On the workflow, prepress and imaging side of the packaging industry, the past financial year (1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016) has also seen several technology and automation break-throughs. The first direct laser for flexo plate engraving from Lead Lasers has come to the Uflex plant in Jammu, while the first two automated and robotic cylinder preparation, imaging, engraving and finishing plants from Think Labs have come to two of our neighbours in Noida in the Delhi National Capital Region – Afflatus and Uflex.
The digital flexo imagers as a whole have declined slightly this year to about ten machines from a previous banner year of 15 imagers. Electronic engravers for gravure cylinders continue to be installed at a rate of more than two dozen each year since it is widely believed that approximately 30% of the more than 200,000 gravure cylinders manufactured in India each year are still produced by film and chemical etching and will eventually have to be produced by more modern methods.
Corrugated packaging seems to be undergoing a renaissance in India driven by Amazon and Flipkart on the one hand which use high quality cartons brown boxes of various sizes and mountains of bubble wrap. The other driver is the increasing use of bleached liner for fruit and vegetable trays and beer cartons printed in 4-color not just by the huge number of Asian manufactured flexo presses but increasingly by flexo printer, slotter, diecutters from Bobst and Emba. While the second Bobst flexo printer slotter has come to Gujarat, Emba is leading the race for Indian installations with at least six installations in India.
Monocartons can be glamourous although most cartons in India still leave a great deal to be desired in terms of design and innovation. Nevertheless the past financial year saw unprecedented capacity creation in terms of multicolor offset presses. More than two dozen 6-color plus coater presses were imported from Heidelberg, KBA, Komori and RMGT with a large share of these being highly configured 7-color plus coater UV presses. In the past two years, cold foiling units that sit atop the first two units of these presses have also struck the fancy of monocarton producers hoping to lure brand owners into unique value adds. While there are still just four such cold foilers installed and running in the country, we have sighted a number of monocarton printers looking to add foiling machines as retrofits to their existing presses.
The label industry continues to grow steadily if not dramatically although there is still a huge gap in both innovation and quality between what is being done in South Asia and the more developed parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan and Australia. In those countries there are many innovations including reverse scratch labels and several types of security labels. One must admit that some innovation is taking place in security label solutions and also the digital printing of cartons and even in the upsurge of hard boxes for luxury packaging but these are still exceptions. Much more innovation is needed and in the South Asian region the real excitement can only come from creativity for bottom of the pyramid packaging.
Packaging South Asia is the cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which is scheduled to be held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany.