Flexo development comes of age
Automatic Printing Control
UTECO SAYS that one of the most important features converters are searching for today in modern flexographic printing machines is that of automatic setting in addition to the colour registration, the ideal pressure point between the plate and the anilox rollers, when setting up a new printing job.
In the continuous development of new technological solutions, Uteco’s strives to meet the customers’ changing requests and higher expectations of print quality as well as achieving the goal of reducing waste and change-over times.
Now Uteco, in cooperation with its Italian partner Grafikontrol, is at the final stage of testing a new system dedicated to automatic printing pressure control. This should improve the existing pressure setting system that uses registration marks. The system will be ready within the current year.
This new technical development, called Kiss and Go, is included in the Uteco (Press Control during Transition) and will automatically set the printing pressure at job start-up without the need of printed marks.
Kiss and Go features considerable advantages to flexographic printers, the company claims. There is an easy to use modular system applicable on presses with any printing repeat range and a fully automatic ‘Kiss’ point adjustment by direct scanning of the print (at full material width) rather than using the indirect method which does not take into account the possible mistakes and/or inconveniences occurring during the installation such as: mechanical backlash between the plate cylinders and the bearings, misplacement of the plate and anilox cylinders and plate wear. No dedicated marks are needed. It can be used with each and every kind of installed sleeves without the need of modifications (no chip RFID inclusion, no barcode label, no system to read information). Neither is any particular plate scanning required before inserting the sleeves in the press is necessary. The printing results depend on objective parameters and now not by the operator’s quality, skill or experience.
Following many years of positive results, Uteco has intensified its business plan for the years to come in terms of investment in R&D. This will mean the increased involvement of personnel and of financial resources dedicated to the realisation of the kind of innovative technical solutions that have enabled Uteco to obtain international patents such as `the Central Drum Direct Drive ‘ and `the Plate-Anilox Double linear guides’ that have resulted in royalties being paid to Uteco for the use of Uteco technology in competitive machinery.
As far as the technological development is concerned these are some of the ambitious targets: continuous design of flexographic presses with non-stop job changes (downtime); development of new automation technologies to limit the operators actions (data input), diversification of the inking systems in order to reduce any environmental impact (use of solvent-free inks). All these activities developed by Uteco are part of the improvement programme (Total Quality) by means of the Six Sigma.
Innovation has always played a key role at Uteco demonstrated not only by the production of high technology machinery but by the development of customised machinery, as well, to meet the final user’s requirements. The success obtained by Uteco machinery during many years of manufacturing has been reinforced also by this close cooperation.
In the development of all its production lines, Uteco’s goal is to be always on the front foot by offering to the packaging manufacturer innovative solutions with a fast response to the new needs coming from customers, especially when it comes to the environment and energy saving.
Starting from year 2000, new technologies have been constantly developed by Uteco’s engineers, above all on the flexographic and rotogravure printing machines which used to install, up to few years ago, complicated and expensive mechanical transmission for the motorization and synchronization of the printing rollers.
More recent developments in high quality printing have contributed to the complete replacement of this technology that used gears with the new gearless technology. According to this last know-how, each printing cylinder is motorised by its own electrical motor and the synchronization among them is made through sophisticated electronic control systems, which maintain colour register.
In the flexographic printing field Uteco has contributed to the transition from the gear technology to the more innovative gearless, thanks to the introduction on the market, in 2000, of the first central drum flexographic press type – Emerald characterized by the direct drive motors on the plate cylinders and on the central impression cylinder, which corresponds, for this kind of machines, to the drum itself.
For this innovation, Uteco has obtained an international patent (already granted in Europe, USA and the most industrialiszed countries worldwide) and is at present committed to the control and verification of possible infringements existing on the market with the purpose of protecting this solution.
Direct drive applied to the Uteco flexo machines is located in the plate cylinders and central drum motors through electrical motors directly connected to the cylinder shaft, eliminating any stage of motion reduction (gears, joints, belts, gaskets).
There are many advantages of this solution, among them the avoidance of mechanical backlash which limits the accuracy of the printing register; the total absence of wear; a much simplified mechanics and considerable bulks reduction. Thanks to this technology, the printing quality increases while the machine cost is reduced.
In particular, the drum cylinder’s motor uses synchronous torque motors with water cooling by the rotor connected directly to the drum’s shaft through a flange and the stator fixed to the machine frame.
The direct drive solution adopted by Uteco uses brushless motors, designed for the purpose, and high precision rotating measuring systems, allowing a better control of the rotation movement of the printing cylinders, with micrometric precision.
In the respect of the environmental regulations, on the one hand the motors and drives used on Uteco machines allow to obtain a balance in consumption of electricity while using the machine, therefore enabling significant energy savings, on the other hand the direct drive patented by Uteco and the gearless system applied on the plate cylinders cut significantly the price, thereby reducing the environmental impact of the machines.
The technical department, the technological engineering and the excellence centre Converdrome of the Uteco Group are always at disposal of the customers to give further technical information and generally advise on the technological developments carried out by Uteco backed by demonstrations on the available machines depending on specific customer requests.
D R SCHENK, a supplier of inspection and measurement solutions for thin film solar module production, has announced its participation in a trendsetting research project supported by the European Commission.
The Hiflex project aims to jointly develop a technology for highly flexible Organic Photovoltaics (OPV) modules. Due to the use of commercially viable printing and coating techniques on roll-to-roll material, this new PV generation can be produced even more cost-effective than today’s solar modules. Therefore, organic photovoltaic is one of the most promising business areas, as interest in clean energy technology continuously grows.
The research consortium has selected Dr Schenk as industrial partner for the Hiflex project. Dr Schenk contributes its know-how in the production processes of Thin film PV modules as well as roll-to-roll material and their quality requirements.
Schenk’s fundamental comprehension of inspection and measurement technology is a result of 25 years industry experience in the development and world-wide delivery of in-line metrology solutions to manufacturers of PV modules and web materials such as film, foil and nonwovens.
With the optical vision systems, SolarInspect for solar applications and EasyInspect for web applications, local material defects can reliably be detected along the production lines. Thanks to the additional monitoring and measurement options, SolarMeasure and EasyMeasure, manufacturers and converters can evaluate and correlate metrology data from the various analyzing steps and perceive a comprehensive overview of the entire manufacturing process. This global evaluation offered by Dr Schenk reveals the real potential for process optimization.
AFTER AN almost four years of mutually beneficial co-operation between agent Mogens Lindström and Apex Europe both parties are to go their separate ways. Mogens Lindström plans to continue his connection with the flexographic printing industry and has planned his next step into journalism, his work for the Dansk Flexo Forum and several flexo projects.
Apex has now appointed ScanTeco ApS as its new representation in Scandinavia. Michael Undén and Jens Bjørn will be responsible for the sales and technical advice for the total Apex product programme in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania and Latvia. The company was founded in October 1994 and has a long history in the flexographic printing industry.
The ScanTeco portfolio includes all kinds of products related to flexo printing, such as sleeves, doctor blades, printing machines and equipment. Since January 2010, the Apex products – anilox and metering rolls/sleeves, glue sets and a total cleaning and maintenance range have been added to make it a very complete product roster, which fits very well in ScanTeco’s vision and complies with Apex’ mission to offer service with an individual personal approach.
Part of the sales programme will be to promote Genetic Transfer Technology used to manufacture UniCorr, UniFlex and UniCoat metering rolls, a technology that has had many successes in the Scandinavian market already, according to the company.
T: + 45 (0) 44 985155
Small scale trials
USED BY packaging printers, label converters, ink producers, paper, film and foil suppliers, component producers and many others, the FlexiProof from RK Print Coat Instruments is functionally identical in every way to a full sized production flexo press, yet weighs just 45kg and occupies a bench top space of just 55cm x 45cm. Whether sited in a laboratory, in a dedicated pre-press environment, next to a press or anywhere else, the FlexiProof 100 and FlexiProof UV saves on press waste by enabling functions such as colour matching, pilot runs, research and development, and much else to be undertaken off-press.
PLC controlled and equipped with quick-change ceramic or steel anilox and swing in doctor blade, the FlexiProof offers multi-tasking capability. It can operate at speeds of up to 100 m/min and can be used with any flexible substrate.
To operate the FlexiProof 100 or newer variant FlexiProof UV the user simply selects and fits the appropriate anilox roll, then fixes the substrate (half A4) to the impression roll using the built in pressure sensitive strip. Printing speed is then set and ink applied using a disposable pipette. Side dams fitted at each end of the doctor blade provide a reservoir holding sufficient ink for producing multi proofs when required. The operator then presses both process start buttons and the anilox roller accelerates to print speed and rotates four times to distribute the ink. The stereo and impression roller rotate through one revolution to produce a proof. Additional proofs can be made without cleaning down.
RK PRINT COAT INSTRUMENTS:
New Alpha Multi
L AST MONTH saw the launch of the new Edale Alpha Multi flexo press, designed and manufactured in-house at the company’s UK manufacturing plant. The Alpha Multi has all the benefits of Edale’s existing Alpha design yet can print up to nine colours in a footprint of just five square metres. The Alpha Multi can be purchased as an upgrade to an original Alpha or as a brand new stand-alone press.
The new Alpha Multi has the same short web path and quick job change as the original Alpha and offers all the benefits of a modular machine but at a fraction of the price.
Edale is a prominent UK manufacturer of narrow web flexographic presses and converting machinery, with an impressive record of innovation and development. The award winning Alpha is Edale’s compact three, four or five colour flexopress available in 250mm and 330mm web widths, with a footprint of two-and-a-half square metres. With sales of the Edale Alpha now at well over 150 machines in over 50 countries around the world this compact press is becoming established with both large and small companies.
Following changes in the market worldwide, Edale is working hard to stay ahead of its competition by being cost-effective and creative. The company believes it has proved this with its latest incarnation of the Alpha.
The twin stack arrangement on the machine has the added benefit of allowing one stack to be in production whilst the second stack is being made-ready.
Martin Jackson, director of Kingfisher Labels purchased the very first Alpha Multi from Edale and said: “The compact footprint and its ability to run a five colour or a nine colour thread-up ensures minimum waste which appeals to Kingfisher Labels because it allows maximum flexibility on existing projects as well as providing expanded capabilities as future trends and production requirements dictate.”
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