Capitalizing on Comco's multi substrate capability

With run lengths reducing and margins shrinking, printers everywhere are looking for something that will give them an edge in the market. Olegario Fernandes, at Cacem, near Lisbon, has used offset technology to produce wet glue labels and cartons, with converting handled off-line. A factory relocation in 1993 gave the company an opportunity to investigate new technology that would increase its productivity and profitability. Customers were looking for a ‘one-stop’ supply of different types of package printing, and with the move from wet glue to self adhesive labels growing, it began to look in earnest at what narrow web machinery had to offer.

No doubts

With the rapid advances in flexo quality, it was not long before a Comco Cadet was installed as a pre-cursor of what became a major tranche of investment in 2002 – the acquisition of a Comco ProGlide MSP line. “We still use the Cadet to train our staff, for whom the new concept of printing flexo reel to reel came as a culture shock to offset hands steeped in sheet-fed production,” says production manager Duarte Sousa. “We never doubted flexo was the right way to go.”

The 330mm Comco ProGlide MSP (Multi Substrate Press) was bought specifically to produce folding cartons. It was installed in June, 2002, went straight into production, and 12 months on, is working triple shifts, six days a week.

“We chose Comco because they had the experience to help us break the stereotypical European thinking on carton production,” he reveals. “We wanted to gain an advantage.”

The press, installed in a new 1,400m2 factory extension, has a Martin Automatic 516 butt splicer, which allows the handling of 50in rolls. Chill drums are fitted on each of the seven shuttle-deck UV flexo print units to improve substrate stability, and a high velocity hot air dryer allows for blister pack production. There is also a hot foil unit, two die stations allowing four positions, with three slide-in cassettes, and a shingling conveyor with counter/jogger.

Within a month of installation, Olegario Fernandes began to switch carton production from its sheet-fed capacity to the new Comco. According to Duarte Sousa: “We could match offset print quality with UV flexo on the Comco and offer our customers more attractive prices and faster delivery at the same time as improving our own margins. It was a ‘win-win’ situation, and has driven us to go triple shift on the Comco. We now produce 50 per cent of our total carton output on it, and the figure is growing all the time.”


Within months of its installation, the versatility of the ProGlide’s multi substrate capability became evident, when the company began to run filmic materials, particularly PP for shrink sleeves and wraps. A recent development project with one customer, Unilever, is exploring opportunities with different substrates and new product fields. In-mould labels for vegetable oil containers has been one successful result, but the companies are working on several others that will “throw traditional methods of package print production wide open”.

Duarte Sousa explains: “We have the capability on the Comco to handle substrates from 25 micron unsupported film to 600 micron board with minimum adjustment, which gives us an enormous advantage over our competitors in terms of cost and speed of delivery. More efficient use of labour within the factory is a key element in this. The press reduces manning levels by around 60 per cent compared with traditional methods, which allows us to redeploy staff to other more productive duties.”

Cartons produced are limited to 315mm width, which means one-across production. He says this is a perfect fit for his €7.5M turnover company’s work, bearing in mind the population of Portugal is only 12M. “There is little point in over specifying your machine for a market that is intrinsically small.”


Mark Andy
Tel: +41 61 487 9666

External weblinks
Converting Today is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Mark Andy