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Flexographic suppliers’ showcase

This review, compiled by Gill Loubser, takes a look at components of the ‘dream teams’ behind successful entries in the 2016 FTASA Print

Excellence Awards.

WHILE PPM’s last issue included the brochure detailing all the winners in 2016’s FTASA Print Excellence Awards, this issue not only includes a photographic review of the presentation of trophies but also a look at the suppliers who contributed to these success stories.

Which presses gave the best results, and why? Who are the leading ink suppliers? Which plates came out tops? And who are the victorious platemakers/repro houses? Just a few answers to those questions are given below.

Comexi helps Tropic to success

The press that produced a gold medal for Tropic Plastic & Packaging in the wide-web flexible packaging category is a Comexi FPLUS ten-colour flexo press. At the time of its purchase in 2011, Tropic MD, Fazel Bhabha, emphasised the company’s market-leading position, with one of the largest flexo printing capacities in South Africa under one roof. Tropic continually invests in the latest technology to gain a competitive edge in the local market; and the search for a new flexo press led to Comexi.

Apart from its technical excellence, another key factor in the decision was Tropic’s previous experience with Comexi’s agent, Advanced Packaging Technology. This company had already supplied Tropic with numerous Hudson-Sharp bagmaking machines; and after-sales service and technical support had always been excellent.

‘We aim to be a leading flexible packaging company in South Africa,’ remarked Fazel Bhabha, ‘and we’re dedicated to providing the highest level of quality and zero-defect products in the most efficient manner using leading-edge technology, and that includes Comexi.’

From Comexi’s point of view Tropic was seen as an ideal customer to help its re-entry to the local market.

The FPLUS was Comexi’s first gearless sleeved press in this country and its success at Tropic placed Comexi in a competitive position in the flexo press market.

Comments Advanced Packaging Technology’s Gary Kieswetter: ‘As Tropic now has two of Comexi’s latest-generation machines, it’s an honour being their preferred supplier of flexo presses. We congratulate them on their achievements and wish them many more Gold awards in future.’

TAD Printing Products scoops 18 awards with MacDermid

In 2016, a brand-new name among the list of sponsors of the FTASA Print Excellence Awards was TAD Printing Products, a recent start-up business operated by Rob Bywater and Adrian Gildenhuys (PPM May 2016) that’s responsible for all local sales of MacDermid printing plates and related hardware (among other things – see page 32). MacDermid’s Stephane Auger was on hand at the awards presentation to donate trophies to winners in two categories (offline printing on coated corrugated board both line/tone and process).

When it comes to plate suppliers, MacDermid was a clear front runner in 2016. Some 30% of 2016 entries used MacDermid plates (compared to 16% in 2015), but an even more telling figure is found in the winning stakes – a threefold increase in the number of award winners using MacDermid plates, from six in 2015 to an impressive 18 in 2016 (including Best on Show, six Gold, five Silver, five Bronze and one finalist medal).

And, of course, it’s all about flat-top dots, the technology that won ten awards for Mpact Corrugated and seven for Colpak. As Rob Bywater puts it, ‘Flat-top dots have provided the sweet spot in terms of flexo print quality.’

Among Mpact’s award winners were seven that used MacDermid’s DMAF 125 plates (used by platemakers such as Africa Stereos and Polyflex); and among Colpak’s seven awards were six that used DMAX 045 plates and LUX lamination (produced by Raised Image). To track the history of flat-top dots, it was back in 2010 that MacDermid announced that its LUX platemaking system could be used with Lava thermal processing.

The combination of flat-top dots with thermal processing was hailed as an industry first, offering printers an opportunity to merge the quality and consistency of LUX with the efficiency and environmental benefits of Lava.

Since then MacDermid’s technology has moved on apace, and the range now includes LUX In-the-Plate (ITP), game-changing technology that provides all the benefits of LUX Lamination, but with the convenience of flat-top dots. No additional platemaking steps or equipment are needed to take advantage of the print quality and consistency that LUX flat-top dots provide.

Hi-Tech innovations add gloss

Not only is Hi-Tech Inks (HTI) a long-standing sponsor of the FTASA Awards, the company also features prominently among ink manufacturers helping their customers to success. As one of the few South African ink manufacturers with its own R&D facilities, and state-of-the-art testing equipment, HTI has led the field with ink innovations over the last five years. As already mentioned (page 24), Tropic Plastic & Packaging took the top prize in the category for wide-web flexible packaging. Ink used for this winning entry is HTI’s Polyverse for the background and Microtech for process colours.

Polyverse flexographic inks are particularly suitable for printing polyethylene film used to shrinkwrap beverage bottles, while the Microtech range of ultra-fine pigment dispersions is formulated for high-tone process printing. Thanks to the high pigmentation and excellent rewettability, they’re used successfully, even for jobs where fine screens can often prove problematic.

Another flexible packaging winner using HTI inks was DBC Plastics, who took gold in the medium-web category using Techlam for the background and Jikelele Unity inks for process colours.

Techlam is a highly-successful flexographic system specifically designed for lamination and suitable for polypropylene (coextruded or orientated), especially for snack food packaging. These inks proved excellent gloss and adhesion to PP; and, as no waxes are used for lamination purposes, scuff resistance is good.

Jikelele Unity is a 100% alcohol-soluble ink system designed for multiple substrates to minimise downtime between print jobs. This multipurpose universal liquid ink system consists of high-quality inks that adhere to a wide variety of substrates, providing good laminating bonds and cleaning up easily on the press.

The silver award in the wide-web flexible packaging sector also went to DBC Plastics in this case using Techlam for the background and Microtech for process colours.

Yet another of HTI’s flexible packaging customers who walked off with top prizes was Aluminium Foil Converters – bagging two golds and a silver in the narrow-web process category, for entries using inks from the HTI stable.

Polyflex: platemaker of choice

Specialists in all areas of packaging graphics, the staff members at Polyflex are passionate about exceeding customers’ expectations, and the company has invested extensively in innovation and training to ensure word-class flexographic platemaking.

Indeed, Polyflex is one of five worldwide beta test sites for major software and plate manufacturers. It’s not surprising, therefore, to find Polyflex high among platemakers/repro houses cited in the winning stakes of the FTASA’s Print Excellence Awards.

For instance, in the corrugated sector (coated and uncoated, process and line/tone work) Polyflex, using MacDermid plates, was the platemaker for Mpact Corrugated’s impressive tally of medals – two gold, a silver and a bronze.

Polyflex again appears as platemaker of choice to Taurus Packaging in the paper products category (uncoated board, process printing) and in the paper bags and sack (uncoated paper, line/tone printing). Altogether Taurus nabbed three silver and one bronze award in these categories, using Asahi plates.

In flexible packaging, Polyflex helped Constantia Afripack to take gold and two silvers in the narrow-web (line/tone) sector, using DuPont Cyrel plates; and another silver went to Constantia in the narrow-web (process) category, using Asahi plates.

Among other flexible packaging customers, all using Asahi plates, were DBC Plastics taking gold in the medium-web (process) category; ITB Manufacturing receiving silver or medium-web (process) and gold for wide-web (line/tone); and Flexible Packaging Converters grasping gold in the wide-web (process) category.

According to Polyflex MD, Brett Pollock, its collaboration across the value chain – including brand owners, retailers, printers and converters, and industry suppliers – that helps his team to provide a complete professional ‘print to pack’ solution, sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.

‘We are Level 4 BBBEE and ISO compliant with an aggressive leadership programme that has enabled us to grow rapidly,’ Brett sums up. ‘We look forward to the future, and our ongoing collaboration with customers to help them win more awards in the years to come.’

Selecting the UV ink market

Among proud ink makers is Select Inks, whose customer SA Labels took top place in the category for self-adhesive labels (both process and line/tone jobs) printed on a Mark Andy press.

Against a backdrop of global explosions in growth and technology in the narrow-web sector and UV-curing ink markets, Cape Town’s Select Inks has retained an enviable position as South Africa’s leading local manufacturer of UV-curing inks, varnishes and adhesives, notwithstanding significantly increased competition from imported products.

‘Much of our success can be attributed to “sticking to our knitting”, nurturing our staff (most of whom have been with the company since its inception in March 1996) and selling our locally-made UV products to countries beyond our borders, with our main export territories being Europe, India, The Philippines and China,’ comments the company’s founder and MD,
Peter Thomas.

‘As a local ink manufacturer, we’re proud to have been part of the huge growth in South Africa’s narrow-web label sector during the past two decades,’ he continues. ‘We’ve contributed greatly towards the development of local technical and colour-matching talents, especially at a time when jobs and skills were being lost as a result of globalisation.’

Peter also points out that downtime attributed to poor colour matching or other ink-related problems can make a huge impact on a printer’s bottom line particularly when it results in rejections and wastage.

‘My experience over the past 20 years has shown me the value of what can be achieved by a partnership between printer and ink maker, where the ink maker provides a product of consistent quality plus round-the-clock support from a strong technical team,’ he sums up.

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