Where Materials and Minds Meet
Coating and laminating in-line takes a few imaginative turns.
By Susan Friedman
For package printers, the basic equation for in-line coating and laminating installationsflexographic printing plus flexible packagingremains the same. At the same time, though, active "additions" for coating and laminating are on tap: more applications, more accuracy and ease-of-use, and, likely, more creative retrofits.
In 1999, in-register cold-seal adhesives received a good deal of in-line application buzz, but now other uses are angling for attention and elbow room. Hans Deamer, senior vice president at Windmoeller & Hoelscher, confirms in-line coating/laminating's continuing importance, and cites additional layers of growth within the flexible packaging arena.
Deamer believes cold seal's growth has stalled in the past year, and that the application is facing overcapacity. More measurable momentum can be found, he says, behind in-line (and off-line) solvent-free lamination, which has grown not only due to its environmental benefits, but its ability to eliminate solvent costs and dryer energy costs. Early problems with ink and adhesive compatibility have been overcome, and the latest generation of solvent-free adhesives has improved performance.
Printco Industries' Account Executive Matt Burie predicts flexible packaging will continue to lead the in-line pack simply due to the volume involved, but notes new products have also touched off a surge of in-line activity in both business forms and tissue/towels.
As far as package printing is concerned, coating and laminating activity continues to be strong both on and off the press line. Deamer expects shorter and shorter run lengths, and their requisite changes in web widths and adhesives, to continue to render roll-to-roll, off-line equipment an attractive option.
Mid-web, however, with its claims of short-run cost-effectiveness, may be a major ticket to market for in-line. Tom Jacques, marketing strategist for Paper Converting Machine Co., reports, "More mid-web press owners are looking to add in-line stations for flexible packaging and labels to increase the value of that packaging to the final customer." Jacques ticks off a list of mid-web end product applications including potato chip bags, peanut bags, soda bottle wraps, and trading card wraps; in-line pattern coater products such as candy bar wrappers (with cold-seal adhesive), fresh-cut produce salad bags (with anti-fog coatings); and in-line flexo station products such as backside game rules, bottle wraps, and ice cream wraps.