Finish with a flourish17 September 2018
One of the most important aspects of the converting process is the finish, when everything must come together on time and in line in order to bind, print, fix or seal and create the final , ready to sell product. With so many variables it is important that converters and their customers use the latest and most efficient tools to get it right. Converting Today spoke with various experts to understand what to expect from finishing in 2018.
The conversation started with David Zwang, chairman, GWG who began by discussing flexo’s place as the dominant printing technology , due in no small part to developments in both plate technology and optimized printing equipment over the last few years which provides new levels of quality and productivity. “With these developments, we are already seeing flexo displacing gravure on one end, and even putting pressure on the inkjet crossover equation. We expect this to continue in 2018 with new plating and control technologies. Flexo has always been a very configurable printing technology, and converters are used to maintaining and changing press configurations based on the specific needs of the product they are running. This is a significant advantage going forward, since it can create many ‘on the fly’ hybrid production opportunities, with new modular printing and finishing component offerings. We will also see many digital inkjet press modules being added to flexo presses to create new hybrid solutions, in addition to new standalone digital inkjet presses.”
“There are already many new hybrid solutions offering digital embellishment options, and we can expect many more in the near future. A recent InfoTrends study (CMYK: The Use of Special Effects in Digital Printing), found that print buyers are willing to pay up to 89 percent more for textured effects compared to standard CMYK-only work and that looks set to continue!”
Susana Teixeira, sales manager, Lemorau was next to offer her thoughts, agreeing that modular machine building like David mentioned is a vital tool, and in conjunction with automation coming in-house means “we are seeing new challenges as we are able to tailor the finishing options to the customers’ needs. As the industry is constantly growing and consumers are on the lookout for differentiation and a unique look or feel, we are always pushing to that as many options as there are for a finish to be applied, we have the functionality to deliver in house and across our systems”
Dr Adrian Steele, managing director, Mercian Labels was concerned with the barriers to participation in the market saying “ Only those who are well invested in technology and business processes will continue to grow their market share. I have no doubt that many smaller converters who have put off serious investing in the past five years are asking themselves how long they can continue in a very capital intensive and demanding market?” What this means for converters and finishing in particular is that “We will continue to see further consolidation amongst converters and an increasingly high profile of the successful ones, who are well down the road of investing in automation technology to improve productivity and service levels. Leads times will continue to reduce for even the most complex product constructions, and of course there will be no reversal of the trend towards more SKUs and short runs”
Steele continued, “I can see ‘big data’ starting to arrive to enable smart converters to better serve customer needs with predictive demand capabilities, using data from ERP systems to improve service levels and production efficiency. Machine faults will be identified from environmental and machine sensors before they cause breakdowns. Robotics will start to arrive to replace repetitive manual handling tasks in finishing. The best converters will be increasingly integrating their systems into customers’ IT platforms and setting of constant assessment so that they can reduce the incidence of errors and fix them as or if they occur in real time”
Another label converter, Pulse Roll Label Products , concurred. Gary Seward, managing director said
“Press, plate and anilox technology continues to evolve at great pace. Brand owners and retailers are demanding tighter color tolerances and seeking standardization on a global scale. Converters are recognizing the value of pre-press color control and the importance of anilox management for achieving accurate color. Printers increasingly want an ink partner who will work with them to develop unique products and solutions that add value and improve profitability. Our focus, as a narrow web ink manufacturer, is to provide the highest level of quality and help printers remain competitive. Developments in UV flexo ink, digital print and shrinkable substrates, in combination with technological advances in sleeving and finishing equipment, are supporting this growth. We anticipate further interest in special print effects and tactile finishes to boost brand appeal, particularly for artisan products and other specialized consumer goods such as the craft beer industry as these markets steadily grow”
Ray Cheydleur, printing and imaging product portfolio manager, X-Rite Pantone gave a comprehensive overview of the market for packaging, saying “In a highly competitive marketplace, brands and packaging designers continue to look for new and creative ways to differentiate their products. This increasingly goes beyond color to include embellishment options such as foils, special varnishes and soft touch finishes. In 2018, designers will continue to use more intense solid colors, fluorescents and iridescent effects – not just with conventional printing but also using digital solutions.
For forward thinking packaging converters, this trend will bring a number of challenges in 2018 and beyond, but the goal remains to produce packaging with shelf impact which draws the consumer’s eye and influences buying decisions.”
He continued by describing the outlook for the commercial print market saying “The commercial print market will continue to evolve to include a broader range of print and finishing capabilities. A recent USPS study reveals that 84 percent of millennials take time to look through their mail. 64 percent would rather scan for useful information in the mail than email. Additionally, 90 percent of millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable and 87 percent like receiving direct mail. This would indicate that direct mail is still a good lead generation starting point. The growth opportunities for commercial printers who can offer a multi-media mix are astounding. I anticipate that more commercial printers will adopt this hybrid approach in the upcoming years. But it should be noted that a hybrid approach requires closer attention to process control and color management as well as finishing to ensure its success”
The final expert to speak was Derrick Evans of Newfoil machines who have been a leading finishing equipment provider for years.
"Initially, Newfoil machines were mainly used by commercial label printers for adding embellishments to preprinted webs produced for the alcohol industry," says Derrick Evans, managing director at Newfoil Machines.
The first Newfoil machines were produced in 1982. Since then, it has become a specialist in the off-line finishing of pre-printed webs. By constantly refining and modernising its equipment, it has been able to stay on top in an ever-changing industry landscape and is now building the fifth generation of Newfoil printing machinery. Newfoil currently has installations in over 100 countries worldwide and continues to receive enquiries from new territories.
"When batch sizes don't justify the expense of costly rotary tooling, off-line finishing is by far the most efficient way of adding value to pre-printed webs", Evans says. The flatbed method is easy to set up and tooling prices and wastage are low, but that doesn't mean that you have to trade cost-effectiveness for quality. In fact, the opposite is true."
"In recent months, we have been involved in producing machines for the manufacture of wristbands, security labels featuring RFID tags, heat sensitive labels and number plates." As Evans details, many of the specialties produced on Newfoil equipment are far removed from conventional labels.
"As production runs have become smaller, the advantages of digital print have become more and more apparent. The quick set up and low first label costs have created opportunities to produce high-quality printed webs." Some may see the increased presence of digital systems in the market as a threat but it is important to remember that a digital printing system does not provide a complete process. Without the necessary finishing equipment, the range of prospective products and innovations is greatly limited.