Packaging major, Uflex, conducted an open house at its Engineering Division on 6 December 2019. Uflex invited potential customers from Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Turkey to witness a live demonstration of its 4-color rotogravure press ‒ the Rotoflex Stanmas 20 ‒ that Uflex has designed to print on aluminum foil. Uflex developed this press with technical inputs from MRG Graphomac based in Italy.
While the new Rotoflex Stanmas 20 can ideally run aluminum foil at 150 meters a minute, it can print on PE and BOPP at 200 meters per minute (mpm). The current variant of the 4-color press is equipped with unwinder and rewinder and prints with solvent-based inks. However, Uflex confirmed that in the future, it would develop newer options of this press that may print foil at 200 mpm and support water-based inks as well.
Unique tension control system to print on foil
“Though the press can print on various substrates, we have made special adjustments in tension control systems to ensure the press is better equipped to handle foil. The mechanical speed of the press is 200 mpm, but we recommend to run the press at 150 mpm on foil to avoid breakage due to potential changes in tension values at higher speeds. This press is equipped with electrical heating systems, unlike the usual heating systems such as thermal oil or hot air generator,” says Sanjay Malik Sabharwal, executive vice president ‒ Engineering Business at Uflex. Uflex has already sold one press to a packaging company based in Greece, while the press that was demonstrated during the open house will be sent to Bangladesh.
“Foil is traditionally printed on CI flexo presses. But we wanted to bring it to gravure to have more attractive colors and to make it more appealing on the shelf. Some of the major challenges that we faced while developing this press were the brittleness of the foil. When we print station-to-station on a rotogravure press, the chances of the foil breaking are very high, and it needs not only a perfect tension control but a different level of idler rollers to ensure smooth passage of the substrate and better printability. In addition, other constraints were eliminated, to ensure that the substrate doesn’t break,” explains Sabharwal.
The changeover time on the press is as low as 30 minutes. While designing the machine, the Uflex team interacted with Kalyar Replica in Bangladesh. Kalyar has its own pharma unit as well. “We decided to develop this machine together to ensure it has features that are handy for the customer. The entire journey took close to a year and a half,” shares Sabharwal.
Even though there is a fall in Indian GDP growth and the economic slowdown has somehow affected numerous businesses, the pharma sector has remained mostly unaffected. Sabharwal continues, “Pharma is going through a sea-change in packaging, and the development of this press can open new avenues in pharma packaging.”
Kalyar Replica aims to boost production with the new press
Bangladesh-based Kalyar Replica, a concern of ACME Group, makes one- to five-layer packaging laminates. The company currently prints and supplies close to 500 tons of packaging in a month. Kalyar purchased this press to print on foil for applications in blister packaging, and the new press is expected to increase its productivity by 40 to 80 tons a month.
“Basically, packaging in Bangladesh is growing by 20% every year, thanks to the growth in the FMCG sector. Of all the packaging segments, flexible packaging has shown the highest growth,” says Mohammad Yasin, general manager of Kalyar Replica. “The pharma sector in Bangladesh is huge. There are nearly seven major pharma companies in Bangladesh that supply packaging to the entire country. I’m basically from New Delhi, and we’ve been in touch with Uflex for a long time. We know they’re reliable partners, and that is why we decided to purchase the press from Uflex after making some adjustments to it to suit our requirements.
Kalyar uses gravure printing presses only at its plants in Bangladesh. One of the leading converters in the country, it stands out in terms of quality and volume and supplies flexible packaging for FMCG companies on its existing rotogravure presses. This is the first rotogravure press that the company has purchased for printing on foil.