- December 01, 2009, By Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
In these challenging economic times, reducing costs can be as important as increasing sales. Well, almost. And while adhesives and coatings may account for only a small portion of the overall cost of a converted product, both suppliers and converters are finding them ripe for savings.
“Everyone's looking to cut costs,” says Ron Hanks, North American business director for Bluestar Silicones. “When you're a big user of silicone, even a five percent or ten percent reduction of silicone use still shows up as big dollars, so it's just a matter of scale.”
To further reduce costs and increase efficiency, he says that more and more narrow web converters are joining their wide web counterparts by bringing the coating process “in plant,” using small converting units from companies like ETI in Montreal that allow converters to custom-produce their own label stock by applying coatings and adhesives, printing, die-cutting and stripping in-line.
He says the companies that are benefiting the most from this new technology are involved in specialty markets, like security tapes, that need a cost or performance advantage they simply can't get from commercial, high-volume suppliers. But, he adds, “We are also seeing companies that are huge consumers of labels looking to make their own liners and laminates and actively investing in the equipment to do so.”
Other converters also are relying on advances in coating technology to allow them to meet the ever-growing demand for shorter runs. Ralph Harris, president of AzCoat Inc., says the emergence of such high quality digital presses as HP Indigo and Xeikon has led to a demand for superior graphics from traditional desktop printers as well.
“There's a big demand for customers that need 100 or 500 labels for their homemade hot sauce and other unique products they're taking to the market,” notes Harris. “But they don't fit into flexo or other converting areas.”
Most recently, AzCoat introduced its SuperJet inkjet film product line. Its SuperJet topcoat is available in high gloss or matte, on white or clear polyester, and biaxially oriented polypropylene films. SuperJet was developed specially for on-demand inkjet label printers, both desktop and roll-to-roll, that use full-process color to add impact and/or functionality to the label. It offers extreme water resistance, tear tough flexibility, and superior imaging.
By developing a top coating that can be used in both sheet and roll-to-roll printing, AzCoat's SuperJet topcoat allows in-house printing and converting operations to deliver on-demand, high-quality printing at a competitive price, Harris says.
“That's kind of what drove that product,” he notes. “There have been matte products on the market, but it's been very limited, and as far as I know [there has been] no high gloss on film, so it is a new product in the market. It allows converters and some manufacturers to do their own high quality labels in-plant.”
Howard Ragin, president of Craig Adhesives & Coatings, says his company has increased its focus on helping converters and end-users deal with sustainability and regulatory issues they face in today's competitive business environment. He cites the Wal-Mart Initiative and the Revised Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 as free-market and government-driven forces that are compelling both suppliers and converters to focus as much on compliance as performance.
“We're focusing on materials that more effectively align themselves with regulatory affairs as they continue to change rapidly, both domestically and abroad, as well as doing things that improve one's image from a sustainability standpoint,” notes Ragin, citing such issues as recyclability and compostability.
He says that as converters are being challenged to document the components of their products and the processes used to convert them, suppliers are being called upon to provide more detailed information about the composition of the inks and coatings they produce, along with other variables such as energy use and recyclability.
“Frankly, a lot of that at this point is information gathering and understanding your raw materials, the feed stream, how they are manufactured, how they are used in your product, and what becomes of them,” says Ragin. “So, it's getting into the details of the entire line from the beginning of your raw material stream to how your end product is used and how it's discarded, and you have to be able to discuss that intelligently.”
Contributing editor Edward Boyle, based in Reading, PA, has covered the converting industry for more than 24 years. Contact him at EJB Communications; 610-670-4680; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kind of Holiday Pressure We Like
The US Postal Service is spreading holiday cheer with its Winter Holidays series of postage stamps that feature a gingerbread man, reindeer, snowman, and toy soldier. Each stamp is designed with snow flurries and holiday borders, adding to the seasonal splendor. The stamp series is artist Joseph Cudd's first postal stamp project.
MACtac supplied the pressure-sensitive adhesive label materials for the 1.3 billion first class stamps issued. Marketing manager Allison Hazel says, “Supplying the adhesive for the Winter Holidays series allows MACtac to play a role in observing a season that celebrates joy and love for so many.”