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FLEXO Magazine : August 2008
INDUSTRY INDICATORS The fastest growth in the last few years has been wrap-around film. That’s the kind of clear plastic label you get around soft drinks and lemonade, etc. Smaller bottles were always paper, but for larger sizes, the carbonation could expand the bottle, splitting and tearing paper labels. That’s where wrap-around film labels came from. It’s virtually the same as a wrap-around paper label otherwise. Filmic materials are growing in line with the growth of plastic bottles, which is 10 to 15 percent per annum. That, in turn, is spurring the growth of flexo printing. Q: Where do gravure and offset stand in narrow-web label marketshare? For 20 years, people have been trying to build gravure label presses. But run lengths are declining worldwide and gravure has always been a long-run processes. It is still being used in long-run paper labels for beer bottle markets. But it’s too expensive for the origination processes for short runs. Nothing has come around recently that has picked it up. Offset, however, is increasing in usage. But that usage is not necessarily stand-alone offset presses. Much of the growth is in combination presses, particularly with hot foiling. The combina- tion press is also where the majority of screen printing is happen- ing. A 10-color combination press might have two screen units, offset units, UV flexo units, a hot stamp and a varnish station. All this is in the luxury end of the market where you need soft screen backgrounds and high-quality offset text. Wine labels are also a good market for offset, both in California and Australia. This market has always been paper labels. When they shifted to narrow-web, they wanted to go with the same kind of paper, materials and printing process. There are applications where you need screen or offset only, but these are specialist markets. If the label is going on a bottle that is placed in an offset-printed carton, you want the label to match the carton. But I would almost say it is a niche market and not really competing with flexo any more. Q: Q: Speaking of combination presses, do you see this as a grow- ing trend? Yes and no. There have been more press installations over the years. Back in the 1980s, about 8 percent of all press installations were combination. In the 1990s that went up to 10 percent. Now it’s around 11 to 12 percent. But that is the same growth rate as the luxury/high-end specialty market. So, it is growing, but that growth is slow. Do you find that many flexo label printers are expanding into non-label business such as shrink sleeves? Well, for starters, if you consider that 12 to 13 percent of narrow-web converters are doing something in the sleeving busi- ness, you’re not taking a lot of wide-web printers into account. The narrow-web press comes into play with short runs and quick changeovers. Some of the technology suppliers are catering more to narrow-web printing of this segment. There are also combina- tions that you can’t do on a wide-web press, such as metallics, screens and other special effects. The biggest factor behind the growth of film labels has been the growth of plastic bottles. Plastic bottles give you light weight- ing, which is lower shipping costs. Also, on the global stage, at sporting events, if people didn’t like what was going on, they tended to use a bottle as a projectile. So, a plastic bottle is much less dangerous than glass. There was a major push a few years ago for narrow-web car- ton presses, as well. But this has not taken off as much as some hoped. It’s not as easy to build a narrow-web press that can build a carton. The other area where they brought in presses is flexible packaging. That seems to have continued to grow. We find 12 to 18 percent of converters in developed countries are doing flexible packaging. Q: 32 F LEXO How has the worldwide sustainability movement affected the label industry? Sustainability has become an interesting phenomenon. One of the most interesting things, for me personally, is that people have schemes implemented worldwide to reuse the backing paper to self-adhesive labels. If you think about it, you are throwing away 50 percent of the material you started with. So they are finding AUGUS T 20 0 8 www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g Percentage of printers who see growth in smart labels (by region).
Flexo Sustainable Fall 2008