April 2016 Roundtable on Printing
5 years with the company
Executive VP, North America
More than 5 years with the company
Vice President Business Unit
Bobst North America Inc.
1 year with the company
General Manager, Flexographic Packaging Solutions
12 years with the company
Q: What’s new at your company?
Miedema: We are a manufacturer of hybrid web offset printing presses dedicated to printing flexible packaging or labels. Hybrid web offset is currently gaining interest in the field of flexible packaging as it can offer benefits that no other print technique currently can. We have recently launched the Thallo, which is solely dedicated for printing flexible packaging. It offers converters the opportunity to print high quality packaging profitably at low volumes without any use of solvent-based inks, therefore addressing increasingly important challenges converters face or will face in the future.
Mucciacciaro: Uteco’s core business is in flexible packaging. Recently, a new special machinery division has been created to develop new products in the areas of printed electronics, security printing and product traceability through printed smart labels. The applications within the printed electronics include but are not limited to flexible solar cells, flexible displays and printed electronic circuitry. This thin printed film can be integrated into a variety of applications that permit cost effective ways to produce end-user interface products. One of the main areas using this print technology is in the solar panels for energy power. More and more companies are venturing into printed electronics because it is capable of applying conductive inks on a variety of substrates using graphic arts techniques. Long past its experimental stages, this technology is functional and traceable. The global market has embraced the innovation in the printing industry. A key to the success in this industry is listening to the consumers and providing them with cost-efficient, highly sophisticated equipment with the ability to manufacture printed electronics, security printing and smart labels. New printing applications/innovations are on an upward trend and Uteco is vested in this vision of the future.
Blumsack: Further to its acquisition last year of the Italian company NuovaGidue, which is now Bobst Firenze, BOBST has further extended its solutions in the different segments of the flexible film printing industry to now encompass narrow-web printing.
Payne: Our newly announced KODAK FLEXCEL NX System ’16, which will launch at Drupa, is designed to maximize the capability of a digital flexo plate in the pressroom, enabling consistent, high-quality print with maximum on-press efficiency. The FLEXCEL NX plate allows flexible packaging printers to remain competitive and at the leading edge of their field, delivering a solid return-on-investment in new technology. In my ongoing conversations with our customers, they share with me that our plate technology helps them deliver the gold standard for print quality on a daily basis, but what is even more interesting are the discussions regarding the various on-press efficiencies our plates help them realize. Our customers are confirming increases in press yields, significant ink savings and reductions in substrate waste and extended plate life, to mention just a few. They are growing their businesses, winning new work – and a remarkable number of them are investing in new press equipment. It’s validation that carefully selecting and optimizing a flexo plate provides significant — and much valued — returns to the print operation.
Q: Explain what type of printing your company supplies/offers. What makes it ideal for printing on flexible film?
Blumsack: Specifically to flexible film printing, BOBST provides the widest range of equipment from narrow-web to super-wide presses, and printing technology — CI flexo, inline flexo, gravure, digital, multi-process printing. This means that for each requirement of the user in each of the flexible packaging segments and applications we can provide the most suitable solution in terms of output quality and machine operational efficiency.
Miedema: We manufacture custom designed hybrid printing presses with Thallo web offset technology as the foundation. With sleeve technology, web offset can offer converters extremely quick changeovers and, together with the low cost image carrier, makes it ideal for low-volume packaging jobs.
Q: Talk about the printer or printing accessory that has been the most popular over the past year. Why have your customers taken such a liking to it?
Blumsack: We have launched one of the most revolutionary concepts in printing: the digital flexo process, which is implemented in our range of narrow-web in line flexo printing presses. The process enables one to digitally control every stage of the production cycle from prepress to output quality control via a digital camera on every print unit. This digital camera acts as the eye and finger of the operator to offset-like print quality and operating costs that are on par with the cost of digital printing technologies. Because job changeovers are fully automatic and performed without stopping the machine, and the ink in the print unit does not need to be changed, the press runs non-stop: 1 minute job changeover, generating less than 10 m of waste. The press provides 95 percent machine uptime.
Q: Printers seem to be on the lookout for equipment that will produce high-quality results, while being affordable and also environmentally-friendly. What initiatives are underway at your company to satisfy these desires?
Payne: I agree that equipment choices are important when it comes to meeting these needs but just as important are the components and consumables that go into running a print operation every day. At Kodak, we sell flexo plate imaging equipment to prepress operations, but we also recognize that the largest capital investments that a printer makes are in the pressroom and that our job is to provide a flexo plate solution that maximizes the return on those significant investments. A flexo plate is not a commodity and not all printing plates are created equal. A flexo plate has the power to significantly influence print quality, press efficiency and even the environmental impact of a printing operation as a result of its influence on start-up waste, ink usage and energy consumption. A high performing plate can enable state-of-the-art printing equipment to perform at its best, but by the same token a high performing plate can give older presses a whole new lease on life. We see this time and time again with our FLEXCEL NX Plate customers and it’s what drives our razor sharp focus on continuing to invest in R&D and develop our solutions with overall print capability in mind.
Mucciacciaro: (Our) new ONYX XS is the latest model of the Uteco flexographic machine — 8 colors and super compact. Its reduced dimensions and advanced ergonomics help make it extremely easy to use, with minimal impact on space. Thanks to a drastic reduction in time and material used during setup, the ONYX XS is the perfect choice for short runs and small repeats.
Miedema: That is exactly what hybrid web offset is about! It offers the finest screen of print possible. With sleeve technology, web offset can offer converters extremely quick changeovers and, together with the low cost image carrier, makes it ideal for low-volume packaging jobs.
With the use of food safe energy curably inks such as UV as well as electron beam inks, it removes the use of VOCs and therefore is a more environmentally-friendly print technique. We also have developed various initiatives to reduce the waste of expensive substrate material and make use of inventive ways to reduce and reuse energy generated by the press.
Blumsack: These customer requirements have been the focus of BOBST’s R&D developments for quite some time as reflected by the design and performance of the current machine range and new developments being constantly introduced. Like the digital flexo process I’ve just explained which makes production simple, efficient and consistent also for being independent from the skill of the operator. Another technology exclusive to BOBST makes the digital UV flexo printing process the safest currently available for food packaging. This is based on UV track technology that measures the UV dose for every meter of web, thus ensuring total compliance with the strictest safety legislation.
Q: In last year’s roundtable on printing, one respondent compared ink control, color consistency and repeatability to being the “Holy Grail” of printing. What is your company doing to reduce manual input and improve upon the aforementioned?
Mucciacciaro: We are committed to building products that increase productivity and decrease waste. A growing demand has been placed on companies to produce more diverse packaging with high quality standards. We can make this possible with Kiss & Go and Smart Match features implemented on our presses.
The Kiss & Go performs automatic impression setting at the start-up of every new job. It works by directly reading the printed color on the substrate. This allows the end user to use any type of printing sleeve and anilox sleeve without the need of printed marks. This system can significantly reduce material waste vs. manual set up. (It) then scans the print of all the colors and sends the collected data to calculate the optimal printed dot.
At the start of every new job, it’s necessary to find the correspondence between the reference color and the printed color within given tolerances in order to cut cost, time and generate less waste. The Smart Match is an automatic color matching system that will reduce the time for on-press color correction and at the same time set the right color from the portable kitchen.
Blumsack: We believe that printing will be a digital world and again, we have been early developers of solutions that take advantage of new concepts and technologies. The digital flexo process implemented on the narrow web presses inline flexo presses is the most comprehensive with respect to color quality, consistency and repeatability ensured by the 4-7 extended color gamut UV flexo printing, but research applies to all the BOBST range of printing press. Our newest mid-web CI flexo press is ideal for extended color gamut printing for instance, and we are developing new inking systems for all analogue processes.
Payne: Our original design goals and strategy with the FLEXCEL NX System was to bring offset stability and capability to the flexo industry. Today, we have many customers that are now using flexo to produce designs that were previously printed gravure and offset. In flexo, ink control, color consistency and repeatability are significantly impacted by the printing plate. It makes sense, and is a fact we recognized in the original development of the FLEXCEL NX System. In fact, it’s the reason we took a completely different technical approach to other digital flexo plate solutions. The plate is the image carrier and if the image content and the printing dot structure is not 100 percent accurate and repeatable, the rest of the printing process will never be able to reliably compensate, requiring multiple steps of manual intervention at various stages to produce consistent results. Through the use of unique KODAK SQUAREspot tmaging technology and high resolution thermal imaging materials in the production of a KODAK FLEXCEL NX plate, we are enabled to ensure complete fidelity from digital file to final printing plate. This is true for graphic content at the pixel level and the micro surface patterning technology that we use to control ink transfer. This core capability, which is unique to the Kodak system, moves our customer base closer to that Holy Grail every day and allows us to leverage high resolution plate imaging to deliver a stream of ongoing advancements, like our award-winning NX Advantage technology, that drive even greater print control.