Abbey Labels, a printing company based in the United Kingdom, supplies BRC grade and ISO 14001 approved labels to the food, beverage, cosmetics, industrial, security and pharmaceutical industries from its base in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk.
Combining its own expertise with AB Graphic’s patented Fast Track Die, and the latest flexo press technology from MPS, has taken a few years to bring the project to fruition, but chairman Tom Allum says the wait was worth it. “I firmly believe that this press, with this particular option, is a real game-changer not only for us but for the flexo industry.”
Allum first came across the original Fast Track Die module at drupa in 2016, and recognized the potential that this new high-speed diecutting unit from AB Graphic International could offer. At the show, the module was shown on a Digicon 3 converting unit running inline with an HP Indigo 8000 double-engine digital press. However, the Abbey Labels team wanted more than just another finishing machine with fast capabilities, they wanted the technology integrated on a narrow web flexo press for faster production of labels in one pass.
Allum explains, “The Fast Track Die was demonstrated as an inline solution for a digital press when we first saw it in action in Germany. My immediate reaction was that it would be a better fit on a flexo press, which prints at much higher speeds and so could take full advantage of this super-fast diecutting capability.”
Abbey Labels had already partnered with MPS when investing in its two most recent flexo presses, so it was a natural choice to approach the Dutch manufacturer with the idea. Fast forward three years and a new MPS EFS 340 flexo press with a Fast Track Die module has been installed at the company’s facility to bring savings in downtime and costs.
Nick Tyrer, sales director at MPS UK, comments, “When Abbey Labels first introduced the idea of us combining the ABG Fast Track Die with our EF platform, we had a few reservations in terms of integration and what it would involve. However, our past collaborations with ABG, integrating the Big Foot flatbed hot foil system had gone very well, so we decided to give the customer exactly what they wanted.”
With a top speed of 150 m/m and a repeat of up to 508mm, the new semi-rotary diecutting module enables the speed of cutting to be more than doubled compared to conventional single-anvil semi-rotary systems, notes Abbey Labels.
The fast changeover fits well with the MPS EFS, which comes with many automation features, meaning that less operator intervention is needed. It offers multi-substrate capability and a print speed of up to 200 m/m, printing on 15 to 450-micron media. Tyrer says, “The whole project was a very exciting concept. Apart from being a world first, it was also going to be a very challenging technical integration that would offer web transport, tension and register questions that we not encountered previously. Thankfully the engineering departments of both ABG and MPS were able to overcome these challenges and give Abbey Labels a machine that really challenges the conventional model when converting labels.”
The new press is part of a major investment program undertaken by Abbey Labels over the past 18 months. This is being carried out in three phases and will see the company invest some £1.1 million overall, a significant amount for a business of its size.