'Bobst is committed to offering digital solutions for packaging’ - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Bobst is a leader in the packaging industry. The Swiss-based manufacturer has been investing in digital print technology for many years now.

Josep Roca, Asia Pacific sales manager at Bobst Firenze, says Bobst digital flexo concept and Bobst excellence modules are the most automated solutions you can find in the inline flexo industry today. “If you wrap this up with the Revo digital flexo workflow, you get to a level of changeover time and waste which challenges the current pure digital

02 Dec 2016 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI): Labels are getting more complex and innovative. A lot of it was on display during the PrintWeek India Awards and LMAI Awards.
Josep Roca (JR): Absolutely, and this complexity comes from different fronts. First, we have pressure-sensitive labels where sophisticated embellishment techniques are being applied like cast and cure, combination of different foils, screen, UV varnish tactile effects, etc. Additionally, label printers are evolving into labelling printers where unsupported material plays a crucial role for applications such as IML, wrap-around, shrink sleeve or simply short-run flexible packaging; and I need to say that when we combine our traditional label embellishment techniques on film printing, we are taking it to a completely different level.

PWI: What happened? Are label printers now looking beyond the number of colour and a couple of additions like inline foiling, turner bar or relam-delam unit, something they did say, five years ago?
JR: Definitively, the key parameters of the equation include substrates to be printed and how do we want to embellish and convert them inline. If the complexity and variety of the applications have evolved and expanded dramatically in recent years, the process of defining the specifications cannot but contemplate all the existing possibilities. That’s where the counselling of a reputable and reliable solution provider plays a major role.

PWI: More and more flexo vendors are offering hybrid presses. Do you think it’s mandatory to have a hybrid press for applications like VDP?
JR: There are several Bobst label presses in the region equipped with inkjet stations for VDP application, which range from simple coding to more complex brand protection and embellishment features. Most of such applications involve one or two colours only, which is why we don’t see the need to have a hybrid press in the sense of counting on a CMYK inkjet engine inline with our flexo presses. For variable image applications, we believe that such jobs must be tackled from a cost-effective and high output purely digital perspective. Bobst, as a leader in the packaging industry, has been investing in digital printing technologies for many years now and is committed to offering digital solutions for packaging and labels alongside more conventional printing technologies.

Bobst M5 Line

PWI: You spoke about short-run labels, and at the Labelexpo show, one can see flexo manufacturers putting efforts to make short runs economical. But, has the Indian label market matured enough to really worry about short-runs?
JR: Certainly, because both the Indian and the foreign brand owners operating in India offer a package to our customers which includes short, medium and long-runs and our customers need to count on a flexible printing platform able to cope with such a demanding environment.

PWI: In the last few years, flexo presses have upped one level of makeready automation and faster changeovers. Is this to fight the competition from digital?
JR: More than one I would humbly say. Bobst digital flexo concept and Bobst excellence modules are the most automated solutions you can find in the inline flexo industry today. If you wrap this up with the Revo digital flexo workflow, you get to a level of changeover time and waste which challenges the current pure digital solutions available out there and from a transparent and controllable flexo running cost perspective being printed at 200m/min therefore flexible to cover short- but also long-runs. This flexibility is totally out of reach of the existing digital solutions available in the market.

PWI: There are flexo presses which can be set up in less than 10 minutes and offer pre-registration on the print stations together with automatic registration during a print run and a self-cleaning plate system. Do you have something similar in your bag of products?
JR: We do, but we didn’t stop there. If we combine all our automation elements and we use the Revo extended colour gamut approach, we can carry out a complete job changeover in one minute, generating approximately 10 minutes of waste. These are certainly numbers that are extremely competitive even in a purely digital environment.

PWI: This means increased automation. But does this mean higher efficiency? And if yes, have the ancillaries and consumables like plates, dies, aniloxes, etc been developed to support this enhanced automation or will that be a hindrance?
JR: Automation not only means efficiency, but also consistency which was the missing link in the flexo world for years due to the inherent lack on standardisation we have been struggling with. That’s what Revo is all about, not only an automated press but a 100% digital flexo workflow with state-of-the-art aniloxes, low migration UV inks, thermal photopolymer plates, digital plate imaging and colour management, all developed according to the same Revo specifications. Revo is a technology-centric not an operator-centric process and every Revo partner brings to the equation boundary breaking solutions which combined are unbeatable.

Bobst digital flexo process

PWI: But on the pre-press front, the dots have continued to get finer and flexo print sharper. Here, Esko’s Full HD and in last couple of years Kodak’s Flexcel NX has gained popularity in India. Esko, of course is part of the Revo technology. What does the Revo technology offer?
JR: The Revo technology allows us to print at 228 lpi, which means that we have taken flexo to an offset level already. Therefore, neither resolution nor tonal range is an issue. Flat top dot technology and micro-engraving technologies are already there and thermal plates are evolving at an extremely fast pace. Laser ablative elastomers are also doing in-roads into the industry.

Revo technology

PWI: What’s next?
JR: Honestly, I am quite intrigued about what will be the next evolution in such field but for sure it needs to focus on delivering extra printing quality to allow us to venture into security applications, increasing the consistency of the plate manufacturing process, reducing its processing time to allow our customers a shorter time to market and hopefully provide them with extra cost savings.

PWI: Another trend we are witnessing is wider versions of narrow-web flexo press, aimed mainly at opportunities in short-run flexible packaging and folding carton. Are we redefining the boundaries of a label printer? What will be the repercussions?
JR: Our customers’ customers make them push their boundaries on a daily basis. Brand owners are asking our customers to extend their printing capabilities to offer them solutions beyond labels because they want to speak to a limited number of reliable suppliers who can address most of their needs. Label printers need to gear up accordingly and venture out of their natural ecosystem but allow me to state that Indian label printers are embracing this in an extremely dynamic and natural way.

PWI: Finally, coming back to digital technology, among the 12-15 digital label printing machines installed in India barring three or four players, others are still struggling to be viable. What’s the reason? What should they be doing?
JR: India is first of all an extremely cost-competitive market and with the current digital solutions, once customers have gone through a complex learning curve and understood how the digital cost works, they end up facing the fact that the running cost doesn’t match the market expectations.

To answer your second questions, from an application perspective, there are not so many variable image jobs out there and the potential of those digital presses is never unleashed ending up with digital presses running few hours a week or doing one colour coding printing jobs which could be done just as well with an inkjet unit installed on a conventional press. Secondly, Indian printers are extremely creative and they use a wide range of substrates with specifications that make them extremely difficult or even impossible to be printed on a digital platform.