In for the Long Haul
Today's near-necessity of value-added coatings persuades more converters to embark on the in-line path.
By Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
For those in the know, coating and laminating are quickly becoming part of the basics of package printing. Today's sophisticated packaging has given birth to a dizzying array of coating/laminating combinations and capabilities, and the in-line process continues to reap the benefits. Applications are increasing across the print process board, in flexo, in offset, even in gravure.
Of course, in-line is still best-suited for longer-run work. Though Matt Tielkemeier, Dri-Tec's VP/GM, notes in-line's potential for short runs will grow with the development of robotic presses, he believes, "Robotic coating and laminating equipment won't be available for several years." For shorter runs, and, as Tielkemeier relates, for truly "exotic" applications, off-line coating is usually the system of choice.
In the offset arena, Heidelberg has supplied in-line coating units on sheetfed offset presses for almost 20 years. Detlef Janke, marketing director for the Speedmaster 102, reports the majority of machines the company sells are now equipped with at least one coating unit. "This has become the standard for all parts of the industry," he asserts. "While it was, at the beginning, only aqueous coating to protect the printed sheet and allow faster finishing, it is now more value-added coatings that are gaining the industry's interest."
In-line's proven efficiency guarantees it its place in the coating/laminating hierarchy. The big issue facing potential "in-liners" now is the exact equipment set-up their packaging requires. As Janke, describes, "Printers don't want to coat only after printing, [they also want to coat] even before, or before and after."
While it's sometimes difficult to keep up with the breadth of uses their equipment is engaged in, coating/laminating suppliers definitely discern several applications that rack up the most requests.