Gallus hybrid brings new flexibility on short run work to Label Art
As part of a €1.5 million investment programme, Label Art has installed one of the new Gallus EM 430 S hybrid flexo lines at its plant in Tallaght on the outskirts of Dublin. Nick Coombes visited Ireland and spoke with Sales Director Gerard Molloy about the thinking behind the company’s latest move.
It weighs 15.5 tons, and is fully 20 metres long. It has the new wider web width of 430mm (previously 410mm), comes with a shorter web path of 2.2 metres, and is highly specified – the Gallus EM 430 S. No one could possibly say that Label Art is a converter that does things by half! Aside from its vital statistics, one of the major benefits of the Gallus EM S series of presses is their open-module platform design, which allows maximum production flexibility, with simple slide-out-slide-in interchangeable print and converting units.
The new Gallus at Label Art is a UV-flexo, rotary screen, hot and cold foil and embossing combination line, fitted with two die stations. To maximise flexibility, the company has specified 10 flexo heads and four screen heads, even though the line cannot accommodate all of them at one time. Delivered after Christmas, and installed in the early weeks of January 2013, the servo-driven press had been in commercial production for 10 weeks when the author visited end of March, and was already making a significant contribution to Label Art’s business.
According to Gerard Molloy, who joined the company in 2006 to head the drive for new business: “We print tested the Gallus EM 430 S against a number of other presses. We liked the speed and comfort with which we can change from a flexo print head to a screen head, and back again without disturbing the web. The hybrid print head is in a class of its own, and since that facility is key to our type of work, the purchase decision was made easy,” he said, adding that the Gallus’ build quality was seen as significant too.
The Gallus EM 430 S replaced two older letterpress machines from the Swiss manufacturer, a Gallus R160B, which was scrapped, and a Gallus R200B, which was cannibalised for parts to keep two other eight-colour Gallus R200B presses running. Molloy says the two Gallus R200B presses still produce top quality work with their screen and hot foil capabilities. Elsewhere, two older 16-inch Comco Commanders complete the machine park at Tallaght on the site where it all began in 1981 under the watchful eye of Billy Browne, of Avery Label. Today, the company is run by four Directors, the owners John Browne and Donal Healy, with Pat Tully and Gerard Molloy.
Previously focussed on supplying the food and beverage markets, with a significant proportion of output for the chemical industry, Molloy was quick to spot market sectors that appreciated high quality work, and usefully offered better margins. Today, the company is well entrenched into supplying the pharmaceutical industry (with PS 9000 accreditation), and believes its capabilities are now better suited to its portfolio of customers. Pharma now accounts for around 50 per cent of turnover, chemicals around 20 per cent, food and beverage 15 per cent, and what Molloy describes as ‘brand protection’ makes up the balance. This includes nano technology, holograms and the like.
“What the new Gallus gives us is flexibility. We’re currently running at around 90 metres/minute on combination flexo/screen jobs, and 150 to 180 metres/minute on eightcolour flexo work – the run speed is controlled by the ability of the base material to perform. The short web path means that even on a 10-colour press, we’re using only 40-45 metres of substrate between jobs before we’re back into commercial production,” said Molloy. He estimates the Gallus has reduced costs by up to 30 per cent in certain cases, if time, materials, and labour costs are all included, and with its fast change sleeve system and register control, has removed bottlenecks on the shop floor and taken away some of the old ‘production excuses’.
Label Art was the first label converter in Ireland to install digital technology. This was back in 2005, when it installed a WS 4050 press. A WS 4500 was added in 2010. Intended to take over the production of shorter run work, which on the older flexo and letterpress machines were not cost effective, the digital presses now find themselves competing with the traditional flexo/screen technology of the new Gallus. “We are now switching much of our work back from digital to conventional because the speed and ease of make-ready on the Gallus EM S series makes it more competitive. It has moved the market beyond our existing digital capacity, so the challenge is now to decide where we go next,” added Molloy, explaining that the new press has allowed a more flexible approach to production at the company.
Describing the new skills required from press operatives as ‘less knob twirling and more button pushing’, Label Art claims the Gallus EM S is easy to learn and use. At the time of writing, the company’s operators were about to undergo their second Gallus training week, which will include the skills necessary to extend Label Art’s reach into the markets that use thin film substrates, for which the chill-roll equipped press is well suited. Currently producing around 60 per cent of its labels on paper substrates, Label Art has its eyes on further success in the drinks market, where the Gallus EM 430 S can run top quality work at high speed, with good margins. Another market that has opened up is paint – where flexo’s new capacity for printing high quality vignettes, as well as the ability to lay a solid screen white, has given Molloy new ammunition.
So, what’s next on the table at Label Art? According to Gerard Molloy, more investment in servo driven press technology and a major rethink on where to go with digital. “We shall continue to focus on the quality end of the market and gear our investment in production towards the most efficient way to produce top quality,” he concluded.