At drupa 2016, Italian firm Comiflex and India’s global flexible packaging solution company Uflex shook hands to manufacture gearless CI Flexo printing machines under a technology transfer agreement. With the initial design work and component sourcing underway, production has started at the Uflex engineering division plant in Noida. The first customer is
the Uflex printing division and the first automated 8-color gearless CI wide web flexo press is under production
In end January, we met Gianfranco Nespoli of Comiflex together with Ajay Tandon, president and chief executive officer – engineering and new product development, and director of Ultimate Flexipack and Sanjay Sabharwal, executive vice president of the Uflex engineering division. “Nespoli is a hardcore flexo man with close to 40 years of experience in flexo press manufacturing,” says Tandon. “So we have a technical tie-up wherein we are using their drawings, designs, their brains, their support, their component developments overseas and more—the agreement comes with a complete package.”
The initial design and development work of the CI flexo press will be done in Italy, while the manufacturing bit will happen in India. However, in the future design and development may also be extended to India, according to Tandon. All the components have been specified and the outsourced components, whether to be imported or locally bought, have been ordered while others are under manufacture at the Uflex engineering plant. Currently, 50% of the components to be used in the press will be sourced from Europe while the remaining will be indigenous. However, Uflex aims at taking up the indigenous sourcing to about 80%.
The most critical and important component of the CI press—the CI cylinder—will be imported from Europe, but it may be manufactured in India at a later stage. “In fact, manufacturing CI drums in India could be a dream because of the steps involved and the infrastructure to have all those steps under a single roof may not be practical,” says Sabharwal.
The maiden Uflex CI press is expected to be rolled out of the Noida manufacturing floor in about 5 to 6 months. While the plan is to use it in-house, Uflex will still put the press into rigorous test and trial runs before delivery or making it available commercially to the market. According to Tandon, the first press will be an 8-color, 1.3-m wide press with speeds up to 400 m per minute. “We are getting into manufacturing of CI flexo presses right in time,” shares Tandon.
Explaining the workings of a gearless machine, Sabharwal says, “When we talk about a CI drum, there is no shaft because there is not a great distance between the units. It is either connected with gears or it is simply an electronic transmission. In other words, because there is no shaft, we call it gearless. Basically, we are making a modern, electronic transmission-driven, sophisticated world-class press.”
Competitive price for technology and strong local backup
Tandon is confident about the selling proposition of a Uflex manufactured and tested wide web flexo press as he expects the market to continue to grow taking into account the increased use of extensible films and the need for a greater number of shorter runs. The quality of wide web CI flexo using digital imaging of flexo plates and sleeves has also largely caught up with rotogravure. He feels Uflex CI flexo press will provide high technology and automation at a competitive price and the strong backup that being a leading local technology user can provide.
Nespoli in turn is confident about the design of the press, which he says will efficiently deal with the technical challenges of flexo printing at high speeds such as ‘bounce.’ He says, “With our design, the faster the speed the better the printing will be. Wait till you see the press running.”