Along with their strong support team, both are firmly focused on growing Universal’s already impressive business situated in Midrand (Gauteng) that produces in-mould labels, shrink sleeves, wraparound labels and self-adhesive labels.
Investment in the latest technologies, to stay ahead of competitors, is another top priority. So, when Brett and his team recently needed to increase capacity in the prepress and printing departments, they sought the most advanced equipment available.
‘The new technology needed to integrate smoothly with our current operations and to facilitate fresh opportunities,’ Brett explains.
Following weeks of serious research, a Screen PlateRite FX1524 thermal flexo platesetter (supplied by Kemtek Imaging Systems) and a Soma Midi ll flexo press (supplied by Heidelberg) were purchased. Both are now fully operational.
Universal’s repro studio offers customers a complete service, taking the whole job from receipt of design through to platemaking. The new platesetter is designed specifically for labels, flexible packaging, cartons and corrugated packaging production, and gives Universal an added high-output, larger-format prepress capability.
The system is easy to use, offering optimal plate productivity with an output of 4m2/hour for flexo plates and 6m2/ hour for letterpress plates. It directly ‘ablates’ the LAMS (Laser Ablation Mask System) layer, eliminating film and other intermediate processes and resulting in more efficient operations and consistent output quality.
Plates up to 1 067 x 1 524mm can be loaded easily on to the PlateRite’s drum, ensuring high-precision, high-quality output of flexo plates. Plates are secured to the drum easily by means of a clamp system that holds both the lead and trailing edges in the largest format; smaller plates can be loaded reliably without masking the drum.
‘The flexo team at Kemtek not only installed the Screen platesetter but also undertook the “fingerprinting” on all our presses, including the new Soma Midi II,’ explains Gordon Smith, Kemtek’s national packaging and export manager. ‘This was very challenging for us as the Soma Midi II uses solvent inks as opposed to UV inks used on other presses. We’ve managed to adjust the “dot gain curve” in such a way that only one curve is used throughout the factory. By doing this, Universal can rest assured that a correct plate with the correct curve is applied every time and there will be no costly mistakes on the press,’ Gordon confirms
Superior speed and quality
The Soma Midi II flexo press project was initiated by a demand for wide rolls, larger than Universal’s other presses could produce, and a wide-web press proved to be the perfect proposition.
As Tony Patton, Heidelberg product manager – narrow and wide web, comments: ‘As a long-time Heidelberg customer, Brett approached us with his requirements, and we suggested a Soma press, marketed by Heidelberg in South Africa.’
As a result, Brett visited the Soma Engineering plant in the Czech Republic and inspected some recent Soma installations in Europe. Compared to other press manufacturers, Soma met all Universal’s requirements.
The new Soma Midi II is installed in its own custom-built, climate-controlled production hall, attached to Universal’s existing 6 500m2 facility, along with an array of finishing equipment and slitter/rewinders – the latter also supplied by Soma.
‘The entire installation project took just three weeks to complete,’ reports Niraj Kanjee, Universal’s unit production manager. ‘We’ve created a dedicated printing, coating and slitting operation, designed to meet HACCP principles, so that we don’t encroach on any of our other busy printing disciplines. The press is phenomenal,’ he adds enthusiastically.
Seven colour stations are fitted around the Midi II’s central impression (CI) drum, with one specially fitted downstream unit for reverse print. It has a printing width of 850mm (Soma also supplies presses in widths of 1 100, 1 320 and 1 700mm) and there’s a spare deck should Universal wish to add an eighth print station around the drum.
‘Servo-driven printing sleeves, anilox sleeves and chamber doctor blades mean very quick changes and the Midi II comes with auto register and impression setting, auto viscosity, web cleaning, corona treating and all the standard features you would expect on a press of this class,’ explains Tony. ‘With a running speed of 450m/min and unwind and rewind stands of 1 000mm O/D, it exceeds the usual 800mm O/D standard for CI presses. All parameters can also be stored for automatic recall on repeat orders, which renders them quick and easy to manage. In short, it’s geared for non-stop production,’ Tony asserts.
The Midi II’s CI drum is temperature controlled and the frame and printing cylinders are thermally regulated for excellent print stability. Universal’s model is designed to work with solvent-based inks and Soma has incorporated a Dynamic Impression setting, which ensures constant ink and impression setting throughout the printing speed range.
‘Universal has also purchased a Soma Pluto 1100 slitting machine and Soma Flexmont 850S mounting machine to handle the wider web widths now being converted,’ Tony adds.
In July, Universal approached Constantia Printing Inks to develop an ink system tailor-made for the Soma press. There were a number of factors that needed to be confirmed, such as plate line screen, anilox line screen, and Delta values on various substrates. The technical team at Constantia put their heads together and developed the ink from scratch to meet these requirements as well as Nestlé’s 2011 guidelines on migration tests and solvent retention tests.
‘After considerable testing and development we’re confident that all parameters have been met and that Universal is running at speeds of up to 450m/min, hassle free, with results almost identical to UV flexo printing,’ confirms Ross Taggart, co-owner of Constantia Printing Inks.
‘We’ve also installed a fully-automated Rexson colour dispenser that maintains exact colour controls and job standards and we’ll be able to run the whole account on ten base colours supplied in 200kg drums. Each job loaded into the Rexson provides accurate data, for example usage, costing, batch numbers and barcoded stock in open buckets,’ explains Ross.
Further growth potential
After only a few weeks operation, the Midi II is already exceeding expectations. ‘We’re achieving speeds up to 15 000m/hour and our print quality is superb,’ remarks Brett. ‘The objective of the Soma project has been to move most of our label production on to the new press and free up our other presses for other applications. So far, everything is going to plan. We’ve carved a good reputation with our PVC shrink sleeves and wraparound labels and we see massive opportunities for growth with these different packaging and labelling techniques,’ he confirms.
One target growth area is the Southern African Development Community (SADC), where mass market sectors have previously been serviced by European label suppliers. ‘We’ve assessed the various product sectors in several other African countries and found some promising label and flexible packaging opportunities that we’re busy pursuing,’ says Vanessa. ‘With our equipment line-up we have the capacity to cope with the potential high volumes and produce top-quality labels and packaging that will compete with European products.’
In the narrow-web division, two eight-colour Gallus presses, two MPS presses and two locally-manufactured Pacom flexo presses all use UV-flexo inks, imported from Paragon Inks and mixed by Universal’s ink matching technician.
This armoury of printing capability is complemented by an equally hi-tech host of machinery for converting and finishing, not least an in-house coating and laminating system and a complete Karlville line for the production, guillotining and inspection of shrink sleeve labels.
‘We’ve created a multifaceted operation,’ asserts Brett. ‘We offer highly-efficient prepress, production, finishing and dispatch processes … as well as good prices. That’s what every customer is looking for.’
Universal welcomes Dave Bragge
AS investing in top-class knowledgeable people is a top priority at Universal Labels & Packaging, it’s no surprise to learn that the company has attracted the services of Dave Bragge.
Well-respected in the industry, Dave spent ten years with Tadbik Pack where he grew into the role of sales manager and new product development manager. More recently, he was part of the Fima team as product manager for IML, shrink sleeves and wraparound label films.
Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge, Dave joined Universal in July this year and is now focused on growing the company’s already impressive customer list. He’s excited about his role and relishes the challenge of tackling fresh projects that are possible with the addition of the Soma flexo press.
‘I’m really excited about where Universal is heading,’ Dave comments. ‘We’re already developing new projects and I look forward to seeing these executed. Joining forces with Brett and his dynamic management and sales team has given me a new-found passion and I look forward to seeing Universal moving forward and growing in the future.’
Universal Labels & Packaging
T +27 011 3154513
Constantia Printing Inks
T +27 011 5240715/6
Heidelberg South Africa
T +27 011 5744000
Kemtek Imaging Systems
T +27 011 6248000