Numex bags silver award for direct-to-tube success

The Mumbai-based trade shop Numex Blocks well won a silver award in the Miraclon-sponsored Global Flexo Innovation Awards (GFIA), awarded for a successful gravure-to-flexo process conversion involving ‘direct-to-tube’ printing of over 2,500 skincare SKUs. Nitin Patil of Numex says "the gravure-to-flexo conversion was enabled by the productivity and quality offered by Kodak's Flexcel technology”.

24 Oct 2022 | By Abhay Avadhani

The GFIA judges praised the streamlining of the production process and its enhancement of the products’ sustainability, as well as the "excellent print quality, great colours and wonderful imagery"

The numbers are staggering. Direct-to-tube printing of over 2,500 skincare SKUs. Screen ruling of 150-175 lpi and a production speed of 130 tubes a minute. And as per Nitin Patl of Numex Blocks, this would not have been possible without the Kodak Flexcel NX plates. Patil said, "The switch to direct-to-tube printing would have been impossible without them, both in terms of productivity and quality."

The more than three-decade Numex invested in a Kodak Flexcel NX system in 2014. Later the Flexcel NX systems have also been installed at Numex’s sister companies — Nuflex Graphics in Pune, and NS Digital Flexo in Hyderabad. The quadruple investment – with a fifth system planned for later this year is a sure sign of Nitin Patil’s faith in flexo and Flexcel NX Technology, especially for flexible packaging. "The transition from gravure to flexo is happening across Asia, not just in India,” he told, adding that one factor in favor of flexo, and in particular Flexcel NX plates, is its “ability to deliver high-quality results on thinner, more sustainable PE substrates — an area where gravure has limitations."

The award-winning entry demonstrated precisely these advantages, as well as Numex’s trademark job-to-job attention to detail. A key objective of the job was to improve the sustainability performance of a substantial number of tube-packaged skincare products — over 2,500 SKUs in total. Patil pointed out: "Gravure and other production processes typically involve printing on plastic-based substrates, which are then applied to the tubes. As well as the additional production step, this adds complexity at the recycling stage, when labels and sleeves have to be separated from the tube."

Numex’s customer, a packaging manufacturer, wanted to explore a "direct-to-tube" workflow that would remove the variability in recycling and eliminate a manufacturing step, and for the purpose had invested in a special 13-colour rotary form press. The next step was discussions between Numex, the manufacturer, and the brand owner to identify any potential challenges posed by the products themselves and the planned workflow, including achieving the right skin tone colours, the best way of refreshing the overall packaging, ensuring quick set-up and fast changeovers given the vast number of SKUs.

“The tubes were of standard PE co-extruded construction, which is challenging to print on,” said Patil. "In addition, most jobs were eight colours and each SKU featured different design features — for example, matte coatings to add a premium ‘look and feel’, spot varnishes, and graphics with demanding gradients that faded almost to zero. All these coatings and varnishes were done using Flexcel NX plates. So we put a lot of work into establishing how best to render, and even improve, colours and textures."

Numex's hard work reaps dividends
The GFIA judges praised the streamlining of the production process and its enhancement of the products’ sustainability, as well as the "excellent print quality, great colours and wonderful imagery".

Productivity and quality were precisely what Numex wanted from its investment in the Flexcel NX System. Patil pointed out: "By 2014, and largely thanks to Flexcel NX technology, brands recognised that flexo produced high-quality results and that it was also a more cost-effective and productive solution that would remove expenditure from the supply chain — a key consideration." Patil lists a host of benefits that Flexcel NX technology delivers, including accurate imaging, speed to register and colour for faster set-up, durability and significantly greater productivity: "Imaging, processing and drying times are all faster — the overall production time for a plate is 30-35 minutes less than with other technologies."

Over 60% of Numex’s production — both flexible packaging and labels — now transpires with Flexcel NX plates, Nitin patil said, and singles out the multiple advanced plate surface patterning features from Miraclon for delivering "optimum ink densities, whatever the substrate. It controls the ink flow like a mini anilox! We can confidently handle fine halftones in jobs using 175-200pli screen rulings, and smooth vignettes are also achievable."

Patil thanked the support provided by Miraclon since becoming a Flexcel NX user. "They do a fantastic job of giving us end-to-end support, of both hardware and software, from calibration and workflow optimisation to contributing to our gravure-to-flexo discussions with customers, which really helps the industry grow."

Nitin Patil: We treat every job that comes in as if it’s the first job for that customer. They deserve the same time and attention

The future is bright with flexo
Looking to the future, Numex has plans to cement its position as a leading flexo-focused trade shop, including working more closely with customers in the early stages of projects. Patil said, "That way we believe we can help brands shorten lead times even further." Key to this is keeping abreast of the latest technology, because that will ensure we keep growing, and growth is a must if we’re to have a better tomorrow.”

In line with this strategy is Numex’s investment in the new Flexcel NX Central Software. Developed by Miraclon specifically to support customers in their drive for efficiency, waste reduction and labor savings, the software is tailored to the Flexcel NX System and enables customers to automate plate production while still employing multiple advanced plate surface patterning features.

Nitin Patil signed off: "With Flexcel NX Central Software we’re able to execute the plate layout function much faster than doing it manually, which simplifies ganging of jobs. We have easily been able to save as much as 50% of our time with the automatic plate layout function, as there is no thinking or planning involved – we just add the files into Flexcel NX Central and it prepares the plate layout automatically."

Mumbai-based pre-press trade shop Numex Blocks has extended its support to the PrintWeek Awards 2022. The company is the Associate Partner. 

2 November (Wednesday) is the Awards Night at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai.