An exciting inning with flexo in India.
Mahesh Kode, of DuPont India explains DuPont’s products and strategies for India, in conversation with Rahul Kumar.
Rahul Kumar (RK): How does DuPont view the flexography market in India, considering that Indian packaging market is growing and is set to grow for the next couple of months? What are the products and services you offer to the Indian market? Anything new in the offing?
Mahesh Kode (MK): DuPont Packaging Graphics has had an extremely exciting inning with flexo in India, in fact South-Asia as we call it (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal together form this sub-region in Asia-Pacific). As a thumb-rule, packaging grows at 1.5 times the GDP of a developing economy, and we have experienced a much higher growth number of 17% CAGR volume growth over the last 6+ years. We sell the DuPont Cyrel brand of flexo photo-polymer plates and plate-processing systems world over, and over the 40 years of this brand’s existence, we have been revolutionising the flexographic industry.
RK: DuPont is making forays into Indian pre-press market with two of its major products, DuPont Cyrel 1001 TD thermal flexographic plates and DuPont Cyrel Digiflow 1000. What is your market share in India so far? What are the steps you have taken to attract more customers?
MK: TD stands for Thermal Developer, wherein flexo plates can be processed without the use of solvent with our patented Fast technology. We launched the TD1000 (35x47-inches) way back in 2000, followed by bigger formats, the TD4260 and TD5080 in subsequent years. It was time to evolve the original TD1000 to the next level of performance with the learning that followed, and hence, the TD1001 was launched in 2014, with the very first machine in Asia-Pacific coming to India.
The 2000 DigiFlow, an exposure-frame solution by DuPont to create FTDs in an inert atmosphere without using films or additional processes, was launched in Drupa 2012, and we now have the smaller 3547 format in the form of the DigiFlow 1000. We already have 17 Fast installs in South-Asia, with more to come. The Indian market is still largely serviced by our trade-shop customers. Hence, we offer the Fast solution only when a convertor himself wants to go in-house. The DigiFlow technology will be available with almost all notable trade-shops in India through the first-half of this year.
RK: What are the other products you have in India?
MK: We have the widest range of plate-types, hardness and thicknesses than anywhere else in the world. This is because the flexo industry, equipment and consumables evolved differently here, be it corrugated, flexible packaging or labelling segment There has been standardisation over the years, but we still need improvements in inks, etc, hence, there is lot more work to be done, thus, also the need for multiple products. We sell a range of plate-processing equipment, and also offer applications, equipment and marketing support to further the cause of flexo.
RK: How can your products best be used to improve the quality, consistency and repeatability of print?
MK: The DigiFlow method of producing FTDs has already set a new benchmark for superior highlight-printing, enhanced plate-life, improved dot-consistency. With more installations about to happen, more convertors will be able to avail of these benefits taking Flexographic printing to the next level in India.
RK: The Indian market is very different from the market in the US or Europe. Is this true? Please elaborate.
MK: That depends upon which segment we are talking about. The labeling industry in India is highly evolved, and flexo printing is on par with the best in the world. In the corrugation industry, we have a long way to go. We are still stuck with offset pre-printed sheets laminated offline to corrugated board, hence the corrugated box lacks in strength. World over, corrugated post-print is the order of the day, wherein the corrugated board is made on automatic lines and then printing is done on the finished board by flexo. For higher volume products such as bottled water or beer / liquor cartons, the industry elsewhere has moved further to flexo pre-print. A paradigm shift is needed in this field. It is evolving, but slowly.
In flexible packaging, there are two broad categories – surface-printed polyethylene films, and reverse-printed laminates. The former is widely used for milk and edible-oil pouches, feminine care and baby diaper packs, and some of it is still being done by gravure. But this is fast-changing, as films are getting down-gauged- only CI-flexo presses can effectively print on thinner extensible films at higher speeds and lower wastages, and the gravure-to-flexo transition here is swift.
Reverse-printed laminates has been a gravure stronghold all over Asia with 90% being done by this print-form, versus North America or Australia, on the other hand, where 90% of flexible packaging is done by wide-web CI-flexo. Europe was equally split between both gravure and flexo, but with new investments increasing leaning towards the latter. The reasons are compelling there, including strict emission norms on converters, environmental impact of gravure cylinder-making and printing versus flexo. Flexo, thus, becomes a more economically viable alternative over gravure and wins hands down in these developed nations.
Asia in general and India in particular, is still not near those control regulations, thus permitting gravure to thrive and be competitive, but as with all other things, this too is changing in India. In the last one year alone, all major gravure converters have added flexo to their arsenal, and flexo for flexible packaging is thus going to be a huge driver for further proliferation of this technology.