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FLEXO Magazine : August 2013
Technologies & Techniques Integrated Converting Technologies for Narrow Web Presses What Makes good Business sense? By Dennis Mcgee Today, integrated converting technologies (ICTs) can be found in all areas of narrow web printing. Many ICTs are classified as value-added decoration processes, such as screening, hot or cold foiling, or embossing. They are available as in-line modules or offline equipment. In some cases, with the flip of a switch, they transform from in-line function to stand-alone machine. The combining of printing processes—flexo, offset, rotary screen, gravure, even digital—on one press platform, to real- ize the strengths of each process; as well as basic finishing processes, such as die cutting and sheeting, are also classi- fied as ICTs. Trends to be acutely aware of include: • Explosive growth of digital printing is a prime contributor to the proliferation of ICT printing and finishing systems in our narrow web marketplace • Servo drives with programmable logic controller (PLC) packages make it possible to marry any and all ICT units into new and/or existing printing or finishing lines • Narrow web press and finishing systems builders are addressing a wide range of market needs and thereby promoting and furthering the adaption and use of ICTs OPPORTUNITY FITS OPERATION A great percentage of today ’s digital printers are using offline analog printing and finishing systems. Digital laser die cutting has also grown in acceptance. Decisions on what ITCs are required to support digital printing systems may be based on the type of digital in use. For example: 3- or 4-color process printing may dictate a “keep it simple approach,” consisting of an offline flexo coat- ing deck with die cutting. On the other hand, a digital system employing six or seven colors, may cry out for a more value- added ICT approach where screen, foiling, embossing and die cutting are available. Please recognize this fact: digital printing equipment providers are putting ICTs inline! Another decision point for the digital printer comes in answering the question, “What makes sense, a full-rotary approach, or a semi-rotary system?” The simple answer may be rooted in the system being invested in. If movement from frame-to-frame within the digital engine needs to be ad- dressed, then the semi-rotary approach should be a serious consideration. When the cost of tooling, plates, screens, etc., enters the equation, the flat semi-rotary process again can offer a cost-effective approach. More and more printers now target a decorating and finish- ing line that runs either full rotary or semi rotary at the flip of a switch. Some choose to place their offline decorating and finishing system inline with their digital press; others prefer offline—it comes down to what makes good business sense for the work you need to produce. As has happened over the years in printing, benefits to one area of your business can also be a plus for another. This has proven very true for those narrow web shops that have both digital and conventional printing systems at their disposal. Conventional printing can now be decorated and finished offline—on the same systems being used to produce digitally ABCs of ICTs • Pick your printing process, or any combination thereof, and marry a multitude of ICTs to the conventional narrow web press line • Flexo remains as the dominant process - Rotary Screen can be dropped into a print unit, or screen units can ride on a overhead travel rack - Cold Foil units can be permanently positioned in- line, or be movable on an overhead rail system - Hot Foiling specialty applications bring edge definition, sharpness and smoothness - Cast and Cure is performed by laminating the casting film to a wet UV or EB coating, which is in contact with the web that the image will transfer to - Fixed-in-place, or movable gravure units, offer heavy, consistent lay down of inks and coatings - Hot Melt systems combine in-line pressure sensitive adhesive coating with printing, all in a single pass - Rotary Die Cutting systems are running wrap- around tooling; laser die cutting has found its way onto conventional printing presses, as has sheeting, plow folding, batching and stacking and in-line laminating • Explosive growth of digital printing is a prime contributor to the proliferation of ICT printing and finishing systems • Conventional print can be decorated and finished offline on the same systems being used to produce digitally printed labels and packaging 44 FLeXO august 2013 www.flexography.org Press Buyer’s Guide