On the Straight and Narrow-web
Narrow-web combination printing attracts a lot of high-end hoopla, but straightforward flexo continues to make market strides.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
AMERICA IS HOOKED on the all-in-one solution, from superstores to shopping malls to everything advertised on infomercials. The packaging industry is no different—the current narrow-web combination craze certainly speaks to the single-source lover. Its rapid growth, however, may cloud non-combination narrow-web flexo's continuing progress.
Though no one disputes the performance of, and market potential for, combination work in narrow-web, suppliers are quick to testify to the significance of straight flexo.
Kim Tanis, VP/North American sales for Allied Gear/Gi Due USA, believes non-combination printing is on the rise: "The evidence is manufacturers have come out with 'plain-vanilla' presses." Tanis credits the improved quality of flexo for its increased usage, and cites developments in water-based inks and ceramic anilox rolls as chief factors in flexo's growing success.
Straight flexo, he observes, has become ever more favored for such jobs as carton labels and food labels, especially as those presses tend to be configured with more colors than in the past.
Mark Andy's Ken Daming, director of product management, finds narrow-web flexo to be an ideal match for short runs on unsupported films. He maintains, "We get better quality than a wide-web film press, and still have the advantages of lower tooling and plate costs, and less waste."
Daming adds most unsupported film presses Mark Andy sells are 16 inches to 20 inches wide. He explains, "Converters can use this equipment for producing an unsupported film one minute, and a p-s label job the next."
At Allied Gear, the most popular width for straight flexo presses remains 10 inches, reports Tanis, with 13-inch, 16-inch, and 20-inch presses more commonplace for combinations.
Flexo advancements have made combo presses all the more attractive to both printers and press manufacturers. RDP Marathon's President Eric Short, whose company specializes in high-end offset/flexo combos, affirms, "Flexo is only interesting to us because it can produce the quality needed."