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September 25, 2006

Alliance of Rx packagers and printers gets serious

Narrow Web Europe

Alliance of Rx packagers and printers gets serious

By Barry Hunt

Copapharm Europe SCRL (Société Cooperative Responsabilité Limitée) has moved from being a loose association of independent packaging and labeling converters to a more formal cooperative grouping. Currently, Copapharm Europe has 10 member companies operating from 19 manufacturing sites in nine countries. They have a collective capacity of 6.5 billion folding carton units, 4.6 billion leaflet units and 3.2 billion label units. The members are August Faller (Germany), Packart and Rotanotice (France), Palladio and Zannini (Italy), Goldprint (Belgium), Storey Evans (UK) and Icesa, Pans and Cartonplex (Spain).

The previous alliance was developed as a result of pan-European pharmaceutical and healthcare companies seeking print partners with local knowledge. The aim was to capitalize on the extensive capability of partners to allow them to consolidate packaging requirements across several European countries. Alliance members are said to benefit by gaining access to support, cooperation and any available capacity when involved in major and complex projects. The cooperative also helps establish quality standards and continuous benchmarking so ensuring that ensure Copapharm customers obtain the best printing and packaging solutions.

Bruno Chorzelewski, chairman of the new holding company, said that each member company now held an equal share in the new company and that the relationship between member companies would be enhanced: “We have strengthened the objectives of the original alliance, and with this change are demonstrating to existing and potential customers that we have grown into a tangible organization. This can only benefit our customers in the future.”

• Following trials, Copapharm Europe has adopted Artwork Systems’ PA:CT (Packaging:Certified Technology) to obtain secure and trackable PDF processing in the workflow for it members’ printed packaging operations.

Renowned names in typesetting merge

Monotype and Linotype — two of the most illustrious “names” in the printing industry — have merged. Individually they set benchmark standards for mechanical typesetting, using iconic letterform designs that remain as popular as ever. Ever since hot metal typesetting gave way to photocomposition and then desktop publishing, their respective fortunes and identities have changed enormously in recent decades.

However, their individual typefont libraries have remained largely intact as valuable core assets. It is this factor that prompted Monotype Imaging Inc. to acquire Linotype GmbH — by this time a prepress supplier — from former owner Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. Linotype is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Monotype, but its employees remain based in Bad Homburg, Germany. Monotype can add to its own considerable library the 6,000 typefaces that make up the Linotype Library. It includes such popular designs as Helvetica, Frutiger and Optima.

Both companies offer custom design services for creating typefaces for corporate identities. Monotype additionally offers its iType font engine and WorldType Layout Engine. It has developed a range of scalable, multilingual text fonts for small devices, including cell phones, as well as special fonts and imaging technology to other consumer electronics markets.

AB Graphic to increase UK manufacturing capacity

AB Graphic International of Bridlington, East Yorkshire, has built a factory extension comprising 35,000 square feet. It adjoins two existing sites, which it has occupied for the last 30 years. The new structure allows ABG to consolidate the engineering and assembly departments while also housing the Digicon and Omega product lines. It will hold a week-long open house commencing November 27 to mark the occasion.

ABG began supplying converting equipment to the label industry in the 1950s. It has subsidiaries in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the USA, and distributors worldwide. Today the company supplies turret rewinders, inspection slitter/rewinders, label converting systems and specialized equipment for digital presses, including inline laser cutting, such as the semi-rotary Digicon line. Recently it introduced equipment for RFID converting for entry level and high performance applications.

Thinking inside the offset dot

Everyone agrees that flexo printing technology, especially the UV-cured variety, has seen remarkable improvements in quality in recent years. Nevertheless, offset remains the process to beat and it does not appear to be standing still, thanks largely to incremental improvements with screening technologies. An example is Concentric Screening technology from Artwork Systems Group. The company reports positive customer reviews for the system which is said to address the fundamental problem of reducing dot gain.

The new halftone dot technology divides the conventional round dot into thin concentric rings that limit ink film thickness on the offset plate. This is claimed to provide greater stability on the press and give increased color saturation. It also allows finer screen rulings without the traditional problems of mottle, dot gain and the risk of variability. Concentric Screening is said to have proven its effectiveness in all offset printing segments, including packaging, and is available with the Nexus and Odystar workflows.

Mark Samworth, vice president of technology, said the basic geometry of the conventional halftone dot has hardly changed since the inception of offset-litho around the late 19th century. “While every external dot shape has been attempted, no change to internal shape had ever been tried. The internal shape on all dots has been ‘solid’. Concentric Screening is the first halftone dot that uses a different internal shape. It’s the world's first non-solid halftone dot.”

Smith & McLaurin revamped to exploit growth potential

Small-sized producers of specialized coated materials for labels and tags tend to live precarious lives. Smith & McLaurin has certainly had its share of mixed fortunes during its 152 year history. Four years ago a management team led by Ian Mackay rescued the company from administration and removed the risk of almost certain closure. He drafted Colin Gault as managing director to help him transform the ailing business. Mackay is a part owner of a turnaround/investment corporate finance firm which actively invests in the recovery of distressed and growth businesses. Now that it is back in the black a new share restructuring deal is intended to spread ownership more widely across the management. This will allow SMcL to implement a five-year business plan. The deal, “worth a seven-figure sum”, was funded by a loan from a Scottish bank and provides facilities worth £6 million ($11.33 million) to the company.

Besides supplying some 2,000 paper products for labels, tags and tickets, including thermal-coated papers, SMcL also manufactures label adhesives and paper and filmic release liners. Over the past four years the company has increased turnover by 46 percent, from £12 million to £17.6 million, raising export sales from 30 to 40 percent in the same period. Various improvements to working practices have increased capacity by 30 percent and saved the company upwards of £100,000 in material yield within the last financial year. Customer lead times have contracted from weeks to days, “and even hours in some instances”, it is claimed.

“It’s been a fantastic year for the business and the performance is testament to the response we received from the workforce,” said Gault. He said export growth had played a key role, with overseas sales making up 40 percent of turnover. Key markets include Ireland, Belgium, Holland, France and Scandinavia. “Our share of the UK market is approximately 4 percent, so there’s lots of room for profitable growth here and that’s why the management were keen to increase their investment as we continue to take the firm forward over the next few years.”

Plate and ink groups move ahead with developments

Now that the dust has settled on their corporate mergers, both XSYS Print Solutions Group and its partner Flint Group Printing Plates have recently completed major expansions and product developments. XSYS (created by the merger of the German BASF Printing Systems and the Swedish ANI Printing Inks) has negotiated a non-exclusive license agreement with DataLase (formerly Sherwood Technology) to market the patented DataLase Packmark system.

Based on laser-responsive color change chemistry, products include coding and marking inks for on-demand variable information, brand protection and primary packaging markets. XSYS will develop the system for distribution throughout its global subsidiaries and distributors.

For its part, Flint Group Printing Plates has brought onstream a new photopolymer plate and packaging inks manufacturing plant in Willstätt, Germany, following two year’s of planning and building. It has increased Flint’s capacity at an existing site by over 30 percent and created 30 new jobs to increase the workforce to some 300 employees. It is additionally planned to transfer the R&D department for printing plates from Ludwigshafen to Willstätt by the end of this year.

FLEXcon milestone in Europe

FLEXcon, a global manufacturer of pressure sensitive films and adhesive products, recently celebrated 50 years of operations in Europe. Staff members with varying lengths of service to the company were also recognized at joint celebrations involving employees from the Glenrothes plant in Scotland and another in Weesp in the Netherlands.

The company was founded in 1956 and is headquartered in Spencer, MA, USA, and has another site in Nebraska.

Kodak and Dantex form flexo CTP partnership

Kodak and Dantex in the UK have formed a strategic partnership which combines their expertise in flexographic computer-to- plate (fCTP) technology. Kodak will badge its Thermoflex fCTP platemaking system in the Dantex livery and Dantex will bundle Toray’s Torelief Precision digital plates.

The joint venture is designed to provide a proven digital “package” for end-users, although the Precision digital plates will work on any fCTP system. The Torelief Precision digital plates are capable of producing a screen range of 1 to 95 percent at 200 dpi.
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