Blue Light Gets The Green Light in Large Format Flexo
Uteco ONYX 8-colour CI press with AMS LED UV curing ready to ship to La Gerunda
The world’s first LED UV-enabled ultrafast low migration VLF Flexographic press has passed its print tests with flying colours and is on schedule for commissioning next month (November) in the press hall of flexible packaging print specialist La Gerunda Merletti S.R.L., of Cremona, Italy.
During the tests – which took place on Tuesday 11 October at Uteco’s advanced manufacturing facility near Verona – the team from La Gerunda was joined by specialists from partner manufacturer Air Motion Systems to see the Uteco ONYX 810 CI deliver excellent performance at running speeds up to 400 m/min. Colour vibrancy and tight registration were maintained at all speeds – even during changes in speed – and the printed substrate was ASTM tape-test dry on the roll in the delivery; because there is no heat emission during LED UV curing, the printed roll was ready for immediate downstream processing. AMS lamps use blue light LED, switching on and off instantly (10 milliseconds), so don’t require a ‘stand-by’ mode and use much less electricity (typical savings of 60% over conventional UV); the prices of the inks, too, are becoming more competitive as the LED UV process takes off within the flexible packaging sector.
For La Gerunda’s Managing Director Pino De Gradi, these operational benefits offer him a clear manufacturing advantage over his four existing UV and EB presses, but the technical and environmental characteristics of the new Uteco system are of equal importance, as his €8.5 million turnover company targets new market sectors. He explains:
“The bulk of our existing business is in the horticulture, agriculture and pet food sectors, but we have identified flexible packaging for the Healthcare and Food industries as our target growth markets. For this we need secure substrate integrity and ecologically sustainable operation. The new LED UV low migration inks and the AMS system’s low-energy, ozone-free, non-mercury lamp units offer us that. We already have contracts in place to supply diaper packaging, as well as high volume food products, and we are aiming to push turnover to €12 million per annum within three years.”
For La Gerunda, the new ONYX represents a return to Uteco after more than 20 years and followed an intensive examination of the technologies on offer from the leading manufacturers. Mr De Gradi continues:
“We found that the levels of automation and the technologies built into the ONYX are very impressive,” he says. “The production runs in this sector can be short so the Uteco Direct Drive Evo® and their Thermilox® Anilox solution offer benefits for better productivity, while their more advanced cleaning systems contribute to faster job changeovers with less waste.”
The La Gerunda ONYX 810 has been specified with eight printing stations, 1250 mm maximum web width and 1100 mm maximum print repeat cycle. Seven AMS LED UV curing lamps are fitted at the printing stations around the Central Impression drum with the eighth situated at the exit of the web on the top deck. The print tests confirmed that the systems performed at speeds way beyond the expected 300m/min, even reaching 400m/min; the press has been provided with the housing for a ninth AMS unit, adjacent to the eighth, if La Gerunda should decide, at some time in the future, to upgrade the press to the 500 m/min option with the next AMS LED UV lamp development, the XP ULTRA.
For Uteco, Chief Marketing Officer Davide Cucinella says:
“Once again, Uteco is in the vanguard of the drive to higher performance and more environmentally responsible production. The eyes of the industry have been on this project, even from the aisles of Drupa, and the absolute success of these print tests confirm that this solution will be a major player in our sector in the years ahead; we already have several other orders in the pipeline and the verdict is clear – blue light gets the green light in large format flexo!”
La Gerunda’s order for the world’s largest LED UV-enabled flexo press system was announced in April this year (2016). In the intervening months both Uteco and Air Motion Systems have reported unprecedented success at Drupa.
Uteco Converting SpA
During the eleven days of Drupa 2016 Uteco signed 18 contracts with customers from Europe, The Americas, Asia and Africa for technologies from across its range to a value in excess of €22 million. Highlights included Uteco’s collaboration with Eastman Kodak Company for demonstrations of the Sapphire digital engine printing on plastic films in eptachrome (7 colours), and high speed overprint painting of paper and plastics at up to 600 x 600 dpi for the labelling sector. An agreement signed by GOSS with the DGPress brand in the Roto-Offset field for which Uteco has collaborated on the development of the Thallo sleeve model was another significant feature.
Uteco used the event to showcase its new ONYX XS EcoOne super-compact 650 mm 8-colour EB flexo machine with integrated downstream laminating and slitting and new automated winding and finished reel unloading, as well as the new-generation colour element of the NEXT 450 rotogravure press. With the latest developments on show from across its range – including Green Technology, data acquisition, printed electronics for active packaging (RFID) and ‘Stealth Code’ brand protection, Uteco recorded interest levels at five times the level of Drupa 2012.
Air Motion Systems Inc.
At Drupa 2016 Air Motion Systems received more than 60 orders for its market-leading high power LED UV systems from customers in 17 countries around the world representing every sector of the printing and packaging industries. AMS is on course to fulfil more than 80 projects this year and, in the process, has passed the landmarks of more than 1,500 LED UV lamps (approximately 12,500 diodes) sold, and more than 300 sheetfed press retrofits.
AMS has been at the forefront of the development of LED UV diodes and their application in the printing industry. Unlike most of its counterparts, who use mass-produced off-the-shelf diodes with a broader wavelength spectrum, AMS designs and manufactures its own diodes to hit the precise wavelength required to trigger the photo-initiators in LED-UV inks. The result is lower electricity consumption, faster curing and higher performance at production speeds up to 20,000 sph. Added to this, its patented Dynamic Collimation system allows effective operation at greater distance from the substrate and Total Flexible Lamp Positioning within the press.
The outstanding success of its LED UV systems has seen AMS increase its staff by more than 50% in 2016 at its world headquarters in River Falls, Wisconsin, USA.