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FLEXO Magazine : Sustainable Fall 2009
Lay, among others, have responsibly pursued sustainability initiatives for decades. The sustainable strategies of these organizations tradition- ally are based on a rather long time frame. Reforestation, water conservation and alternative energy all pay significant dividends for the environment and for the pursuing organiza- tion. These strategies, however, can take years or decades to bear sustainable fruit. Our challenge as suppliers to these or- ganizations is to find complementary, shorter-implementation solutions which can achieve sustainable results in months, not years. As sustainability plays such an important role in the strate- gies of retailers and CPCs, it is clear that part of the sales strategy for flexo printers/converters and CPCs will need to contain a sustainable component, or they will not be as successful. CPCs need partners that can present them with sustainable packaging initiatives that are low-cost, easy to implement and have a solid return on investment. Implemen- tation and utilization of the types of process modifications and technologies discussed here represent a measurable and achievable means to accomplish this. OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN THE PROCESS A system approach to sustainability in any process states that the process is analyzed from start to finish: cradle to grave. In flexo package printing this means considering the impact of all raw materials used within the process including the removal of any waste material, including those ancillary raw materials that never touch the product. It is important in this exploration to control those aspects of the process that you can influence. That means the processes within your facility: gate to gate. Wal-Mart suggests that: A good first step in minimizing waste and waste related costs is to conduct a waste audit. A waste audit is the process used to identify the type and quan- tity of waste generated from a business's operations. Through a waste audit, a company can identify and prioritize material use and operational efficiencies, potential cost savings and/ or revenue generating opportunities." Some of the critical elements to Wal-Mart, and therefore the factors to key in on during the audit are: packaging material, energy, solid waste, water and PVC. Within a flexo converter there are a number of raw materials that can be eliminated or significantly reduced that would have serious sustainable implications. These materials are namely: substrate waste (setup material, run spoilage, product returns), stickyback, photopolymer plates, water and cleaning solvents. Each one of these is consid- ered a controllable material within your facility and effective elimination or reduction strategies can be employed with sustainable results. Additional opportunities within the process lay in produc- tion control. Within the flexo printing process there are a number of variables that may be controlled. By reducing the tolerances that contribute to run-out variation, impression set- ting and press speed, significant reductions in material waste can be achieved. These reductions in mounting variations and repeat inconsistencies lead to reduced setup time and material, reduction in register rejections, improved print qual- ity and increased throughput. With these opportunities in mind, we will examine technolo- gies that achieve sustainability through the reduction of raw material accompanied by improved production efficiencies and improved print quality. SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES The process technologies that we will explore include: in-the-round photopolymer (ITR), compressible self-adhesive sleeves (CSAS), and automated plate cleaning devices. These products have the capacity to drive process sustain- ability within a flexo converter with low implementation costs and fast return on investment. In-the-round (ITR) photopolymer technology has been in the market in North America since the mid-1980s. For years it was seen as a design solution to allow for continuous print. Today, improvements in merging, coating and imaging technologies have allowed ITR to be seen as a process solution. ITR's tight tolerances, press life and the elimination of mounting give it impact throughout the process. • Reduces setup time and material • Reduces stickyback use • Eliminates plate mounting time and labor • Reduces photopolymer material • Reusable base sleeve (some tech- nologies) • Increase in press speed ITR SUSTAINABLE CONTRIBUTIONS www.flexomag.com FALL 2009 Sustainable FLEXO 11