UFlex Cylinder Division in Noida

Pioneering automation and water-based gravure in India

Plant visit to Uflex Cylinder Division in Noida
Robotic line by Think Laboratory at the UFlex cylinder division in Noida Photo: PSA

The UFlex Cylinder Division in Noida is well-known as a trusted manufacturer of rotogravure printing cylinders for flexible packaging. Although the division’s capabilities extend from gravure printing cylinders to flexo plates and flexo printing sleeves, it is still the leader in automation and the capability of producing cylinders for water-based gravure using its Think Labs robotic engraving system.

UFlex Cylinder Division in Noida
Parwez Izhar, chief executive officer of cylinder business, senior vice president at UFlex      Photo: UFlex

On our 7 February 2021 visit to the UFlex Cylinder Division in Noida, we met with Parwez Izhar, chief executive officer of cylinder business and senior vice president at UFlex, who showed us the plant and explained the working of the gravure aspect as well as the addition of the new Kodak Flexcel NX system which modernizes and expands the division’s flexo platemaking capabilities and capacity. The company’s strength comes from upgrading and acquiring the latest technology to meet the most critical demands of its customers. 

The cylinder division’s gravure engraving capabilities include both the electro-mechanical engraving lines and the Think Labs robotic laser engraving line. In the robotic laser engraving line or system, robots do the entire process of preparing, engraving, and finishing the cylinders in a special air-conditioned and dust-proof enclosure controlled by the technical staff using the digital files sent by the prepress team. The process of engraving and finishing is entirely automated while the programming or instructions and specifications for each cylinder are provided by the technical staff.

The robotic engraver is more productive and sustainable

By comparing the preparation of cylinders in both manually and by the robotic system, we learned that the VOC levels of the robotic engraving line section are 25-30% less than the electro-mechanical section, making it healthier and more sustainable. Moreover, in the robotic engraving line, the energy-saving and efficiency are higher, the cylinder life is better, and the system needs less manpower.

At the same time in gravure printing with cylinders with cell patterns that use less ink while maintaining high quality which makes customers happy with the results and the savings. Currently, the single robotic line can produce 80 cylinders daily, whereas with the cylinder division’s multiple electro-mechanical engravers can produce 250 cylinders daily.

Plant visit to Uflex Cylinder Division in Noida
Final prepared cylinders at UFlex Cylinder Division Plant            Photo: PSA

Izhar spoke about the trends for modernization in gravure, “Customers in the flexible packaging industry prefer the cylinders with low gsm or low ink consumption. We also use make gravure cylinders for printing with water-based inks, so that the VOCs are low and eco-friendly. This brings us and our customers closer to the sustainability goals. Today, the trend is for the use of water-based inks in gravure, and we are the best in producing the cylinders for printing with water-based gravure inks as we use the Think Lab robotic engraving line to produce them.” Increasingly UFlex’s packaging division, as well converter customers of the cylinder division are engaged in the trend for gravure printing with water-based gravure inks.

Izhar concluded our conversation by commenting on the company’s achievements during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying, “When the second wave of the pandemic hit India, we faced many challenges as our operations and the supply chain was affected. We were unable to get the base shells, which are the raw material for cylinder making. As there was a shortage of oxygen cylinders, we informed our manufacturing units to buy plasma arc cutting machines. Our capacity was compromised, and that’s why Q1 was not good for us, but as the situation improved, we made record sales in Q2 and Q3. The reason is that Covid-19 increased the demand for packaging, so we were able to produce more engraved cylinders.” 

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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