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FLEXO Magazine : July 2008
the Lowell St. plant is 100 percent flexo, 100 percent of the time. Presses-one Maf (now supportd by Bobst) and one Converting Technologies-run 10 hours a day, six days a week. The operation is staffed by six press operators, three of whom are fully trained on the CT press and five of whom can run the Maf. Erik, himself, counts among them. Typical work is a four-to-six-color job, printed with .107 -in. thickness plates, mounted on sleeves and printed on LDPE or Polypropylene with gauge ratings rang- ing from 90 up to 2mil. Short runs are a dominant part of the business. "Today, we'll run one job. Tomorrow, we'll run one or two. Yesterday, we printed three dif- ferent pieces," Erik reports. "Typical run length is 1,2001bs. That equates to some two-to three hours on the new press and perhaps one-half day on the older one. Eastern is a unique custom manufacturing operation, not a cookie-cutter application. Job-in/job-out times depend on the nature of the work involved. Here, there is no average job." Erik continues, "I want to be up and running, so I schedule jobs with close col- ors back-to-back. They can run out of the same ink pans and alleviate the necessity for total job changeovers. That itself adds efficiency to the business. You can't make money if the machine is down. I learned printing firsthand by running presses and I was a plant mechanic for eight years. "Printing takes a long time to master. Every pressman must learn the basics PLANTS & PROCESSES before orches- trating a run. At Eastern, we in- troduce them to the process and the machinery gradually, so as not to scare them off. Training takes place all on-site. With today's presses being so auto- mated, it's really a matter of learn- ing what button does what. All presses have the same basic controls-left foot, right foot, jog, start and stop." New technology is out there, according to Curtis. "Obviously, when introducing it, you do encounter some bumps in the road, as you maneuver through the learning curve." Speaking from personal experience, he says, "There is a definite advantage and benefit to having something that no one else has running. At Eastern, we just ex- panded the gamut that way. We're now able to do things we weren't able to do before. We got press speeds up to where they need to be-l,200fpm. I can turn over jobs faster than I can shake a stick." MODULE-BASED SETUP The capital equipment upgrade began with the realization that Eastern needed a wider web (53 inches, as opposed to 40 inches), Erik notes. "I did some homework, traveled to Europe, visited several press manufacturers and compared their offer- ings. Variable speed was one of my biggest points of concern. I fell in love with the linear motor technology when I first saw it. In my opinion, it's better than anything out there and offers quick turnover slide- in/slide-out cylinders on each print deck, etc. "The difference between today's opera- tion and that of just a few years ago is night and day. We used to have to carry cylinders around with a hoist, just to orchestrate changeover. Now, one guy handles the sleeves and the programming all by himself. It takes one-half hour, max, to enter all necessary information into www.flexography.org the system, and that is done from a single module with four screens across its front face. All data entered is retained and filed away for easy retrieval and automatic setup, every time a job is run. Our repeat sequence is very smooth." Talking setup, Erik says, "Once the job ticket is pulled, the cylinders are loaded. The most time consuming step, it seems, is getting the inks to the proper PMS color. Linear motors set impression at each deck. (See FLEXO,July 2007, page 24 for a report on linear motor technology and a compari- son to rotary motors). I like it because you get the controls down to 1/1,000 of an inch to bring your impression in, so especially when you are doing your CMYK jobs-your process print-you can keep your dot at a perfect dot gain size. Instead of squishing to one side, you can just minutely adjust it side to side and back and forth. It is much easier to control than the ball screws, which on other presses, are operated all by hand. We have precision controls and are equipped to adapt on the run and facilitate faster pro- duction of product with less waste." J U L Y 2008 - FLEXO
Flexo Sustainable Fall 2008