Major Indian converters at K continue to increase capacity

K Review Part 1 – Sustainable laminates are an eye-opener

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Varex II blown film line showcased at the W&H stand with the newly introduced IoT automation suite, Ruby. Photo PSA
Varex II blown film line showcased at the W&H stand with the newly introduced IoT automation suite, Ruby. Photo PSA

Many Indian flexible packaging converters have recently placed orders for gravure and CI flexo presses and blown film lines. Some, perhaps fearing further draconian utterances by the government on plastics, even waited till the Prime Minister’s speech on 2 October, before finalizing their orders. Following this, the orders for blown film lines and presses rolled in.

Major exhibitors at K confirm that at this year’s event, a few Indian visitors were newbies to the industry. The speculators and first-time investors from other sectors, who earlier thought flexible packaging was a fast growth goldmine, are discouraged by the anti-plastic and anti-packaging drift of the current public discourse. This may be a blessing for the experienced flexible film and packaging converters who seem determined to invest in growth and who are ready to grapple with the sustainability issues. For the technically sound part of the industry, the focus can shift to innovation, sustainability and viability.

Blown film lines, metallizers, presses

There are, to our limited knowledge, approximately seven blown film lines on their way to India in the coming months, including a 9-layer and two 7-layer lines. While the majority of these are from W&H, a Brampton water-quenched Aquafrost blown film line is coming to Vishakha Polyfab in Ahmedabad. We believe that an MDO blown film line is on order from Reifenhauser, as well.

A healthy number (in the high single digits) of vacuum metallizers is coming to Indian converters. These are predominantly from Bobst. The thin layer of aluminum (less than .1%) can give most laminates (even those based on single polymer PE layers) the barrier properties needed for food pouches and other flexible pouch applications. The thin layer of aluminum makes the high barrier laminate recyclable.

Also, in the delivery pipeline to Indian flexible packaging converters are several high-speed gravure presses from major European manufacturers. These include the Bobst Rotomec that landed at Parakh Flexipack in Pune just after the start of K, and a pair of presses coming to Aditya Flexipack in Kanpur together with a vacuum metallizer. GLS and Skypack in the Delhi/NCR have Bobst gravure presses coming as do Modern Packaging in Mumbai, Akash Flexibles in Chennai, and Pyraa Flexipack in Mysore.

Gravure holds steady while CI flexo cools down

Gravure and fast gravure with automation seem to have strengthened their grip on the Indian market while there are signs of over-capacity in wide web flexo. There is a significant drop in the influx of CI flexo imports in the current year. The decline is attributed both to the improvements in high-quality gravure presses that can handle thinner and more extensible substrates, such as PE films and laminates, and to the general robustness of a process that has dominated the Indian market. 

Although there is an excellent promise in the technology and it is indispensable for some applications, even brand owners seem reluctant to change over to CI flexo immediately. Vinay Nalawade of Parakh Flexipacks, a company that hitherto was running a fleet of four CI flexo presses, says the company was compelled to buy its first gravure press to grow its markets. There are many types of flexible packaging that still demand the barrier properties than can only be delivered by laminates most efficiently printed on gravure presses.

Indian suppliers at K

Although we will cover these exhibitors more extensively in our K review Part 2, in the December issue of Packaging South Asia, it is clear that the Indian exhibitors had an excellent show. Rajoo Engineers and Kohli Industries are positive about their exports. Rajoo’s 7-layer line was sold to a Vietnamese flexible packaging company before the show. Other exhibitors such as Gayatri Rubtech, which manufactures rubber rollers, and Carbon Light, a first-time exhibitor, had an excellent show. Gayatri said that quality inquiries and sales were double that of the previous K.

Carbon Light was successful in meeting many of the major equipment suppliers who are ready to look at a technically adept and reliable supplier of carbon fiber rollers from India. The company was able to have high-level discussions with several companies at what could be a breakthrough event for the young organization. Apart from the positive discussions, the company has been able to conclude an order with a significant European roller OEM supplier in just days after the show ended.

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.

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