Founded as a producer of pressure sensitive and in-mold labels only for the digital press, InkWorks printing opened 12 years ago with the installation of an HP Indigo 4500 narrow web digital press. Later, the company upgraded to an HP 6900 digital press, which has a 13 inch size. bandwidth, and later still a second 6900 was added.
As capacity requirements continued to increase, a third 6900 was thought of. But instead, the converter in Plymouth, Wis., Switched to the large format with an HP Indigo 25K digital press, which offers a 30-inch format. band width. Based on the well established HP Indigo A 20000 system for digital roll hose printing, the new 25K is designed to increase short run productivity by 25% and reduce waste through improvements in color automation, durability and automation of the work flow. The new press has been operating at InkWorks since December 2020.
To complete the new press, InkWorks also installed a Combi Pack Ready laminator from Karlville, which offers both thermal and solvent-free lamination. âWe did a solvent-free lamination on a narrow web machine,â says President Bob Travis. âBut it wasn’t very fancy, and it was actually sort of a homemade solution. Plus, it was for 13 in. Wideband, and with the 30-in. 25 K we needed a 30-in. Wide laminator. (See sidebar below for more on the Karlville laminator.)
âAmong other things,â Travis continues, âthese new capabilities have allowed us to enter the flexible packaging market. Not to mention letting us offload some of the biggest labels that we could previously only go through on the 6900s. Now we can run them in multiples on the web. So it was really a decision to remove some of the bottlenecks we had in our operations. ”
Travis says that when laminating thin films, a thermal process involving heat can cause the material to warp too easily. âThe thermal lamination we do tends to be for pocket materials,â he points out. âIn-mold labels are made using solvent-free technology, typically at speeds in the order of 600 feet per minute. Thermal lamination is more like 150 fpm.
Digital finishing too
As daring as it is, the leap to a new press and laminate system was just the start. This coincided with the installation of a second LasX digital laser cutting system. Travis says his experience with the first LasX the machine was a revelation. âOnce we no longer needed conventional cutting tools and could set up jobs digitally, we had the flexibility to cut any size or shape and switch between them. rapid succession. When you put this ability in front of designers and brand owners who suddenly realize that they no longer have to stick to the same size or shape of a label or packaging, it just opens up. many really interesting possibilities. “
InkWorks can use either of its 15-inch wide LasX systems for roll-to-roll or roll-to-sheet operations. The roll-to-sheet capacity comes in handy with two types of labels produced by InkWorks. One is where the customer’s volume requirements are relatively low. “Some of the smaller food manufacturers, or maybe a craft brewer, find it easier to remove sticker labels from a sheet and apply them manually to containers than to bother with a roll of labels.” , explains Travis. âWe make pouch labels, for example, where the customer needs 1,000 from one label, 10,000 from another, and 5,000 from a third party. Customers find the sheet format easier to handle.
When these pressure sensitive label sheets are in production, the laser cuts the labels on the release liner, then makes a deeper cut to separate the individual sheets from the roll. The number of labels per sheet depends entirely on customer requirements.
The other application where roll-to-sheet is in demand is in-mold labels as it allows individual labels to be cut and stacked which customers can easily load into the magazine feed of their injection molding machines. . Such labels are typically a two-layer 0.5 mil and 2.6 mil polypropylene (PP) lamination. The digitally printed 2.6 mil substrate fuses with the sidewall of the bottle in the mold, and the 0.5 mil clear coat traps inks so they cannot be scratched.
Read on the latest digital press installed by Tetra Pak.
The two LasX systems work basically the same. When a 2D barcode printed along the edge of the roll is scanned, it sends these identifying information to LasX software, which then extracts the digital file needed for the laser to cut the proper shape. “It’s nonstop,” says Travis. âA circle, square, rectangle, triangle, or whatever shape we need to cut. And whenever a new shape is requested, the digital system immediately detects it and changes cutting modes without the need to change cutting tools of any kind.
An important capability of the second LasX system running at InkWorks is how laser cut units are handled in roll-to-piece production. It involves the integration of LasX’s patented stainless steel vacuum processing belt with two Dorner conveyors. The stainless steel belt allows the laser to accurately record the digitally printed tape on the fly and cut the tape, creating each piece. The fully cut parts are then delivered from the laser area to the first downstream Dorner unit, which is an inverted vacuum conveyor. The vacuum conveyor transports parts from the stainless steel conveyor to the secondary Dorner belt conveyor. The servo-driven rewind shaft collects the webbed scrap die. The speed of the second Dorner conveyor is variable and allows for shingles or spacing pieces. Piece counting is done automatically so that the secondary conveyor speeds up to create a space to indicate to the operator that the number of stacks has been reached. There is only one operator left to pack the parts into boxes for shipment to the customer.
âIt’s a lot smoother than how we did on the first LasX system,â says Travis. âOn this system, the machine pulls parts out of the web by redirecting the web path after cutting and allowing the labels or cut sheets to be captured by a nip that feeds the parts onto a conveyor. If the labels are very small or extremely thin, they curl up on the nip rollers or get stuck. The new vacuum conveyor system completely eliminates these problems. We learned a lot with this first machine. Then, working closely with LasX, they were able to design exactly what we needed this time around. It’s just an amazing machine.
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