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Local début for Flexo F2

In line with its strategy of delivering top-quality performance films, Tropic Plastic & Packaging has taken delivery of an eight-colour Comexi Flexo F2 press, the first of its kind in Africa, writes Karen Stretch.    

Following news earlier this year that Advanced Packaging Technology had received the first African order for an all-new eight-colour Comexi Flexo F2 press (PPM May 13, p57), we can now reveal that the press is in full operation at its new home … Tropic Plastic & Packaging, situated in Jacobs, KwaZulu-Natal.     

Installed in October, the Flexo F2 joins Tropic’s impressive printing equipment line-up that already includes a state-of-the-art ten-colour Comexi FPLUS flexographic press.     

‘Since we purchased the Comexi FPLUS in 2011, we’ve fine-tuned our printing operation, achieving the finest quality results at outputs of 500m/min,’ comments Mohamed Timol, operations director at Tropic Plastic & Packaging. ‘The new F2 press has slotted in seamlessly, and we’re delighted with this latest Comexi technology.’      

Owned and managed by MD, Fazel Bhabha, Tropic’s somewhat unassuming exterior belies the comprehensive operation within. An impressive array of world-class extrusion, printing, laminating and bag-making technology fills the halls of its ever-expanding premises and the company is firmly focused on producing all manner of high-quality packaging films.

‘The purchase of the F2 falls in line with our strategy of providing the most efficient, top-quality operation equipped to adapt to changing market needs,’ adds Mohamed Timol.

Advanced design elements

With a clean, tool-free concept inherited from the earlier Flexo F4 press, the Flexo F2 is all about efficiency, reduced waste and costs, and fast changeover times. Featuring ten patented systems, it’s meeting the need to produce medium and long runs, operating at ultra-high speed and facilitating swift product delivery.

‘Comexi has really done its homework, developing a press that’s aesthetically pleasing, simple to use, accurate and economical,’ Mohamed asserts. ‘Core features that set it apart from its predecessor include the easy “clip and open” design that improves set-up times and accessibility to all key components including the eight printing decks, doctor blade and central drum. It takes just minutes to change anilox and plate cylinder sleeves, reducing machine downtime and operator handling,’ he remarks.

The F2’s speed control is another key design element. Collaboration between Comexi and Siemens has expedited integration of the gearless DDDrive, CNC and servo motors based on the Simotion control system. According to Comexi, the F2’s direct drive system is the most advanced in the market, reaching the highest levels of precision and eliminating mechanical transmission.

Fast efficiency

Another patented component is Comexi’s VirtualMaster technology that unites motors electronically and controls them via a common virtual signal, safeguarding registration even during acceleration and braking. This ensures perfectly-aligned material, plate cylinder and anilox surface speeds and improved print quality. The VirtualMaster also performs direct, automatic and rapid position of longitudinal registration between printing decks, decreasing waste generated, as well as regulating and memorising positions of longitudinal registration for future projects.

Additionally, the drying system comprises two circuits that evaporate ink solvent content by blowing hot air at high speeds, while the machine’s unwinders and rewinders eliminate downtime by automatically changing and splicing reels at production speeds.

Thanks to the VirtualMaster technology, Mohamed confirms that Tropic’s operators are achieving a continuous and precise production speed up to 500m/min, with splicing at 400m/min.

‘While the machine is in production, operators can access second-by-second vital information on each print run via a dual display video inspection interface, located at the control console,’ continues Mohamed. ‘If problems occur in-line then the operator is immediately alerted via the running screen and by a sensor in the specific station. Additional data can also be attained for later analysis such as the quantity of quality footage and waste, work time, stoppage time, printing time and average real speed,’ he adds.

According to Gary Kieswetter of Advanced Packaging Technology, Comexi’s local agent, commissioning of the Flexo F2 couldn’t have gone better.

‘At Tropic, quality begins with the right people and the right equipment. That’s why it’s regarded as one of South Africa’s leading flexible packaging enterprises. From extrusion through to finishing, management invests in the latest technologies that suit individual and specific production needs,’ Gary states.

‘The world-class printing achieved on the new press reflects the quality of the entire operation and Comexi and Advanced Packaging Technology are delighted to be dedicated print partners to this fast-expanding family-owned enterprise.’

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