Made in India: CI flexo machines from Echaar Equipments

By 15 Jun 2021

Close to 10 CI flexo presses are coming in to India every year, an encouraging sign for domestic companies with equipment manufacturing capabilities to enter the fray. Kirti Panchal, managing director,Echaar Equipments, a four-decade-old group, discusses with Rahul Kumar what it takes to produce an affordable CI flexo press

For the last 41 years, Echaar Group has earned a reputation in various manufacturing sectors, such as defence, atomic energy, hydro energy, windmill energy, oil and gas, construction equipment, and the printing industry. Echaar Equipments is a market leader in cost-efficient and technologically innovative solutions, established as a response to the new needs of the market, with a respect for environment regulations and energy saving.

“By focusing on four strategic objectives – effective organisation, operational excellence, people and growth – we aim to maintain our position of leadership in the markets we operate in and achieve the same in any new markets we enter,” Kirti H Panchal, managing director, Echaar Equipments, says.

Echaar started manufacturing CI flexo presses in India in 2018 with technology collaboration with the Italian company CT. Launched in February 2018, the Echaar CI flexo machines can print on the flexible substrates like PE, PET, BOPP, paper and board.

The company has three plants with its headquarters at Wagle Estate, Thane, Maharashtra. The other two units are at Ambernath and Mankoli in Maharashtra.

Central Impression
The speciality of CI flexo machines is that it has a big common impression drum against which all the printing stations are placed. This makes printing of polyethylene and other stretchable materials easier at a high speed of 300- to 600-m/min with excellent registration and print quality.

“The high print quality and registration accuracy of CI (central impression) Flexo printing is well established, while recent developments among inline UV Coating, in line slitting have meant that flexographic presses are now able to compete with gravure and litho machines in many areas such as paperboard packaging manufacturing,” he adds. Panchal says the machines are suitable for anyone involved in printing of flexible packaging materials. “We offer solutions to varied requirement of different customers, with different models, from entry level to top level,” he adds.

The market
He says while India has traditionally been a rotogravure market in package printing, the changing trends show the future in package printing technology in India is flexo. “There have been significant advances in flexographic printing in the past few years. At higher resolutions and faster speeds, flexo is now more competitive with offset and rotogravure. The Indian industry has begun to grasp the numerous advantages of CI flexo that include lower start up waste, faster changeovers, economical handling of shorter runs and high-speed printing. People see flexo as a modern, cost-effective process for printing of flexible materials,” he explains.

India is a cost-conscious market, there are converters who have invested in CI flexo presses from international companies. Panchal says, "There have have installations by overseas manufacturers, these machines are too expensive and only 5% can afford this."

This is were, Panchal says, Echaar saw India as a potential market for CI flexo, and decided to start manufacturing CI flexo presses with superior technology. “We offer a range of CI flexo presses with the latest gearless technology, from entry-level to high-end models, which are cost-efficient, technologically innovative and suited to the individual needs of the Indian market.”

The company supplied its first machine to Kalyani Packaging, Kolkata, another three machines are in production stage. “As we are the pioneer in manufacturing CI flexo presses in India, despite being a new entrant, many customers are now approaching us,” he says.

As the company manufactures for the essential sector, it had the permission to operate during the pandemic, and Panchal says, the company served its clients to its best. “In the last 14 months, manufactured two printing presses, and are currently manufacturing additional two more presses.”

However, the company sole installation remains the Flexodelight HL 400 at Kalyani Packaging.

The USP
Panchal says customers while choosing a CI flexo press, customers usually look for finest print quality with minimum ink coverage; uses of environment-friendly ink (water-based, UV-based, EB-based); minimum solvent consumption for solvent-based ink; high-speed for both thinner and thicker material; and shorter downtime from job to job.

The typical application of CI flexo printing includes flexible and aluminium packaging, pre-print liners and labels, plastic and paper bags, heavy duty paper sacks, and shrink sleeves, for segments such as FMCG, food packaging like milk and oil, biscuit, rusk, packages for tetra packs, soap and shampoo, and baby diaper packages.

Panchal says the USP of the Echaar machines is that it can easily print thin and stretchable material, such as PE, PVC shrink films, in addition to other standard material like polyester, BOPP, paper, board, etc. “One of the biggest advantages of our machine is that it can print using water-based inks as well. Also, the machine can be given UV/ EB ink capability,” he explains.

He adds that the machines are fully made in India. Even the critical parts are developed in India. Thus, customer from India need not be dependent on overseas manufacturers. Also, Echaar offers a wide variety of machines, and offers the exact suitable machine to the printing needs of the customer.

Currently, the overall ratio of the products the company has is 60% Indian and 40% foreign.
It has strategic supplier partnership with companies like Bosch Rexroth, Siemens, Festo, Sigwerk, BST, Rossini, Siemc, Apex, Creative Graphics, Reproflex, among others.

Echaar offers gearless CI flexo presses in three series, Flexomaster (high-speed series with full automation), Flexodelight (high to medium speed series), and Flexosmart (medium speed series), best suited for entry-level printer who are switching from gravure to Flexo).  The machine can be offered with different speed, from 200- to 800-m/min.

A printer with one assistant can operate the machine, and Echaar provides complete training for operation and maintenance of the machine. “We provide online and offline service support to all our customers pan-India. We have also started a service vertical which offers health check-up of printing and converting machines, he adds.

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