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FLEXO Magazine : August 2011
www.flexography.org august 2011 FLEXO 61 The Lean Mid Web Press Folding Carton Converters see Enhanced Capability & Profit By steven Leibin Flexography is the fastest growing analog printing pro- cess globally, with an expected growth rate of 4 percent to 5 percent over the next several years, according to a recent Print Industry Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR) study. The mid web press segment in particular is booming for that reason, as well as others. Most notably, it’s being propelled by two distinct trends: 1. The convergence of the narrow and wide web markets. 2. A need for leaner, more cost-effective packaging pro- duction solutions. MARKET FORCES All packaging segments (label, film, carton) are undergo- ing similar pressures. Demand is constant for the shorter runs, lower production costs and, quicker speed to market, to name a few. Consolidation has created added strain caus- ing packaging manufacturers to cross traditional production boundaries: • Wide web manufacturers are looking to orchestrate shorter runs. • Narrow web manufacturers are looking to produce wide web market short runs on less than wide web presses. • Multi-step sheetfed converters are looking at mid web presses to provide enhanced in-line efficiencies. • All these trends are causing the mid web press market to become very popular. Traditionally, the narrow web press had been recognized as any press 16-in. or less in web width. Then the label market started demanding wider presses to improve economies of scale to enter the flexible packaging (film) market. Currently, any press 20-in. or less is a common grouping for “narrow web” presses. Similarly, the traditional description for “ wide web” presses had been any press 40-in. or wider and that still holds today. That leaves any press greater than 20-in. and less than 40-in. wide in “no-man’s land” —the mid web category. Such presses are too wide for narrow web label production and too narrow for wide web film or carton production. Ahh , those were the days of simple market definitions. Another defining characteristic of press widths has been press speeds and capabilities. Narrow web presses have run- ning speeds up to approximately 750 fpm, where wide web presses (depending on market) can run up to 3,000 fpm. Mid web presses tend to fit in the middle, with run speeds up to approximately 1,200 fpm. Narrow web press manufacturing is dominated by in-line press designs to allow for profit enhancing value-added ca- pabilities. The wide web press market had traditionally been mostly in-line designs, but central impression presses have made significant inroads in the flexible packaging market, especially since the adoption of servo technologies. Modern in-line mid web press designs , like gallus’ ICs-670, utilize gearless-shaftless servo architecture with modular printing stations to deliver exceptional value-added capabilities.