Trelleborg, Sweden - Label converters, market-leading suppliers and brand-owners from 25 countries came together to define the trends and innovations shaping the future of the narrow web industry at a conference and open house, organised by Flint Group in southern Sweden this month.
Entitled “What’s Next in Narrow Web?” the event featured seminars from suppliers including Mars, Raflatac, Nilpeter, Phoseon and GEW in Malmö, followed by a tour of the ink manufacturer’s nearby Trelleborg European headquarters, where a new Nilpeter press has been installed to test all types of narrow web inks including UV-LED curable flexo, offset and screen inks.
Antoine Fady, Chief Executive Officer, Flint Group, announced the organisation’s investment in an enlarged, dedicated customer support network. The company will open up to 15 new service centres in the next three years. The investment comes in response to the label converters’ increasingly complex service and product requirements, ultimately driven by the need to support brand-owners with safer, low-migration inks for food, colour quality standardisation, and higher press performance.
Tapio Kolunsarka, vice-president, UPM Raflatac explained that the self-adhesive label market has doubled its market share in the last 20 years thanks to incremental innovations. The growth has been achieved thanks to collaboration between ink, machine, substrate and service manufacturers. Tapio expects material waste reductions of between 30 and 50 percent from existing presses, and intense focus on reducing film liner and facestock thicknesses in the next decade.
UV-LED curing: significant cut productivity improvements in flexo and screen
Tom Hammer, product manager, narrow web North America at Flint Group, introduced the concept of curing by Ultra Violet Light Emitting Diode (UV-LED curing).
Emitting a narrow wavelength, peaking at around 395nm, the UV-LED process has significant advantages over mercury lamps as a means of curing UV inks: up to 20,000 hours of on-time, without degrading; the ability to switch on and off; lower lamp temperature due to elimination of infrared waves; 50 percent lower energy consumption; ability to run shrink films without chillers; avoidance of ozone emissions and safer working environment.
Flint Group’s recently launched EkoCure™ flexo and screen ink range has been specially formulated to work with a range of UV-LED light sources. The ranges include gloss, matte and thermal transfer flexo coatings and shrink whites. Now that several narrow web press makers are actively installing and promoting UV-LED systems globally, Hammer expects to see the technology make significant market penetration.
Nilpeter and Flint Group strengthen commitment to UV-LED research with new press
Nilpeter announced the installation of a hybrid, offset-flexo press, dedicated to testing the performance of Flint Group’s UV-LED curable inks at the ink manufacturer’s Trelleborg testing facilities.
Nilpeter’s sales and marketing director, Jakob Landberg, comments: “Using open platforms for easy exchange of processes at each head, the press configuration comprises three flexo, two offset, one UV-rotary screen, plus two cold foil units. With open architecture, conventional UV and UV-LED lamps on all print heads, and UV-inert gas on two, the press will be instrumental in advancing performance in terms of curing time, emissions and migration levels.” Additional hot air drying on the press enables testing of aqueous inks also.
During a narrow-web testimonial presentation, Constantia Flexible, of Mason, USA, revealed 50 percent flexo run speed improvements flexo and 65 percent run-speed improvement on white screen, with no discernible differences in opacity or ink yield compared with mercury-cured inks. The UV-LED ink system uses only 25 percent of the power that a conventional mercury system uses.
Conference: a sound basis for strategic decision-making
Guillaume Clement, vice-president, global narrow-web of Flint Group, comments: “The fast pace of technological, regulatory and economic changes, combined with the increasing power of brand equity, present significant opportunities and challenges to the narrow-web industry. By bringing converters, brand-owners and suppliers at several stages of the workflow together, the event provided a catalyst for sharing market expertise and perspectives. Judging by the positive attendee feedback, we are confident this event is providing the insight necessary for sound strategic decision-making, and the basis for a stronger industry.”