- December 31, 2004, Ann Hirst-Smith
Full-day seminars sponsored by ANI Printing Inks covered trends in the narrow web market.
Narrow web ink manufacturer ANI Printing Inks, Trelleborg, Sweden, held two full-day seminars—one in England and one in Ireland—to update roll-to-roll printers on developments in their market.
About 30 delegates joined ANI's Narrow Web Div. team in the Directors' Box at Aston Villa Football Club, Birmingham, for a program that featured—in addition to speakers from ANI—representatives of other industry suppliers.
"Developments in the Expanding Narrow Web Market" was the seminar theme, and the program provided a valuable overview of the subject with special reference to the interests and requirements of label converters.
European Market Trends
Russell Joyce, general manager, Europe, of ANI Printing Inks set the day in context with a review of European market trends. He highlighted the opportunities for narrow web print afforded by the trend toward shorter runs and just-in-time delivery, which are forcing wide web and sheet-fed offset printers to look at narrow web print to achieve acceptable margins and productivity. The existing base of narrow web printers are benefiting from this trend, too, he said: Increasingly, the narrow web press—traditionally the preserve of self-adhesive labelling—is used for other types of packaging print substrates, from cartonboard to unsupported films.
With flexography the dominant narrow web technology today—and UV flexo the fastest growing—the focus on inks from label converters and end-users is on improved color strength, both on paper and film. "Seventy percent of all presses today have UV capacity, and 12 percent of all presses are combination presses—not just UV screen with flexo, but also permutations of combinations of flexo, offset, and even gravure," says Joyce. "Add to that the fact that many substrates that pass through narrow web presses today were not designed for inks in the same way as traditional self-adhesive materials. [The role of ink suppliers] is to deliver a range of inks that can give excellent results with this wider range of substrates, as well as with self-adhesive label stocks."
Jens Nilsson and Agnes Strack of OPP film manufacturer Treofan jointly addressed the subject of in-mold labeling, looking at new opportunities as well as giving practical advice on meeting the challenges the process can pose. OPP label films are enjoying exceptional market growth at an average 15% per annum on all kinds of products—from champagne to yogurts, detergents, ice cream, and hygiene and cosmetics. The trend is toward thinner films, converted on roll-to-roll presses with in-line sheeting capability. Their paper also gave a detailed and helpful account of the IML injection-molding process.
Niklas Olsson, global brand manager for ANI Printing Inks' Narrow Web Div., expanded on the subject of UV inks on unsupported materials converted via the various print processes. The range is extensive and features dedicated products for solvent- and water-based flexo; UV flexo; oil-based and UV letterpress; UV offset ("wet" and waterless); and UV screen. In current development (reflecting the market's movement) are solvent-based and UV inks for gravure and UV-curable inks for ink jet print.
"Every application makes its own special demands on the inks," says Olsson. "For wrap-around film sleeve labels, for example, you need high curing speeds, exceptional scratch resistance, and ink adhesion on corona-treated polyethylene, oriented polypropylene, and polystyrene—plus, of course, a good opaque white base. For sleeves, you also need stretch and shrink characteristics and flexibility."
Low Odor Inks
One of the major issues with UV flexo-printed packaging has been odor, particularly in the odor-sensitive tobacco, chocolate, and food sectors. Says Olsson: "Odor can be generated at a number of points in the conversion process: in the substrate itself and via any surface coatings on it; through by-products generated by the curing process; press and production contamination; and UV lamps and corona treaters." But with some ink ranges, exceptionally low odor ratings have been achieved. In conclusion, he counselled: "End-user requirements are the first criterion in choosing an ink, and it is always important, too, to liaise with substrate and ink suppliers before making the choice."
John Hammond, UK sales manager for press manufacturer Nilpeter, told delegates the company is exporting about 150 narrow web presses a year—especially today to the Far East market. New converting methods were the subject of his paper, which looked at all the available options in narrow web print and matched them to suitable packaging applications.
The concept of the platform press offers the opportunity to build into the converting process any number of options. "For narrow web printers with their vastly increased range of applications today, platform presses make life easier all round," he says.
Compact and full-size platforms are available with servo drives and every "add on" you might want—from hot and cold foil stations, rotary screen stations, rotary die-cutting, embossing and creasing units, and nip systems for web tensioning, lamination, insetting, and matrix upwind.
Opaque White Ink Base for Clear Films
The perennial question of achieving an opaque white base on film substrates for subsequent quality halftone overprinting—particularly with UV flexo—was the topic addressed by Niklas Olsson, who explained that screen—both rotary and flatbed—currently gives the best opacity. He also looked at the alternatives to screen for printing the white base.
"Gravure," he said, "is certainly positioning itself as an attractive alternative to screen for longer runs and higher speeds and also can be used for special effects such as metallics. However, in the long term, our company is looking at a dedicated UV flexo white ink, and we are working on that and its whole surrounding package—plate, tape, and anilox roller, too."
A Substrate Manufacturer's Viewpoint
Dave Torley, marketing manager, premium packaging, for Avery Dennison Roll Materials Europe, identified market trends and growth opportunities from the viewpoint of a label stock supplier. The consolidation in the value chain at many levels is causing a "profit crunch" throughout the chain—with the market being driven by the end-users and major retailers. Achieving greater production efficiencies and receiving optimal service from suppliers are critical for label converters today, with many international brand owners requiring their label materials meet global standards.
He went on to compare today's bar coding technologies with the upcoming RFID technology and looked at new niche market opportunities that are driving growth in self-adhesive labelling, such as time/temperature indicators.
"It's amazing," said Barri Derri of Akzo Nobel Inks, "how consumers love brilliant colors and the glitter of metallics—and much of that impact can be achieved with inks or on-press processes—metallic inks, foils, the dramatic effects of MetalFX, and the enhanced color options available with systems such as seven-color process Opaltone." He provided a lively guide to all the available "value added" options and provided useful cost comparisons.
New Technology and Profitability
How new technology can maximize profitability was the subject Mark Andy's Paul Briggs introduced, again focusing the delegates' attention on state-of-the-art narrow web presses. Better machinery design, servo-driven units, higher production speeds, faster set-up, make-ready, and post-production housekeeping all contribute significantly to margin improvements.
Today's presses can deliver all that—plus a dedicated gravure print unit, hot foil stamping unit, screen print unit, dryer/hot nip laminator, digital print unit, and advanced in-line finishing with a laser die-cutter. Some presses are RFID tag capable already. Again, the message is: "The choice is yours—pick the technology that helps you get more profit."
The seminar program was repeated the following day in Ireland, at Dublin's CityWest Conference and Golf Resort. Some 20 delegates attended, from both the north and the south of Ireland, including Gary Saul from Kenilworth Products, who commented: "This was a very interesting, well-presented seminar, and an excellent update on what is going on in the market today. It's nice to see an ink manufacturer taking this kind of initiative." For copies of the seminar proceedings or further information on forthcoming Akzo Nobel Inks events, visit aninks.com.