ANI Printing Inks recently held two full-day seminars on ‘Developments in the Expanding Narrow Web Market’ – with special reference to the interests and requirements of label converters.

Russell Joyce, ANI’s general manager, Europe, set the day in context with a review of European market trends. He highlighted the opportunities for narrow web print afforded by the trend towards shorter runs and just-in-time delivery, which are forcing wide web and sheet-fed offset printers to look at narrow web print to achieve acceptable margins and productivity. The existing base of narrow web printers are benefiting from this trend, too, he said: “Increasingly, the narrow web press – traditionally the preserve of self adhesive labelling – is used for other types of packaging print substrate, from cartonboard to unsupported films”.

With flexo the dominant narrow web technology today, and UV flexo the fastest growing, the focus on inks from label converters and end users is on improved colour strength using the flexo processes – both on paper and film. “Seventy per cent of all presses today have UV capacity, and 12 per cent of all presses are combination presses – not just UV screen with flexo, but also permutations of combinations of flexo, offset, and even gravure’, he said. “Add to that the fact that many substrates that pass through narrow web presses today were not designed for inks in the same way as traditional self adhesive materials. Our role in ANI’s Narrow Web Division is to deliver a range of inks that can give excellent results with this wider range of substrates, as well as with self adhesive labelstocks.”

Jens Nilsson and Agnes Strack, of OPP film manufacturer Treofan, jointly addressed the subject of in-mould labelling, looking at new opportunities as well as giving practical advice on meeting the challenges the process can pose. OPP label films are enjoying exceptional market growth at an average 15 per cent per annum, on all kinds of product – from champagne to yoghourts, detergents, ice creams, and hygiene and cosmetics. The trend is towards thinner films, converted on reel-to-reel presses with in-line sheeting capability.

Niklas Olsson, global brand manager for ANI’s Narrow Web Division, expanded on the subject of UV inks on unsupported materials converted by the various print processes. The ANI range already features dedicated products for solvent and water based flexo; UV flexo; oil based and UV letterpress; UV offset (‘wet’ and waterless); and UV screen. In current development (reflecting the market’s movement) are solvent based and UV inks for gravure and UV curable inks for inkjet print.

“Every application makes its own special demands on the inks,” said Niklas Olsson. “For wrap-around film sleeve labels, for example, you need high curing speeds, exceptional scratch resistance and ink adhesion on corona treated PE, OPP, and PS – plus, of course, a good opaque white base. For sleeves, you also need stretch and shrink characteristics and flexibility.”

One of the major issues with UV flexo printed packaging has been odour, particularly in the tobacco, chocolate and food sectors. Niklas Olsson commented: “Odour can be generated at a number of points in the conversion process: in the substrate itself and via any surface coatings on it; through by-products generated by the curing process; press and production contamination; and UV lamps and corona treaters. We have achieved exceptionally low odour ratings with our Flexocure Gemini inks.”

In conclusion, he counselled: “End user requirements are the first criterion in choosing an ink, and it is always important to liaise with substrate and ink suppliers before making the choice.”

John Hammond, UK sales manager for press manufacturers Nilpeter, told delegates the company is exporting around 150 narrow web presses a year – especially to the Far East market. New converting methods were the subject of his paper, which looked at all the available options in narrow web print, and matched them to suitable packaging applications. He said the Nilpeter concept of the platform press, which offers the opportunity to build any number of options into the converting process, is especially flexible.

“For narrow web printers, with their vastly increased range of applications today, platform presses make life easier all round. We offer compact and full size platforms, servo drives, and every ‘add on’ you might want – from hot and cold foil stations, rotary screen stations, rotary die cutting, embossing and creasing units, and a nip system for web tensioning, lamination, insetting, and matrix upwind. We can meet your challenges whether you’re printing self adhesive, in-mould, sleeves, boxes, cartonboard, tube laminate, or unsupported films for pouches and sachets.”

The perennial question of achieving an opaque white base on film substrates for subsequent quality half tone overprinting – particularly with UV flexo – was the next topic addressed next by Niklas Olsson. He explained that screen – both rotary and flatbed – currently gives the best opacity, and with this in mind, his company has developed UV curable CombiWhite for really high quality results both in the white (non yellowing) base and in the subsequent overprinting, either with UV flexo or UV LP/UV offset. He also looked at the alternatives to screen for printing the white base.

“Gravure,” he said, “is certainly positioning itself as an attractive alternative to screen for longer runs and higher speeds, and can also be used for special effects such as metallics. However, in the long term, our company is looking at a dedicated UV flexo white ink, and we are working on that and its whole surrounding package – plate, tape, and anilox roller, too.”

Dave Torley, marketing manager, premium packaging, for Avery Dennison Roll Materials Europe, identified market trends and growth opportunities from the viewpoint of a leading labelstock supplier. He said the consolidation in the value chain at many levels is causing a ‘profit crunch’ – with the market being driven by the end users and major retailers. Achieving greater production efficiencies, and receiving optimal service from suppliers, are critical for label converters today, he said, and many international brand owners require that their label materials meet global standards.

“We are confident that our Fasson products – and particularly our global Fasson films range – give consistent, high quality across 95 per cent of all applications.” He then compared today’s bar coding technologies with the upcoming technology – RFID, in which Avery Dennison is currently active ahead of the system’s full commercialization – and looked at new niche market opportunities which are driving growth in self adhesive labelling, such as time/temperature indicators.

“It’s amazing,” said Barri Derri, of ANI, “how consumers love brilliant colours and the glitter of metallics – and much of that impact can be achieved with inks or on-press processes – metallic inks, foils, the dramatic effects of MetalFX, and the enhanced colour options available with systems such as seven colour process Opaltone.” He provided a lively guide to all the available ‘value added’ options, and provided useful cost comparisons.

‘How new technology can maximize profitability’ was the subject for Mark Andy’s Paul Briggs — again focusing delegates’ attention on state-of-the-art narrow web presses. Better machinery design, servo driven units, higher production speeds, faster set-up, makeready, and post-production housekeeping all contribute significantly to margin improvements, he affirmed. Mark Andy presses can now deliver all that – plus a dedicated gravure print unit, hotfoil stamping unit, Stork screen print unit, dryer/hot nip laminator, digital print unit, and advanced in-line finishing with a laser die cutter. The presses are also already RFID tag capable. Again, the message was “The choice is yours – pick the technology that helps get YOU more profit”.

For copies of the seminar proceedings, or further information on forthcoming ANI events, visit the website at

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