For some years, Edale, the British-based engineers of world-class printing and converting solutions for the packaging industry, had been interested in diversifying from the highly competitive label market. Where other narrow web press manufacturers were looking at flexible packaging and shrink sleeves with filmic substrates as diversification, Edale saw the folding carton market as the best way of offering added value to converters.
“We knew there was a demand for this type of press, all we had to do was come up with the right technology to make it work,” stated James Boughton, Managing Director, Edale. “We recognised that adapting a label press would not work so we started from the ground up with a new design that principally involved a more heavyweight construction to be capable of handling the additional stresses that cartonboard makes over label stock.
“Everything from side frames to rollers and drive train as well as some less obvious print process related nuances needed to be capable of printing and processing any cartonboard that a sheetfed offset press could cope with if we were to convince traditional houses to consider our proposition. It was a massive investment but has paid great dividends, because now more than 50% of our overall business is in the carton market.”
Traditionally, offset print quality was seen as superior to flexo but, as James Boughton explains, “If you look at the developments that have happened like CtP, UV inks and lacquers, better anilox rolls, and so on, there is very little now that flexo cannot do, and in most cases the colours are far more vibrant than offset, which if you’re looking for on-shelf impact in the supermarket, is a big bonus. I think the case for flexo being a quality print process is now well and truly proven and accepted globally.
“What our new generation FL5 offers is effectively the same print and converting capability as a B2 format offset press and die-cutter. It’s likely that most, if not all, carton houses will have this capability in-house, but for much of the added-value embellishment that is now in high demand, they will be outsourcing work.
“If you think of the different processes that are often required from printing through cold foiling, hot stamping, embossing and Braille, lacquering, and die-cutting, each of which requires work to be down-stacked for separate processing, then add up the floorspace and time that all this requires, the argument for single pass inline production is well and truly made.
“We see our prime market with existing carton houses that are looking for a more cost-effective way of handling short- to medium-run high-value work with a fast turnaround, because time to market is critical and is what every Brand Manager wants. Aside from the improved production efficiency, consider the reduction in costs: lower Capex, shorter ROI, reduced labour costs, less floorspace, lower power consumption, cheaper carton board on the roll, and so on, then it really is a ‘no brainer’.”
In standard form, the new generation FL5 boasts a web width of 600mm and a repeat size of up to 711.2 mm greater than a B2 plus sheet size format. It has a large diameter 1500 mm unwind, which can be replaced with automated options for continuous operation if required. The press is fully servo-driven to allow it to handle a wide range of board thicknesses. It has preregister and print head automation, which combined with a short web path makes for minimal waste. Its print head geometry offers consistent repeats with minimal adjustment, which is especially useful for short runs, and it can handle a colour change in under 60 seconds without the need for tools.
The overhead rail offers almost infinite flexibility of converting and embellishing options, and job set up and storage is from a single HMI point. The inline flat-bed die-cutter provides cut, crease and emboss facilities combined with low tooling costs and automatic waste stripping, and it has a delivery system that de-nests the blanks for easy collection.
The rationale for the new press is based on seven key challenges that carton converters face. “They are all fairly obvious, but when added together and analysed, they highlight how inefficient the traditional carton production method really is,” says James Boughton.
“Let’s start with the excessive set-up time and waste involved in using offline machines – single pass does this in one operation. Offline machines are expensive to buy and run – our automated inline option is not. Offline needs more operators – ours needs just one skilled operator. Multiple machines require more floorspace – ours has a compact footprint. Offline needs space for WIP – we don’t.
“The increase in SKUs is difficult to handle cost-effectively offline – but easy inline. The offline production process is fragmented which means longer delivery times – we can be quick to market, in some cases same day. They are all simple but critical to production efficiency and cost-effectiveness – and in today’s highly competitive market, anything that gives you an edge over your competition is valuable.
“The third generation FL5 brings inline flexo carton production up to date with the best technology and automation that you need to satisfy even the most discerning customer – and it does it efficiently and economically,” Boughton concludes. “It’s the perfect complement to existing carton production methods and offers both new and seasoned converters a real opportunity to make money.”
James Boughton with Edale’s third-generation FL5 single-pass carton production press