Texas Converter Strengthens Position in Short-Run Flexible Packaging with Nilpeter FA-26
The FA-26 is the widest press released to the global market to date by the Danish manufacturer, and this installation is the first of any in Nilpeter’s press series to include in-line E-Beam lamination. The press has been designed to maximize the profitability of short-run conversion of film structures for pouches, sachets, stick packs and shrink sleeves.
The FA-26 carries the same features and benefits the Nilpeter brand is regarded for in narrow web printing market combined with wider throughput, and a new a printhead design – all supported by comprehensive and advanced automation systems.
“It is rare for a piece of equipment to exceed my expectations,“ says Scott Smith, TQL Packaging Solutions founder. “I knew the Nilpeter FA-26 would be a great press, but it has delivered beyond what I expected in performance.“
Already realizing growth in flexible packaging and shrink sleeve label markets using narrow web films presses, it made sense to advance into a wider format press. “We’ve done well to jump to 26 inches,“ says Smith. “At this width, we’re able to address a piece of the market that we had not been wide enough to service previously.”
The increased width has greatly improved the converter’s hourly throughput. Additionally, the wider web brings greater opportunity to capture new business in several popular formats and designs that require a printing web greater than twenty inches.
The FA-26 brings a new landscape printhead design to the in-line flexo machine that supports execution of premium print quality across the additional web width. Eight motors drive and control each printhead with closed loop feed back to the PLC.
Smith explains, “Nilpeter’s technology in the FA-26 has jumped from previous films presses. The landscape design of the printhead is awesome. It greatly minimizes the bounce that some images produce on our traditional film presses, and it allows us to increase speed.”
TQL is effectively running jobs at or below 25,000 feet, setting up faster than its narrower equipment with set-up automation, and doubling the speeds it regularly runs on 16” presses. With job memory and auto-register, TQL operators are able to efficiently web the press and dial-in settings to produce saleable product quickly with less waste and higher quality.
Adds Smith, “We are noticing far better efficiencies in set-up, and less waste, even with a much wider web than we’re used to running.”
Flexo Competes with Gravure Quality
TQL targets business with complex graphics that require photo image quality and soft edges. Traditionally flexible packaging and other printed films markets have demanded offset and gravure printing to produce the crisp, fade-to-zero images that catch a shopper’s eye on pouches and sachets, enticing them to purchase.
Smith explains, “There’s a huge number of buyers out there that want the super high quality and consistency that they’re used to getting from gravure. This new press allows us to deliver on that expectation with quicker turnaround and lower cost.”
Jakob Landberg, Global Sales Director at Nilpeter, explains, “All our presses are manufactured to the highest accuracy in-house. The frames are welded together and powder coated, with all drilling, grinding and threading processes completed in one step. In this way, when our customers store positions in the job files, jobs can be recalled to the tightest tolerance with the presses holding ultra-tight register over the run length, and consistency from job to job.”
The advancement in flexographic technology – digital artwork development and HD plating, new ink and curing systems and more – throughout the print market supports the precision and flexibility designed into the FA-26 press.
Flexibility and Sustainability
The packaging converter selected options for its FA-26 press to bring the business distinct advantages in flexibility and sustainability. With UV-LED curing and in-line E-Beam lamination, TQL is stronger in servicing customer short-run flexible packaging requirements with any variety of materials coupled with various ink systems and laminating technologies.
TQL chose a UV-LED curing system, with lamps that are cool to touch, making them more compatible with heat sensitive substrates. A UV-LED system uses significantly less energy than traditional LED systems, and can be turned on and used instantly with the intensity required to fully cure inks, bringing more speed to the converter’s turnaround time. The UV-LED lamps are also highly durable when compared to traditional mercury systems, lasting longer and demanding fewer part changes to meet performance needs over time.
TQL’s FA-26 is equipped to cure UV and E-Beam lamination adhesives to produce a wide variety of flexible packaging. E-Beam lamination has proven film-bonding properties with multiple substrates including BOPP, PET and LDPE based sealant films, aluminum foil, and papers. EB laminated structures exhibit good water, and food resistance, are suitable for food packaging with FDA compliance, and are odorless.
Smith admits, “Nilpeter’s ability to integrate E-Beam lamination into the press, achieving the smooth level of communication required to meet the quality and speed we need to service our customers has been impressive.”
Twenty-five percent of the work TQL produces is for the food and beverage market. Once COVID-19 hit and consumer demand spiked, the converter produced a year’s worth of volume between March and May 1.
Smith tells, “The challenges of COVID-19 have been moderately high for us as a company. However, we had less challenges in the installation of this press than in most previous new press installations. Now consider that this is a beta press with a major retrofit piece of equipment, the first of its design, and the challenges that typically come with a beta press, I think Nilpeter did exceptionally well.”
Landberg says, “The installation success can be attributed to Nilpeter’s strong local technical support in North America and our close collaboration with the TQL team. The press was flown to Texas from Denmark, installed, and integrated with the lamination unit with very few challenges.”
TQL expects to hit capacity on its new press in the next six months with its financial trends showing growth between 30-40 percent for the end of 2020, and a pipeline that could promise 100 percent growth to kick off 2021.
Smith continues, “The market for what the machine can do is so much greater than what we estimated. Between new work and cutting in on traditional gravure business, the future looks bright for our business, and I expect we’ll need a second FA-26 very soon.”