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FLEXO Magazine : September 2012
SIGNS OF TIMES Water-based inks seem to be in decline in the label market because of higher UV flexo quality, however, UV inks have not been widely accepted in food flexible packaging. Water- based inks that produce flexible packaging on wide web presses are rising in popularity, thanks to drastically im- proved quality. Findings of my own independent survey revealed that 41.6 percent of label converters polled used water-based inks somewhat successfully for flexible packaging. This is partly because label converters were trying to print with water- based inks with limited drying capability supplied on narrow web presses for film materials. The trend has been leaning toward higher print quality of UV flexo inks with reduced photo initiators (specifically benzo phenone) that are food packaging friendly with low odor. However, this has not been widely adopted for flexible packaging, even though ink companies continue to make improvements to gain market acceptance. Shrink sleeve labels currently have 13.9 per- cent of the market. The shrink sleeve market is segmented between gra- vure for long runs, variable repeat web offset with multiple SKUs across the web, and UV narrow web flexo presses. Since the cost of these materials are rising rapidly, waste reduction is becoming more of an important factor. The push is on for shorter web paths and faster on press final acceptance. So, what is the answer for the narrow web converter? Seventy- five percent of those that I and my staff talked to, said they plan on expand- ing their narrow web label business into additional markets within the next 18 months because of low profit margins in conven- tional labels. It is then reasonable to consider new presses that can be configured and later re-configured according to the changing market demands. POLL & PROFITABILITY More than 60 percent of the companies surveyed are con- sidering entering these new markets using a mid web press, rather than a conventional narrow web label press. With FDA constraints using UV inks for indirect food con- tact, 41 .6 percent said they have had acceptable narrow web production output using water-based inks. One-third (33.3 percent) pointed out that they have not had consistent results A gravure unit is counted among modules that can be placed in the press. 70 FLEXO september 2012 www.flexography.org