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A cure for many converting headaches

Operators showcased the versatility, speed and ease of use of Fujifilm’s Illumina LED curing system during an Open Day at Advanced Labels in Durban.

Richard Jones, owner of Advanced Labels (fourth from the left) and Takeo Hata, MD of Fujifilm South Africa (far right) proudly hosted the Open Day at the label printer’s new 2 000m² facility in Glen Anil, Durban North.

Fujifilm’s Illumina LED curing system was in the spotlight during an Open Day at Advanced Labels in Durban North. Operators showcased its versatility, speed and ease of curing on various jobs and numerous substrates, reports Nici Solomon.

FUJIFILM recently hosted an Open Day at Advanced Labels to showcase productivity, quality and environmental improvements; greater application versatility; and savings in energy, materials, labour and waste that can be achieved by using its Illumina LED curing system.

According to Ian Isherwood, Fujifilm EMEA’s business manager for labels and packaging, Fujifilm has made significant investments in the label and packaging segments in a bid to establish itself as a mainstream supplier to these segments of the graphic industry.

Recently, Fujifilm has launched retrofittable systems that help label and packaging printers to semi-digitise their analogue narrow-web flexo presses. The Samba digital printhead, for instance, allows increased production scope in terms of customisation, numbering and coding. In addition, the Illumina LED curing system substantially improves overall throughput and press uptime, as well as enhancing environmental performance through drastically reduced power consumption, material wastage, pollution and the elimination of VOC’s.

Fujifilm launched the Illumina LED curing system in North America two years ago and Advanced Labels became the first beta site for this technology in the EMEA region earlier this year. MD, Richard Jones, was so impressed with the productivity, labour savings and uptime gains from two systems he had seen running in a production environment in Mexico that he ordered the Illumina LED curing system for his new Nilpeter FA Line press and retrofitted the system to one of his existing eight-colour FB 2500 machines.

Advanced Labels ran extensive tests for several months, comparing two identical presses, one curing with conventional UV and the other with Illumina LED. ‘We recorded an 87.5% power reduction for the LED curing press as well as 50% and 33% reductions in our respective typical make-ready and run times. These fantastic savings and the fact that we’d eliminated many converting frustrations prompted me to contact Fujifilm requesting retrofits for our other two presses,’ Richard explains.

Improved reliability, press uptime

Richard was motivated to change to LED curing in a bid find an effective solution for the downtime problems experienced with conventional UV curing systems, mainly owing to the unreliability of lamps and the extensive and costly maintenance programme required.

‘Each Monday morning, we had to run two-hour maintenance programmes on our three presses – including inspecting, cleaning the lenses and shutters, and changing lamps. We’ve reduced this to 45 minutes per machine per week, now concentrating on the presses themselves rather than the UV systems,’ Richard relates. ‘Additionally, because there are no warm-up or cool-down periods for different shifts and no idle power consumption with LED curing, we save 30 minutes per machine per day, and the automatic on/off facility helps improve lamp life.’

Fujifilm’s tests confirm that LED lamps typically last 20 times longer than mercury UV lamps, offering a lifespan of between 20 000 and 40 000 hours. Richard attests to this improved reliability, noting that security no longer needs to be built into customers’ lead times to compensate for UV system downtime.

Improved working environment

Richard also reports significant labour savings through simplified machine set ups and more stable production on all jobs. Printers no longer need assistance when producing complex jobs on heat-sensitive materials.

‘With the LED curing system, most production frustrations have disappeared, enabling us to move staff previously supporting printers to our finishing department. All the production staff are enjoying a much-improved working environment, thanks to the significantly reduced heat from the LED lamps, no noise from extraction systems, and much lower odour due to little or no VOC production,’ Richard comments enthusiastically.

Additionally, one to two hours per machine per day are being saved on make-ready times as the effects of heat-distorting materials is eliminated. The lower heat in the LED lamp housings doesn’t distort or stretch thin filmic materials. These two factors also enable make-readies at crawl speeds and controlled ramp-up to production speeds, in turn, resulting in improved register control, less start-up waste, less ink usage and an average of 60% less material being used at make-ready stage.

‘Overall we’ve been delighted with the results of our investments as we’re now in the best possible position to capitalise on market trends towards better quality, faster delivery and higher levels of environmental awareness,’ Richard states. ‘These investments have also brought the next step of becoming 100% self-reliant, through solar power, more clearly into focus. Power supply dips are a big issue in our Glen Anil suburb, and the dramatic reduction in power consumption required to run the four presses through utilising LED curing could facilitate a move off the grid. We currently have two months’ worth of data and need to track just a few more to get an accurate picture of whether it would be viable to go off the grid with solar power, initially just in our offices and/or for one shift.’