While packaging isn’t directly threatened by electronic alternatives and remains a growing print sector, pressures on packaging printers mirror those in other sectors. Margins are tightening; brand owners and marketers are demanding higher print quality; run lengths and turnaround times are decreasing to achieve more dynamic, targeted and personalised packaging. Add environmental, product safety and security issues to this list and it’s no wonder that current print methods are being closely analysed and that printing press manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon.
According to Peter Walczak, Goss International director of product management for packaging presses, Goss Sunday Vpak variable sleeve presses have introduced an entirely new way to exploit the inherent print quality, cost and agility of web offset.
‘With variable sleeve press technology available in web widths up to 1 905mm to address these requirements, the time is right to consider, or reconsider, web offset as an alternative to flexo, gravure or sheetfed offset for some applications,’ he maintains.
In addition to the benefits of high productivity and comparatively low costs for imaging (compared to gravure and flexo), offset provides a versatile and stable process for many packaging requirements. Simplified and automated makeready processes not only mean fast start-ups for new or repeat jobs, but also faster and easier adjustments during production.
High line screens and sophisticated screening techniques, such as FM or stochastic, can also be accommodated via offset, improving print quality while avoiding screen clashes, moirés and other defects. The ability to print solids and screens for a particular colour from one plate on the same unit further enhances simplicity and cost-effectiveness.
In Peter Walczak’s view, offset is ‘the proven print process for the highest quality at high speed and competitive cost’.
Powerful productivity complements the quality and cost advantages of web offset. The Goss Sunday Vpak presses prints at up to 450m/min. The result is output capabilities up to 200% higher than those of a sheetfed press, along with reduced substrate costs, greater substrate range and inline converting.
Variable-sleeve Sunday Vpak models also offer an alternative to cassette-style web offset packaging presses that rely on cassettes to achieve repeat variations. Available in web widths up to 1 905mm and 1 041mm respectively, the Sunday Vpak 3000 and Sunday Vpak 500 models feature quick-change blanket and plate cylinder sleeve adapters, which, the company claims, make ‘infinitely’ variable repeat lengths easier and more affordable.
Proven concepts and technologies from Goss Sunday commercial web presses were incorporated in the new Vpak presses. Sleeve experience and proven Goss technologies to manage presetting, ink, water, web tension, register, closed-loop controls, drying and other variables in the most demanding offset environments support the advantages of the packaging press, according to Peter Walczak, who notes that more than 2 000 Goss Sunday printing units with sleeve technology are in operation worldwide, printing at up to 15m/second, and on webs up to 2 860mm wide. ‘We specialise in working with customers to integrate web offset lithography within advanced and highly-customised production systems, a key for packaging,’ he insists.
‘Innovative wide-web Sunday press technology has revolutionised commercial printing over the past two decades by dramatically improving productivity and short-run efficiency. With the Sunday Vpak presses, we’re presenting a similar game-changing path for the packaging sector.’
DG to introduce Thallo at Labelexpo
Meanwhile in The Netherlands, DG press MachineS, a sister company of DG press ServiceS, has developed a new web offset press for package printing under the trade name Thallo (a Greek goddess!).
More than a decade’s experience in the manufacture and refurbishing of sleeve-type offset presses led to DG’s decision to take offset sleeve technology to the next level. ‘There’s amazing potential for offset in packaging, but a limited number of feasible offerings,’ comments director Peter Kloppers.
Thallo offers key innovations to address the challenges that have held back mainstream use of web offset by package printers. ‘We look forward to showcasing a concept printing deck at Labelexpo in Brussels,’ Peter promises.
DG press MachineS’ engineering staff responsible for this development are now busy developing next-generation presses in the 520mm, 850mm and 1 050mm web widths.
Müller Martini overcomes challenges
At a seminar at its Training Centre late last year, Müller Martini demonstrated how the packaging industry can take advantage of its many innovations, including its VSOP and Alprinta web offset printing presses.
These presses were shown printing challenging packaging applications on substrates such as PE, OPP and PET, with quick changeovers from one job to the next.
The advantages of this technology were also showcased, including the cost-efficient offset printing plates, the hybrid technology in connection with flexo printing, high printing quality and quick changeovers.