manufacture any printing machinery? Briefly explain the types of machinery and its capabilities.
D’Angelo: Goss International has a long and award-winning history of providing the finest web offset presses for the commercial printing and newspaper printing industries. The Goss Vpak 500 and Vpak 3000 bring that tradition of excellence to the flexible packaging marketplace. Short runs, fast changeovers and print quality are given for any printer/converter in today’s market. The challenge is to execute all these givens in the most efficient way possible. That is where Vpak provides the solution.
Web offset plates are a fraction of the cost of flexo plates or gravure cylinders and web offset print quality is unparalleled. Goss engineering expertise has brought the variable repeatability required by the market to the Vpak without the need for a cassette and in a quick change design. The control of ink from the operator’s desk is another advantage that the offset process brings. In addition to advantages against flexo and gravure, offset allows for high speed printing which brings higher productivity than digital presses with more favorable comparative costs, even down to very short runs.
Jacques: Our range of C.I. flexo equipment covers the whole range of demands of the packaging printing industry. For printing on flexible materials, the Bobst F&K 20SIX platform-based models are bestsellers. Featuring repeats from 12.6- to 47.2 inches, print widths up to 65 inches, and production speeds up to 1970 feet per minute, the F&K 20SIX lets users take on almost all orders for printing on plastic film, laminates, aluminum, and paper with both solvent-based and water-based inks.
For markets that demand large volumes, the Bobst F&K 30SIX is the spot-on solution. Being capable of printing on film, paper and nonwovens in a wide web-tension range, the F&K 30SIX is suitable for application for all markets from food and pet food to sanitary and detergent.
Featuring print widths up to 110.2 inches and repeats up to 81.1 inches, the F&K 90SIX is just the right solution for the specialized business of preprinted linerboard. Despite the weight and dimensions of the large format printing hardware, auxiliary systems ensure easy handling and fastest change-overs which makes even smallest preprint jobs profitable.
Adler: In North America, Flint Group has been producing plate-mounting sleeves for the packaging industry for almost 20 years. Flint Group, under the brand name of Rotec produces a wide range of sleeves and adapters for standard flexographic presses, as well as sleeves for the offset industry and offset designed presses for flexible film printing, such as Comexi, Mueller Martini, and Goss to name a few.
Q: Have you seen any new printing techniques lately? If you are a printer for the flexible packaging industry, what special features or effects does your company offer to its clients? If you are a machinery manufacturer, what special features might the machinery be able to apply to flexible packaging films?
Jacques: In recent years, three important market trends have set seemingly contradictory tasks, not only for printers and converters, but also for machine manufacturers: packaging needs to have an increasingly high-quality look, while at the same time being inexpensive to produce and – in the spirit of growing environmental awareness – conserving resources. With its C.I. flexo presses, Bobst satisfies these demands by providing technologies that give converters a significant competitive edge not only by supplying superior print quality but also by increasing productivity. Easy accessibility to the print units thanks to the compact design of the C.I. section, user-friendly concepts for sleeve and cylinder handling, automatic systems like the AutoClean inking and wash-up system help to minimize downtime for set-up and change-over. Highly efficient combination impingment/floatation-type dryers and the optional LEO (low energy operation) system help to reduce energy and as a consequence the carbon footprint.
Most importantly, however, it is the smartGPS off-press impression and registration setting system that ensures unrivaled savings of time and substrate at change-over making even the smallest orders profitable. At the same time, smartGPS provides consistent, reliable print results, from shift-to-shift, day-to-day, year-to-year, and regardless of ink drying properties
D’Angelo: Offset is being looked at more and more as a process of choice for flexible packaging. In the past, film characteristics and ink chemistry have challenged offset press manufacturers. Goss has invested to place a 33-inch-wide, six-color Vpak 500 offset press with downstream flexo coating capability into our Packaging Technology Center. This installation is at our worldwide headquarters and main production facility in Durham, NH USA. With customer demonstrations, as well as the partnership of many industry suppliers, Goss has gained a tremendous experience running a broad range of substrates and inks. We have samples that can be shared and have developed cost to print models that will compare your current printing process to Vpak. The flexible packaging industry will continue to grow and with it the proliferation of more and more structures, products and SKUs. Vpak will allow printers to create and run an incredibly diverse range of materials, with higher quality and more challenging graphics than they can today.
Adler: Flint Group offers a unique product for dampening the effect of graphics, which can haunt printers alike. Whether for wide web or narrow web presses, this new product, Rotec high-speed sleeve, allows the printer to run faster and get past the effects of graphics generated bounce. This has the effect of waste reduction in print. Graphics generated bounce is easily described as the straight-edge effect that printers face when plate image offset cannot be accomplished. A straight edge in the graphics, usually a white or other solid color, goes through the printing nip and the transition from print to skip back to print creates a problem described as bounce. This product absorbs that contact pressure and evens the transition through rotation after rotation, thereby reducing the appearance of bounce in print results.
Barrett: While MacDermid does not manufacture any machinery specifically for printing upon substrate, MacDermid does manufacture machinery for flexographic platemaking, including the LAVATM thermal platemaking system, a system that is ideally suited for making plates for the flexible packaging market.
Q: What is missing from this sector of the flexible packaging industry? What would you like to see more of? Less of?
D’Angelo: Control of inks and color consistency and repeatability is the Holy Grail of printing. With the ability to control ink from the operator desk on a web offset press through the ink keys, the ability to go to expanded gamut printing and eliminate/reduce PMS colors is well under way. There is still a great deal of manual input and “black magic” in this evolution. Beyond that, the competitive advantage that can be gained is the control of color accuracy, stability and repeatability. Goss has partnered with Alwan Color Expertise to make this deliverable by printers and converters in the flexible packaging industry a reality. This is a deliverable that consumer product companies crave, job to job. Goss and Alwan can show this capability at the Packaging Technology Center in Durham on your product at your request.
Jacques: The industry is continuing to consolidate at a rapid pace. The fragmentation in this market segment is beginning to show some signs of concentration of larger market shares for growing national and regional packaging companies.