No market is as dynamic and diverse as the packaging market. Raw materials, finished goods, the printing and finishing processes and machines reflect this diversity. It is no surprise that the factors influencing and driving the market are equally varied: economic, social, demographic and political. These factors confront the packaging industry with ever-changing challenges.
In recent years, three important market trends have set seemingly contradictory conditions, not only for printers and converters, but also for machine manufacturers: packaging needs to have an increasingly high-quality look, while at the same time be inexpensive to produce and—in the spirit of growing environmental awareness—be greener in production.
The printing of the package is a key element in the process chain from the raw material to the end product, an element that is both energy and capital intensive. As such, the printing process is subject to the pressure of costs and as a consequence, is always under scrutiny for an enhanced cost-benefit ratio. The sales performance of the Bobst F&K 20SIX, launched at Drupa 2012, provides evidence that this new CI flexo press is highly esteemed in this regard. Here’s why:
The new 20SIX CI section: sophisticated technology for top print quality
Packaging has long been intended to not only protect and transport goods, but to present them as well. A high-quality printed image will drive consumer choice. Consequently, reliable, consistent quality is a deciding factor for print buyers. Growing demands on print quality bring corresponding demands for increased performance of the printing press in terms of quality, repeatability, high resolution of the printed image and the processing of ever thinner materials.
Flexo printing is a highly sensitive process, particularly at the point of impression setting and ink transfer. This means that all the components involved in printing must be designed for precision down to the micrometer—both mechanically and in terms of control engineering. Thanks to servo drive technology and high-precision mechanical guides, the Bobst F&K 20SIX can handle the entire impression adjustment, the setting of the anilox roll relative to the plate cylinder and of the plate cylinder to the substrate, with a resolution of 1 micron. Special calibration devices for parallel positioning of the printing units likewise operate with an accuracy of 1 micron.
However, this precision only brings a benefit if the print quality, once set in the perfect position, is maintained throughout the entire process. Technical measures are taken into the design in order to ensure that this occurs. For example, the central impression cylinder is driven directly, without gears and backlash, and is virtually maintenance-free. In addition to temperature control of the central impression cylinder, the Bobst F&K 20SIX offers an optional temperature compensation system (standard with the revolutionary smartGPS™) to ensure that plate cylinders and anilox rolls remain in the optimum printing position even if the dimensions of the printing unit frames change as a result of temperature fluctuation. Sensors constantly monitor the temperature of the printing unit frames, immediately sending correction signals to the positioning drives of the plate cylinders and the anilox rolls in the event of variations.
smartGPS™: profitable production for very short runs
Print designs are increasingly short-lived and limited to the duration of marketing campaigns. For the printing industry, this means growing demand for short runs, some with a length of less than 15,000 lineal feet. Now it is possible to produce these lengths profitably in flexo printing, but only with a Bobst F&K 20SIX equipped with auxiliary systems that greatly reduce changeover times.
Potential savings can primarily be achieved when setting up a job. Almost all machine manufacturers today offer systems with semi- or fully automatic impression and registration adjustment. For the F&K 20SIX, however, with its patented smartGPS™, Bobst is offering a unique system. It is a system that shifts the entire impression and registration related set-up process to the plate mounting stage—the press is no longer used for make-ready at all. Instead, it is available primarily for production printing. A system that reduces waste to almost zero profitably produces the very short runs, which characterize the market’s continued evolution. Another benefit of smartGPS™ is absolute process reliability, meaning that the set-up results can be reproduced at any time, regardless of variables such as shift, ambient temperature, drying properties of the ink, etc.
The LEO system: eco-friendly production, lower costs
Electricity and natural gas are energies that have to be expended in particularly large amounts in order to print. Like all costs in general, those for electricity and natural gas have risen constantly. In addition, the last few years have seen the emergence of ever greater environmental awareness among both consumers and legislatures, this being reflected in tougher statutory regulations almost everywhere in the world.
When it comes to energy, ink and solvent consumption, the Bobst F&K 20SIX models are no longer comparable with machines that were state of the art just a few years ago. They offer far higher efficiency and require substantially less energy to print the same area. To enhance this capability, Bobst is offering the LEO (Low Energy Operation) system specifically designed for the new 20SIX family. This optional “green” kit is focused on the machine’s principal consumption devices: the drying, inking and cleaning systems and the compressed-air consumers and drives.
With the LEO drying system, broad measures have been taken for reducing or avoiding energy losses. These include an improved insulation of the heating circuit, which is more complex than it sounds but has proven to be highly effective. A solvent concentration control system ensures that the thermal energy in the exhaust air is used more efficiently and an after-burner system can be operated under optimum conditions. Control of the blower drive output as a function of the machine speed and the number of printing units used proves to be another efficient measure. Finally, the LEO system features intermediate drying nozzles that can be individually opened and closed only when required.
The completely redesigned AutoClean inking and wash-up system is characterized by short pipe and hose lengths, resulting in much smaller total ink and solvent/water volumes. Special compressed-air ink agitators with low compressed-air consumption requirements and individually variable cleaning programs with minimum solvent consumption are also important factors in the efficiency of the 20SIX.
The profile of a “green” LEO equipped 20SIX machine is completed by additional features such as servo drives with energy recovery modules, a refrigeration air drier with low energy consumption and energy-saving modes that switch the machine to the most efficient state at the push of a button during downtimes and production times.
These diverse means for saving energy do cause additional initial investment cost. However, with a short return on investment time, the people responsible for making purchasing decisions now find it much easier to go “green”. Buyers long ago changed their view of looking at just the acquisition costs and now consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) instead. This is especially critical now that eco-friendly production is, in many cases, being demanded by print buyers and ultimately, the consumer.
The new Bobst F&K 20SIX simultaneously performs to the highest demands in print quality and productivity while reducing costs significantly. It is the only reliable choice for profitably responding to the ongoing market trend toward smaller job volumes and improves a printer’s ability to compete in a tough market immediately upon start-up.