The Technologies Supercharging Today’s Flexographic Presses

Fast, efficient, productive—Today’s central impression (CI) flexible packaging presses must be both energy miser and waste eliminator.

Their charge: shorter runs and faster makeready. The mission: avoid unplanned machine stops.

Engineers focused on continuous improvement look to ergonomics, stress accessibility, emphasize standardized components, embrace process controls—wherever and whenever possible—incorporate inspection tools and turn to robotics to ease the operator’s burden. Smart, sturdy, simple and sophisticated, too—that’s the expectation set for any and every press manufactured and sold in 2021.

Comexi’s F2 MB flexographic press offers a compact footprint, thanks in part to a single shaftless unwind and rewind. The 8-color press features maximum repeat of 31.5-in. and speeds of better than 1,300 fpm.
All photos courtesy of Comexi

Customer demand is the manufacturer’s paramount concern—always was; always will be. Automation and Industry 4.0 solutions avoid the need of highly skilled operators and deliver a substantial benefit—easily operable machines with maximum productivity.

Smart & Analytical

Comexi’s RFID Smart Cabinet is a supply center set up to avoid unplanned machine stops which result from the absence of consumable parts. Presently, the primary concerns of customers include shorter runs, maximum productivity, automation, satisfactory and secure operations, waste reduction and less energy consumption.

Automation equates to digitalization and via the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0’s influence on press building affords the opportunity to utilize the machine itself in managing inventory and accommodating smart production. Thanks to product digitalization, a press can acquire data with a connection to a cloud platform, in turn bringing analytics and valuable services to all processes and business applications, as well as every team.

Over time, these platforms, which can close the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle, have been supported by unique and valuable success stories and “best practice” recognitions. Data traceability, built into these platforms, assists a press’ manufacturer in being knowledgeable of when, who, where and how a product is made. Data automation and artificial intelligence foster the ability to make better decisions with key parameters.

Smart glasses, equipped with real-time viewing, facilitate customer communications and prove integral in commissioning new and retrofitted machinery, as well as engaging in remote diagnostics.

Plus, solutions like Smart Glasses, equipped with real-time viewing, facilitate customer communications and prove integral in commissioning new and retrofitted machinery, as well as engaging in remote diagnostics.

Modern presses are integrated with vision systems from the most recognizable brands, which assists in developing press control systems. Consequently, we are able to have, within the same system and machine integration, quality inspection, which detects printing defects. Furthermore, a setup system with pressure and register adjustments, through the use of PDF, is available.

Innovation & Standardization

GeniusTech solutions are standardized features in Comexi’s flexographic presses, which have the same air mandrels, doctor chamber design, washup system, drying concept, unwinder and rewinder, and electronic and software solutions. These solutions exemplify what the most advanced presses available to printers today can provide.

For larger machines, there are solutions such as job changeover during the run (GeniusJob) or automatic change, with a robot, of all the sleeves required for the subsequent job (GeniusTronic).

Faster makeready (accomplished with GeniusFlow ink) can be made quickly and more efficiently, due to optimized design to reduce solvent consumption, and the ability to condition ink without the mounting of anilox. GeniusPrint, GeniusSet, GeniusReg or GeniusDot allow the pressure and register setup to be automatically performed with minimal waste.

GeniusDoctoring allows for a pit-stop doctor blade change, thanks to a solution that uses a two-part pipeless doctor blade, which allows the change to the full chamber in less than one minute—without disassembling pipes and with a minimum weighing chamber.

Color management is afforded through GeniusColor, which allows for rapid color matching when spot colors are used. The expanded gamut (EG) process can be easily implemented, in this case through the technical prepress specialists at the Comexi Technological Center (CTec).

The new project of a digital workflow communication through press means jobs and suggestions for settings are stored directly at the press. Quality control of the job is directly done by the desk control.

Models & Metrics

Diversification is common among press manufacturers in 2021. In Comexi’s case, there are presses dedicated to printing, up to 1000N of web tension, on double-sided tube films; presses allocated for paper plates, which are sized for high web tensions, have two inline coating stations and the integration of a 72-in. diameter automatic unwind/rewind roll; and presses for the purpose of unwinding and rewinding low-gauge stretchable films with the integration of an embossing unit and a silicone coating unit.

Shorter runs are increasingly common, and to recognize that market trend, some manufacturers offer presses tailored to it. They are typically compact and accessible machines with small repeats. They can offer a small footprint with single unwind and rewind. Configurations can include eight colors with a maximum repeat as large as 23.6-in. and maximum speeds approaching 1,000 fpm. Furthermore, adaptation according to size and space availability is possible, and can be customized in regard to desired footprint.

EB curing inks are a trend in the market, as they are compatible with that of sustainability and the movement toward the use of full PE packaging. The trend is highly supported by presses like Comexi’s Flexo EB machine. These types of presses are capable of using less energy, easily creating monolayer full PE packaging, and printing with EB-curable inks that have a reduced solvent content. Hybrid machines can allow for printing with either solvent-based inks, water-based inks or EB-curable inks. Like all presses, they can be equipped with downstream/upstream stations for various applications of lacquers, varnishes, etc.

About the Author

headshot Enric Carerra
Enric Carrera, chief commercial officer at Comexi Group, is charged with strategic marketing, operative marketing and communication. Prior to assuming that position in March 2020, he served as business unit director/slitting for three years. His experience includes assignments as export manager, Ascensores Enineter; sales director, Twistechnology; sales director, SmartLift; and technical assistant, DuPont. He has a degree in Industrial Engineering from IESE Business School, as well as the University of Navarra.