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FLEXO Magazine : August 2013
Industry Indicators Evolution of the Narrow Web Press creating Value, Expelling Variables & improving Productivity By Massimo Bellingardi Narrow web press technology is continuously evolv- ing. The past 50 years serve to prove that point. In the early 1960s, typography served as the foundation for the most basic machines. It wasn’t until the 1980s that techni- cal innovations took on a breakneck pace and flexography began its ascent to take a dominant hold in the narrow web machinery marketplace. Creating value for customers, expelling variables from the process and developing solutions that improve productivity and bring efficiency to the production floor all power progress to this day. By examining the state of the industry 50 years ago and tracking its path forward, using OMET’s press lines as ex- amples, the growth of narrow web flexo has become remark- ably clear. 1980-1990 Advancements in narrow web press technology were numerous in the 1980s. Chief among these were a widen- ing of the printing width to 420-mm . (17-in.) , introduction of photopolymer plates and mounting tapes, and acceleration of top press speeds to 120-m . (394-fpm). Production speeds were much lower, averaging 40-50-m or 131-164 fpm. Register MILESTONES & NARROW WEB PRESSES • 1980-1984: Narrow web press printing width is expanded to 420-mm . (17-in.) and the “half-moon” flat die is introduced. The phrases “polymeric plates” and “mounting tapes” are first heard and press speeds reach a theoretical 120-m (394-fpm). Production speeds are most often 40-m-to-50-m (131-164 fpm) • 1985-1989: Register controls appear on a printer for the first time • 1990-1994: Printing width sees another expansion, now growing to 520-mm . (20-in.) Color expandability and removable ink cassettes come to market • 1995-1999: Geared servo motors are used on infeeds and narrow web press widens to 620-mm. (24-in.), with those models referred to as mid web presses • 2000-2004: Gearless sleeve servo technology appears. Presses have the ability to print flexible packaging, like plastic films and cardboards. Combination printing brings integration of other processes—offset and gravure—to flexo. In-line hologram units, lamination using solvents, water and adhesives become popular • 2005-2009: A reduction in waste at start-up is possible because of preregister, short web paths and die advancements • 2010-Today: Growth in digital components spawns future plans to widen mid web printing further, to 820-mm . (33-in.) and improve inkflow EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of OMET’s 50th anniversary, FLEXO Magazine reached out to the company, founded in 1963, and asked its executives to prepare an article on the evolution of the narrow web press. In light of the milestone, the magazine has relaxed its commercialism policy. Exam- ples cited in this piece are actual OMET press models. oMEt XFlex X6 with offset groups. the XFlex was announced at Labelexpo Europe 2007 and won Fta’s technical innovation award the following year. 76 FLEXO august 2013 www.flexography.org XFlex X4. Inspired by nature. OMET Srl omet.it archipelago.omet.it DIGITAL WEB MAGAZINE Innovation with Passion. LakeComo/Lecco,Italy.MeetOMETinHall6H90 Press Buyer’s Guide