ProPrint raises productivity with Martin Automatic technology

Martin Automatic’s MBS unwind & LRD rewind technology

The Martin MBS automatic butt splicer and LRD rewinder are fitted to ProPrint’s latest Edale FL3 that is producing linerless labels

When the global pandemic prompted a nationwide lockdown in the UK, manufacturers of printed packaging found themselves under immediate pressure from customers to increase their output. With all restaurants, cafes, staff canteens, and other food outlets being forced to close almost overnight, the pressure of increased demand at food retailers created a massive problem in the supply chain.

ProPrint Group, based in Wellingborough, responded quickly to the situation and timely installated Martin Automatic technology on its latest Edale FL3 narrow web press. The FL3, which joins eight other Edale lines at the company, is a 430mm 10-color flexo press devoted entirely to linerless labels and is currently working a double day shift pattern.

With increased demand on the newest Edale, the use of automation seemed a natural process to follow, and after a visit to Labelexpo Europe in 2019 and a factory tour at Desmedt Labels, near Brussels, which is one of Martin Automatic’s best European showcase installations, ProPrint decided to place an order.

ProPrint MBS 1

Bob Green, operations manager for ProPrint Group, said, “We were seriously impressed with the Martin installations at Desmedt, which have effectively automated all of the company’s narrow web presses. The owner, Henri Köhler, was very open and helpful with production figures and we could see with our own eyes how smoothly the whole production process flowed.” The visit resulted in an order for a Martin Automatic MBS non-stop butt splicer and a non-stop LRD rewinder.

The company said the MBS and LRD are two of Martin’s bestselling models from an extensive range that spans narrow to ultra-wide webs and substrates from self-adhesive and linerless labels, and delicate films to sandpaper and roofing felt. With designs based on pure physics principles, all Martin technology is said to be simple to operate, easy to maintain, and reliable, matching the requirements of today’s production environments where JIT delivery leaves little margin for error. The MBS automatically shears and tapes the running web to the new reel while the press continues running at full production speed, which at ProPrint is typically around 140m/min.

According to the press statement, it makes a better butt splice, that is with no overlap, and ‘irons’ the tape across the web to ensure good bonding.  Other features include web tension control and automatic web alignment with an ultrasonic sensor. The LRD rewinds and unloads the finished rolls at full production speed without the operator needing to be present. Unlike a conventional turret rewinder, the LRD has a short transition between winding positions that reduce web movement risk and changes in web tension.

Speaking for ProPrint, director Nigel Tollman commented, “Our continued focus on improving service levels and cutting down on waste, raw materials and time, means we are always looking at ways to streamline and improve our efficiencies. At ProPrint we believe in spending time ensuring we have the right supplier partners – partners we can work with to make sure our business is always evolving and improving. The team at Martin Automatic were helpful, supportive and worked hard to give us the peace of mind that comes with certainty.”

His words chimed, especially for Martin Automatic’s UK Sales Manager Chris Chappel, who, together with Edale engineer Simon Coffin, was charged with installing the equipment when it was delivered during lockdown. Far from being flustered by the restrictions that prevented Martin from sending technicians to start up the equipment, Chappel says the installation was carried out in a calm, steady, and professional manner. “There was no chance of an engineer flying in from the US or over from mainland Europe to commission the MBS and LRD, so Simon and I set to it. It’s the way we like to be there for our customers when they need us.”

The result is a first-class installation, as Green acknowledges, “In the short time since the machinery was installed, we have found it easy to use, reliable and very efficient.
I estimate that the Martin equipment saves us around 30% of the time it took to change a roll manually and cut make-ready waste significantly by between 50 – 100m per change.
Overall, I’d say the Martins have boosted output by at least 20%, and that’s being conservative.”

The investment package, which also included a Lundberg waste extraction system, is part of a larger program to widen the Group’s range of printed packaging. Currently operating from modern facilities across two sites – one for cartons the other for labels, ProPrint offers digital and offset printing capability in addition to its narrow web flexo. Design and pre-press are both handled in-house, and the company has invested heavily in streamlining all of its management and production processes to support and develop its staff.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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