When it comes to testing new inks, finding the time to run the ink in an actual pressroom setting is difficult at best. Customers usually don’t have enough free time to set aside presses for test runs.
Sericol has also run into the same challenge as the company began testing its new UV flexo inks. Rather than rely on lab testing and a few test runs, Sericol has purchased a Nilpeter FA-2500 5-color combination press.
“We have been working for two and a half years to develop UV flexo inks for label printers, and the biggest challenge was to get quality press time for testing,” said Gary Barnes, international marketing manager – packaging segment at Sericol.
Mr. Barnes said that once Sericol devoted itself to the narrow web roll label market, adding the Nilpeter press was the next step. “We decided to invest in a printing press, and this press sends a clear message,” he said. “When we go to trial, we can do a controlled trial on a production press rather than in a lab. We can show a finished product to the market place, rather than asking customers to take it on faith. The response has been fantastic.”
Mr. Barnes said that Sericol developed its new UVivid Flexo FL inks to fill the need for combination flexo and screen printing. “There were gaps in UV flexo that fit very comfortably with our skill sets,” Mr. Barnes said. “We’ve focused on target areas of our customers to move forward. The U.S. version of UVivid has been on the market for six months, and there has been a very good response.”
Development work began in 1998, following Sericol Inc.’s acquisition of Cavanagh Corporation, a U.S. manufacturer of UV flexo and letterpress inks. The resulting UVivid Flexo inks form the heart of Sericol’s UVivid brand of integrated UV curable products for the narrow web roll label printer. In the U.S. market, the UVivid product range encompasses flexo, letterpress and rotary screen inks (UVivid 800, 600 and 400 respectively). To reflect the difference in market requirements, the products for Europe and the rest of the world comprises flexo, rotary and flatbed screen inks (UVivid Flexo FL, Rotary Screen RN and Screen CN respectively).
In response to industry demands, the inks have been formulated to give high color density and consistent viscosity across the color range. “Through consultation with the industry, we discovered two common problems with UV flexo inks: some colors tend to be higher viscosity than others, due to pigment interaction, and some shades are weak, to facilitate the UV curing process,” Mr. Barnes said. “We believe that we have resolved both of these issues with UVivid Flexo FL. The new inks also boast a high gloss finish with excellent hold out, minimal dot gain and fast cure to facilitate high production output.”
Sericol is already working in partnership with a representative cross section of industry suppliers, including Stork, Nilpeter, Avery Dennison, Praxair, J. M. Heaford, Solatell and Gerhardt. Joint development projects which address current industry demands and aim to develop real productivity benefits are underway.
“One of the most important benefits of the in-house press is that it will allow us to work closely with co-suppliers to develop joint projects that will be of benefit to label printing in general,” said Mr. Barnes. “All suppliers to the industry suffer from the same problem – lack of quality production press time. Using our new facilities, our supplier partners will be able to approach product development in a logical manner, with adequate time to conduct proper comparison tests. Most importantly, they will have the opportunity to work together as a team. We see this as the best way of advancing the flexo process.”
The Nilpeter press will also be of direct benefit to Sericol customers. The company will be working closely with label printers to fine-tune products, and will be encouraging customers to conduct their own research and development.
While adding a press may be unique for most ink manufacturers, Sericol has taken this approach before.
“As far as we are aware, Sericol is the only ink manufacturer in Europe to have installed its own, in-house production specification label printing press,” said Frank Bull, Sericol’s U.K. marketing manager for industrial products. “This is in line with our general philosophy of replicating ‘real world’ production conditions as accurately as possible. We already have in-house a variety of machines typically used by printers in other segments where we are active, so when we entered the flexo market it followed that we would install the most up-to-date combination label printing press. The Nilpeter press will allow us to provide the best possible customer service to narrow web roll label printers and ensure that all our products are ‘proven’ before they are made available to customers.”
“It’s the way we approach our markets,” Mr. Barnes concluded. “We really do provide ‘More than ink... Solutions.’”