The Daetwyler group enjoys a long and proud history, serving gravure and flexographic printers around the globe, and the Daetwyler name has long been synonymous with high-tech cylinder engraving, plating and finishing equipment, and leading-edge doctor blade technology. Indeed, Daetwyler has been producing outstanding gravure cylinder production equipment since 1965. And now, half a century later, my hosts at Daetwyler Graphics – Dr Rolf Pfiffner (CEO) and Christian Karg (VP marketing & sales) – enthusiastically outline salient aspects of today’s gravure market and describe some of their latest lines.
They’re smiling, too, as they report a modest improvement in sales – despite the ‘euro crisis’ earlier this year that saw the rising strength of the Swiss Franc putting enormous pressure on export sales, especially worrying for a company whose export business accounts for more than 90% of its turnover. When management explained the crisis, the company’s employees agreed to work an extra two hours per week for a limited time without any increase in wages, resulting in a significant productivity boost.
In essence, Daetwyler Graphics produces equipment to suit two different markets. While the global market for gravure remains on a growth curve, despite competition from other printing technologies, the pace is fastest in Asia where presses tend to be smaller, less sophisticated and to use hollow cylinders, in contrast to highly-sophisticated press technology and solid cylinders used by leading European gravure printers.
This technological disparity demands completely different cylinder-making equipment, which Daetwyler Graphics fulfils.
‘Our fastest growing markets are in South East Asia and China,’ Rolf Pfiffner confirms, ‘and we have adapted our products to meet specific needs in those markets.’
Underlining this statement, he reveals that of roughly 1 000 customer sites for gravure equipment worldwide, some two-thirds are in China and Japan – predominantly in packaging printing, rather than publication gravure.
‘Our prime focus is on new lines of gravure cylinder production equipment that help our customers to be more competitive, whether they’re in emerging markets in the Far East or established markets in Europe,’ adds Christian Karg.
One example he gives is the development of the Slimline S – a fully-automatic line especially designed to suit the lightweight, hollow cylinders used in the greater China region. Developed for a major Chinese packaging printer, the first Slimline S installation is projected to turn out 110 cylinders a day.
This new line was rolled out at the recent IGAS show in Japan and will be shown at next year’s drupa.
Entry-level cylinder production
Particularly aimed at entry-level cylinder production is the latest CFM ECONO. Equipped with one turning and measuring unit and two polishing modules, this machine is ideally suited for both shaft and hollow cylinders. Efficient and reliable with low tool and running costs as well as simple operation, the CFM ECONO is a particularly cost-effective solution for cutting and polishing of copper plated gravure cylinders.
And we hope soon to be breaking the news of an installation in South Africa!
In addition, setting a new benchmark for surface finishing is the latest Finishstar P1610. This high-quality polishing machine combines proven technology with innovative improvements.
As it is modularly designed, the Finishstar P1610 can be customised to meet each customer’s individual requirements. On offer is a low-cost chrome polisher with belt polishing unit right up to a four-head configuration for processing copper and chrome surfaces. The machine’s compact design makes it equally suitable for use in automatic lines or manual production environments.
The heart of the new approach is a central carrier, to which are attached all process-critical components such as cylinder bearings or guides. This design ensures the necessary torsional stiffness and guarantees better access to the polishing units, so that polishing belts can be changed in minutes without interrupting production.
Thanks its open design, the polishing heads are slightly angled, enabling optimal return of wastewater in the working tank.
The polishing water is no longer channelled through adjustable nozzles on the cylinder. Instead, newly developed baffle plates above the polishing heads direct the water to the right place on the cylinder.
Finally, the new P1610 Finishstar has a closed water circulation system whose feed water is prefiltered in an integrated filtration system, eliminating the need for a separate filter unit, saving space and facilitating cleaning.
Heliograph’s centres of competence
‘Our close collaboration with our partner company, Heliograph Holding, allows us to offer our customers decisive competence for manufacturing the highest-quality equipment,’ explains Rolf Pfiffner.
One of Heliograph Holding’s defining features is its ‘competence centres’ – at Daetwyler Graphics, for instance, this competence is in surface processing, with the focus on high-precision polishing and cutting machines.
Other group operations have competence in complementary aspects – Hell Gravure in engraving machines; K Walter in galvanic systems and automation; Bauer Logistik in transportation and storage technologies; Schepers in laser systems for embossing, security and gravure printing; and Ohio in special-purpose engraving equipment and printed electronics.
Latest addition to the group is Lüscher with its competence in computer-to-plate technologies for offset, flexo, letterpress and screen printing.
South African-Swiss connections
It’s more than a quarter of century since Werner Haemmig arrived in this country to establish Daetwyler’s local subsidiary, heralding the start of a new era for the company’s African operations.
Today Werner confidently asserts that his company enjoys a major share of the market for gravure cylinder processing equipment and the lion’s share of the South African doctor blade market.
Werner attributes this success to the top-quality and high precision of the products that emanate from Swiss headquarters, the ‘Rolls Royce’ engineering service levels, and the technical back-up the company offers its customers.
He also highlights Daetwyler’s strong customer focus, particularly the regular visits by experts from Bleienbach who provide local customers with hands-on training and help them improve workflow and production throughput, reducing downtime and minimising wasted materials.
One prime example is Bruno Streuli, department manager for plating chemicals. A Swiss national, and a qualified chemical engineer, Bruno worked in South Africa’s chemical sector from 1986 to 1995. He then then joined Werner at Daetwyler South Africa before returning to Switzerland where he joined the laser team in a global support position. Nowadays, with his extensive galvano experience, Bruno travels the globe visiting customers and providing training and advice on the proper chemical solutions for gravure cylinder tanks. ‘It’s essential that the chemical composition is exactly right, particularly the balance between copper and sulphuric acid,’ he insists.
When problems arise, customers can send samples to Bleienbach for professional analysis or, if necessary Bruno will be on the next plane!
‘My strategy,’ he explains, ‘is to teach customers’ employees to undertake basic analysis in their own laboratories, and once they have gained a satisfactory level of expertise we can resolve 90% of cases by a phone call or a Skype consultation.’
Both Bruno and Werner maintain that this is a major advantage for local customers, as the same number of problems can be resolved in one day as previously could be tackled in a month.