Kama prototype folder- gluer

FlexFold 52 can handle many job changes in a short span of time, delivers quality, while running with significantly shorter production cycles, reports Anand Srinivasan

12 Jan 2015 | By Anand Srinivasan

As part of its strategic alliance with HP Indigo, German finishing equipment manufacturer Kama, during its Finishing Days 2014, launched the prototype of FlexFold 52, an innovative folder-gluer for digitally printed folding boxes. At the event, held on 11-14 November 2014 at the Kama headquarters in Dresden, Germany. Also HP displayed its Indigo 30000 digital press.
Together, HP Indigo and Kama promise to offer an end-to-end workflow solution for folding cartons on demand, featuring the latest technologies for digital folding carton printing, true-to-register finishing, in-line stripping and blanking without tools followed by folding and gluing on  the new FlexFold 52.
The Finishing Days was also a part of the German company’s (founded by Teodor Remus, as Scamag, in 1894) 120th anniversary.
Apart from the FlexFold 52, the solutions from Kama includes the DC 76 die-cutter and Kama Cockpit.
The Finishing Days was a result of the Kama-HP Indigo strategic partnership signed in 2010. The event also saw Kama and HP’s other strategic partners, Kurz, Tresu, Esko, HHS-Baumer, MM Karton and Marbach exhibit their prowess.
According to Kama’s registration figures, the open house attracted over 500 attendees, including customers from more than 34 countries, including the UK, the US, Japan, Brazil, as well as from the European countries.
Anand Srinivasan (AS) gets Marcus Tralau (MT), CEO, Kama, to spill the details on FlexFold 52, and the future plans of the German manufacturers,
AS: Is FlexFold 52 a new product or an evolution of a previous model?
MT: Actually, it’s both. Kama has developed and produced inline gluers since 1972 and our current product portfolio contains a folder gluer for the commercial market segment, the ProFold 74. However, the FlexFold is a completely new development. We concentrated on three topics, one, fast changeover from one job to the next, two, compact layout, and three, network integration (JDF). This makes the difference to the existing machines.
AS: Any competitors?
MT: To be fair, for these kind of jobs you could use other folder gluers. But, if you compare the FlexFold to other folder-gluers, it takes hours to set them up. For long runs, this doesn’t matter, but when you have to run only 1,000, 3,000 or 10,000 boxes, it matters. In this scenario, the FlexFold offers fast makeready as a strong USP.
AS: How is the digital finishing relevant in a conventional finishing market?
MT: If a customer runs a 100 million job on a conventional line, it takes a couple of days or shifts. Suddenly an order of 10,000 boxes comes along and the operator has the choice between, one, wait until the earlier job is done, which probably means he will lose the short-run order, or two, stop the machine, resulting in waste of time because of double makeready. KAMA’s mindset is this: Put all short-runs in our workflow with the die-cutter DC 76 and our new FlexFold and keep the conventional machines free for long runs.
AS: When you say short-run and long-run, what are the ideal quantities that make it a short-run job?
MT: According to one of our customers, break-even for a short-run job is 6,000 sheets corresponding to 20-50,000 boxes. (That’s clearly his opinion.)  Another customer f. e. got an order over 50 million boxed – but: it comprises 2,000 SKUs and 12 deliveries in a year. At the end, it is about 2,000 boxes per SKU per month. Such jobs can go digital.
AS: What capabilities should a printer/converter have to install FlexFold 52?
MT: After a while, the customer should be able to run one shift of eight hours, producing around two million boxes a month to have an economical return on investment.
AS: What, according to you, are the ways one can make a printing plant into an independent profit centre?
MT: According to me, this can be done by having a separate workflow investment and having a different set of people. A separate cost centre can also be an efficient way of adding profits. For example, having a separate factory only for digital business and hiring fresh set of minds for it.
AS: How does the DC 76 die-cutter add value in finishing?
MT: The machine provides an auto register system, which aligns every single sheet to the image and balances out register problems of the printing unit or sheet cutting. This is important in the folding carton market to achieve the required quality. Second plus is the tool-less technology, reducing costs for stripping to zero, even more with short runs. Third advantage is the use of Job Definition Format connection to the server, which clubs together the data from press and post-press to offer efficiency throughout the whole workflow.
AS: Any inspection features which Kama has implemented in the FlexFold or to any other products in its portfolio?
MT: None currently. However, wWe do see visual inspection and quality control becoming important in the packaging business and we have plans of incorporating track-and-trace and inspection systems into our digital finishing solutions in the near future. This is under development and we plan to come up with such systems in the second half of 2015.
AS: With an array of trends being seen around digital printing technology, what are the likely developments we will be seeing soon from Kama?
MT: As part of our next project, we are working on adapting the digital metal foiling system to the B2 format so that it can run with the HP Indigo 10000 or 30000 digital presses.
AS: How Kama betters production?
MT: If you see our manufacturing shop floor, we produce certain parts in-house but we also source several products from vendors. The idea behind is to increase productivity and reduce the lead-time of products. There are specialists who manufacture certain parts and it would be needless to produce them in-house. We also plan to invest at the time when the demand comes up.
AS: Going green? How does Kama contribute to the eco-friendliness?
MT: We aren’t following any green measures as a strategy, because in Germany it’s understood. Our objectives for the future, we do want to reduce the energy consumption of our machines even more. We are saving energy by replacing light bulbs and we plan to install photovoltaic cells as a part of energy savings.
AS: Plans for India?
MT: We did approach the Indian market, but success was less than expected. What we need is a strong and engaged sales and service partner with an understanding of German engineering and our unique concept, which indeed is a little more expensive. My hope is that working together with HP Indigo and offering end-to-end solutions for packaging as well as for commercial printers will bring us new opportunities in India. I see India as a potential market.
AS: A persuasive future vision of Kama?
MT: I want to be part of the digital development and the idea is to make all sorts of finishing and converting digitally. I see a growth for Kama here and I have the idea to double the turnover in the next five years and be in a stable position to invest even more in R&D.
AS: How much does R&D contribute in manufacturing?
MT: We have our own R&D setup. About 10% of our employees are dedicated to R&D, and come up with innovative and patentable solutions for our machines consistently. Currently, we have seven patents to our name.

Report summary

For short-run digital packaging

“In 2011, a common vision was created by Kama and HP Indigo for combining digital printing and high quality finishing, with the goal of integrating the printing process into a value-added chain and to work together to bring the advantages of digital printing, like short runs, multiple SKUs, mass customisation and personalisation to the growing packaging market,” said Marcus Tralau, CEO, Kama.
Explaining the need for the collaboration, Tralau added, “We are seeing a drastic increase in short-run productions for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, healthcare products, as well as food, which has confronted packaging producers with new challenges. Short runs are not profitable on high-volume machinery, but they are now evolving from an unpleasant irritation to a growth market.”
As a result, Tralau said, what was needed was a solution with an uncomplicated set-up and minimal changeover times, something that can handle many job changes in a short span of time, and which still delivers quality while running with significantly shorter production cycles. 
Tralau said the FlexFold 52 prototype, which has been in development for the last three year, would do just that. 
The prototype has been  designed to be used with HP Indigo 30000 technically to cope with the demands in short-run requirements. 
However, according to Tralau, the machine can also be used with a conventional setup as well. 
The FlexFold 52 for conventional folding-gluing line, has been designed to deal with frequent and fast job changes. It can be automatically set up for different products and box formats.
The Kama FlexFold 52 system, a successor to the company’s Profold model, processes both straight-line boxes and crash-lock boxes from 10mm to 250mm in width and 50mm to 230mm in height. It can be used with cardboards ranging from 180gsm to 600gsm and has a maximum output performance of 200m/min.
There are several unique properties, which the machine shares with its ancestors. This FlexFold 52 machine has patent pending for its job changeover technology. Kama has seven patents to its name so far. 
Tralau said Kama has implemented automated set-up with the Automatic Plough Adjustment (APA) system, for which patents are still pending. This system allows automatic set-up of both transverse as well as longitudinal direction.
More finishing tools from Kama
As part of its solutions for the digital workflow, the firm also displayed and demonstrated a number other products. 
DC 76 die-cutter has been designed to handle short-run production, both with and without hot foil stamping. The unique property of this machine is its auto register function, which ensures highest possible register accuracy for every single sheet. This combined with the Kama Strip and Blanking Unit (SBU) provides a cost-efficient and time-efficient solution to a digital converter. The SBU model carries out stripping and blanking inline.
Kama’s Cockpit solutions, a first of its kind development by Kama is a networking solution for all machines participating in the digital packaging workflow. According to Tralau, this is a solution of vital importance when it comes to coordinating a large number of short-runs in the course of a day and controlling their status. 
The entire production control, the presets for the machines, as well as the analysis of performance data, is carried out via JDF (electronic job ticket) and JMF. The central control station for the Kama machines is the so-called Cockpit. This is not just a network client, but also serves as a prep table with storage space for chases and tools. Regarding hot-foil stamping, it is also possible to integrate the cliché positioning unit Kama CPX into the Cockpit.
A quantum leap
Alon Bar-Shany, vice-president and general manager, HP Indigo, who was also present during the event, said the end-to-end digital workflow is a quantum leap for digital packaging printing. “We listened to our customers, recognised the potential for digitally printed folding cartons and together with Kama, created this compact, efficient workflow.” 
With the combined work of HP Indigo and Kama finishing, customers will be able to redefine the market for folding cartons,” he added.  
Established 120 years ago, Kama made a name for itself in the industry by producing the first-ever automatic die-cutting machine way back in 1936. The company employs more than 110 people and 10 trainees.