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FLEXO Magazine : January 2013
Industry Indicators “Mechatronics” Mechanics Electronics & software optimize Modern technology By Giancarlo caimmi Printing, packaging and converting—our industry— is affected greatly by global economic trends. Signifi- cant growth has been experienced within the past two years, which in North America, has been driven by both capacity and new technologies. As a result, a number of new niche-markets have surfaced and a number of new processes have been developed in or- der to capture greater market shares. Quality improvements are a constant pursuit. Modern day efficiencies and cost- and waste-cutting practices are in vogue. Elsewhere on the world stage: • Europe is devastated economically, but nevertheless, converters are surviving by looking into export and ex- pansion in new markets as the escape • Asia, in almost every industry, is the region most appeal- ing to companies looking into expansion Clearly, competing in this global marketplace involves a great deal of creativity, know-how and innovation in order to emerge. By natural selection, the strongest and the smartest succeed. As machinery manufacturers, we, by necessity, must antici- pate trends in order to be ready at the up time of an economic cycle. Counted amongst the significant developments are high speed printing, evolution in drying technologies and web-handling efficiencies. HIGH SPEED PRINTING High performance is, in reality, the definition we use, once we work at machine design for the top segment in the indus- try. High speed is easily achievable for a machinery manufac- turer, but performance is a different issue. Performance is contingent upon the ability to control all the variables in a conversion process and to produce, at high speed, high quality results. Achievement is therefore never the business of a single player. The machinery manufacturer is continuously interfaced to others. Moving therefore into the high performance territory will require the combined effort of the equipment, the coated compound and the substrates. Equipment wise, the focus is primarily on factors like rheol- ogy, drying efficiency and web handling. Rheology of inks and coatings are chemically comparable. A solvent-based ink, or a water-based ink, will show behaviors at the application sta- tion that are very similar to the ones of a solvent- or a water- based coating. That said, the ability to control the consistency of the compound under high rotational speed and high agitation, is a function of the machine design, as well as the chemical formulation. Here, two interacting factors are in need of a coordinated approach. DRYING EFFICIENCIES Machine design has to be targeted to the efficiency of the energy exchange. Therefore the ability to maximize the energy transfer from a source (normally air) to the vehicle to PERFECT HARMONY • High speed is easily achievable for a machinery manufacturer, but performance is a different issue • Performance is contingent upon the ability to control all the variables in a conversion process and to pro- duce, at high speed, high quality results • Equipment wise, the focus is primarily on factors like rheology, drying efficiency and web handling • Machine design has to be targeted to the efficiency of the energy exchange and therefore the ability to maximize the energy transfer from a source--normal- ly air--to the vehicle to be evaporated--a solvent or a water compound • Software packages are designed around the targets to be achieved • Web layout influences attainable speed levels 28 FLEXO january 2013 www.flexography.org