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FLEXO Magazine : January 2010
www.flexography.org JANUARY 2010 FLEXO 39 How a service bureaus aids in the shrink sleeve production cycle. Karlville also developed a high-quality entry solvent seamer specifically designed for the digital printer or small converter wanting to get his feet wet in the shrink sleeve market with a minimum capital investment." TAKING SHAPE In addition to the advancements on the equipment side of the shrink market, there has been a quantum leap associ- ated with graphics and software. We all know the advantages of using irregular shaped containers for shrink sleeves and the eye appeal that attracts consumers to pick up a product and place it into their shopping carts. Since more companies utilize this market strategy to grow a particular product line, the container shapes have become more sophisticated in an attempt to attract the eye of the consumers. In the past, there has been some limitation to the existing pre-distortion soft- ware for capturing the design on an extremely odd shaped container at a specific location on container. The anamorphous calculations used to create the 3D model relied on a circular symmetrical shape. Containers such as soda bottles, juice containers, and water bottles work perfectly with that software solution. However, if you have a container that is square or has an odd shape such as a small milk container, a salad dressing container, or a toilet bowl cleaner container the software can not automatically calcu- late the hard turn or odd shape of the bottle. To compensate for this shortcoming, these difficult areas were left void of copy or graphic images. But manufacturers now recognize the need for a solution. New software allows a converter to import a CAD drawing of a flat bottle or create a new container object in Illustrator, remove any non-container silhouette detail and import it into the program to create a 3D model. This model can then be re-imported into Illustrator and married with the label design to create any artwork pre-distortion before printing. It can also be used to create a PDF rendering of the container with the artwork imprinted that can be sent to a brand manager or customer for approval before printing. This new software technology can save companies hours in design and hand pre- distortion time. New software requires an additional step to the original solution via the use of a digital camera and a program incor- porating the use of a smart grid. Instead of creating the container in Illustrator, the smart grid is printed onto a shrinkable substrate, formed into a sleeve and then shrunk onto the container. The camera is then used to take a series of digital pictures around the container's perim- eter. These photos are then compiled to create a 3D model. This process can take four to six hours to complete, depend- ing on the complexity of the container. This model can then be imported back into Illustrator and married with the label design. This option allows converters more versatility and opens new markets that other converters are missing. SERVICE FOR SHRINK Since these solutions are not without a cost, many con- verters are turning to service bureaus to provide the same level of service but at a lower cost. These firms take converters step by step through the process of taking the graphic file of the grid, printing it onto a shrinkable substrate, forming it into a shrink sleeve, and shrinking it onto the container. The service com- pany then sends this container for the digital camera capture part of the process. Once the 3D capture is completed, the file can be emailed to the converter so the distortion can be rendered. This eliminates the cost related to the camera and software, along with the time necessary to take and compile the photographs. This new graphics solution can open up new markets by continuing to push the envelope for container shape and design. Although the past year has been challenging the future for shrink sleeves is still bright. Continued vigilance by convert- ers to look for cost savings through improvements to their manufacturing process, equipment selections, raw materials and the ability to offer customers new market solutions will differentiate their organizations from competitors and mold them as a leader in the industry. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As president of Ryback and Ryback Consulting Inc., Monroe, NC, Ron Ryback assists converters interested in entering into the shrink label market. He also helps customers with vendor selec- tion for equipment and raw materials, operator training and printing/convert- ing and troubleshooting field problems. His five decades of hands-on flexible packaging experience is invaluable when assisting customers with technical support in all facets of the manufactur- ing process. He can be reached at ron@ rybackandryback.com, or 704-219-7257. Until recently, shrink sleeve distortion software could not handle non-round containers. TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES
Sustainable EOY 2009