Made In India: Ako Delta series of narrow-web flexo machines

While there are various manufacturers of narrow-web flexo machines, Ako sets itself apart by its value proposition of the lowest total cost of ownership, Ashish Patel of AkoFlexo tells Rahul Kumar

03 Feb 2023 | By Rahul Kumar

Incorporated in January 2022, and based in Ahmedabad, AkoFlexo manufactures narrow-web flexo printing machines. The company tagline is – Built for life, and according to the company, its products are built considering superior returns and TCO for a print shop over a life cycle.

Ako has three models in the printing line — Ako Delta 320, 420 and 520. All models are capable of printing substrates from 10 to 300 microns, with flexibility for various customisation.

According to Ashish Patel, managing director for AkoFlexo, the Ako Delta series is an inline flexo printing press made for a wide range of printing applications. It can be configured as a straightforward eight-colour label printing press, all the way up to a hybrid press with flexo, gravure, silkscreen and digital printing with foiling, cast and cure, lamination and ability to handle thin unsupported films at high speeds and with multiple curing/drying options.

The machine also has various patented technologies like a horizontal die-cutting station, liquid cooled ink chambers, and many others.

“In short, the Ako Delta series is a flexo printing machine capable of printing both supported and unsupported films, papers, and foils, using flexo, silkscreen, gravure, having multiple curing and drying options,” Patel says.
The machine was officially launched during PrintPack India 2022.

The customers
Patel says the machine is aimed at companies looking for a versatile, long-term solution for producing a wide variety of printed material. “Due to its extensive configurability, it lends itself well to various applications,” he says.
He adds that the machine has been built keeping the Indian requirements in mind. “It is not the most economical machine in the industry, but it certainly has the lowest total cost of ownership thanks to its tank-like build quality,” Patel adds.

Patel says, worldwide, the company has seen tremendous interest in the machine, with 80+ machines already commissioned across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and The Middle East. In India, the company has already installed five machines.

Patel says that for a customer, one of the first parameters to consider is how the machine is going to be used. “Do you want to exclusively print labels or shrink sleeves, short volume laminates and other applications as well?

Based on the answer to this question, a converter should look to equip its investment with ancillaries and optional equipment which would help it reduce wastage, add value and increase efficiency,” he says.

He adds that a customer should also look out for the quality of the machine — what are the make and type of components used, what is the machine’s weight, capacity of various motors, and other such parameters.

“To this end, we help our customers in their search for a quality flexo machine. Please ask us for a complete questionnaire that helps you analyse the various aspects of a flexo machine and compare various suppliers,” Patel says.

Patel says the Ako Delta series can be used for all typical applications, such as pressure-sensitive labels, shrink sleeves, wraparound BOPP labels, in-mould labels, PET and BOPP for laminates, lamitube stock, and foils.

“One of the patented technologies of the machine is a horizontal die-cutting machine, which gives a far superior control over die-cutting pressure and helps increase tooling and die life. This unit was recently used to die-cut a highly challenging label stock at our demo centre at 150-mpm,” Patel explains.

He adds that the biggest USP of the machine is its build quality. “All the important aspects, such as the wall thickness, gear thickness, diameter of impression cylinder and chill drum, and capacity of servo motors, are all built for long-term performance and consistency,” he says.

He says the machine is built with all European/Japanese-sourced components, such as GEW/ UV Ray UV systems, Apex Anilox rollers, and Mitsubishi drives. The machine also has many patented and unique features as standard, such as a horizontal die-cutting station, chilled ink chambers, semi turret rewinders, dual servo motors on each station, among others.

While there are various manufacturers in India as well as abroad, Patel says, Ako sets itself apart by its value proposition of the lowest total cost of ownership.

“The Ako Delta series compares favourably with its alternatives in many regards. It has two servo motors on each station, whereas most competitors have one." Patel explains. "All specifications of the machine are generally 1.5x to 2x of our competitors in terms of capacity or key metrics,”

The productivity
According to Patel, the Delta series is made considering quick changeovers. The flower type system ensures fast removal and replacement of all tooling and inks. The horizontal die-cutting station also enables quick changeover of die-cutting cylinders.

“At Ako, we believe in continuous improvement. Each iteration of the machine gets some improvement in productivity, build quality and efficiency. Our last modification was to move the machine from other UV system manufacturers to GEW, which is the industry leader in UV curing,” Patel explains.

He says with full auto registration, as well as pre-registration systems, the machine takes care of the toughest aspect of running the machines. Besides this, an IPC (Industrial Personal Computer) acts as the HMI which is easy to use and easy to learn.

“We understand that when our customers invest in a machine, they are investing not just money, but their faith in us. With that in mind, we hold our customers’ hands throughout the process of finalising specifications, ordering, installation, training and service support. We have a team of trained engineers as well as application specialists ready to help our customers. We provide one week of installation and training at a minimum,” Patel explains.

He gives an example: “Recently, one of our customers, who is new to flexo technology, started off with printing and converting pressure-sensitive labels. Within a few months of installation, it is now confident enough in the machine to be able to start exploring other applications, such as shrink sleeves.”

As a best practice on the shopfloor, Patel suggests preventive maintenance. “Set a dedicated time and day of the week for preventive maintenance of the machine. Have a maintenance plan ready and ensure that it is either supervised or verified. This will increase the life of the machine by 50%,” he says.

Looking ahead, Ako is preparing for Labelexpo in November where the company will showcase its latest machine with LED UV.

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