2092 Wesport Center Dr., St. Louis, MO, USA 63146
According to Jan Greis, vice president and general manager of St. Louis, MO-based US Tape & Label, there are three main demands from the company’s label customers: fast, just-in-time delivery, assured print quality, and creative designs that differentiate their products on the shelf.
For nearly 70 years, US Tape & Label (USTL) has continued to develop its business and now produces self-adhesive labels, tapes and shrink-sleeves for retail goods customers throughout the United States. In the varied markets it serves – which predominately include food and beverage, health and beauty, lawn and garden, pet foods and tobacco – competition is intense and brand owners rely on more sophisticated label and packaging decoration to make their brands stand out and grab shoppers’ attention.
“We are a 24/7 operation offering unique, specific solutions, and the key to meeting customer demands is the versatility to include a combination of processes inline,” says Greis. “Through an intensive program of investment, we have production equipment that enables us to meet those key demands, productively and with minimal waste.”
The company has invested in two 13" Mark Andy Performance Series flexo combination presses, both with an overhead rail system that enables a wide range of finishing processes to be performed inline. Each rail includes specialty units for hot and cold foiling, embossing and rotary screen printing, which can be inserted and moved between any position in the printing sequence as jobs require. The presses have identical configurations, though one has a butt-splicer, enabling it with the means to print ultra-long runs. US Tape & Label leverages its rotary screen printing capability as a vital added-value technology. Its ability to lay down thick layers of ink and varnish at relatively fast print speeds makes it possible to include a range of effects.
The company first installed an SPGPrints Rotary Screen Integration (RSI) printing unit several years ago to create opaque white, usually in the first printing position, often for high-end, no-label look labels. While rotary screen is still preferred for this effect, thanks to its excellent optical density, innovations in reusable nickel screens and coating media meant rotary screen technology could be used for high-value visual and tactile effects.
“We have two RSI Compact rotary screen units from SPGPrints,” Greis says. “Usually there is one on each of the Mark Andy press lines, but we can also move both units to one press.”
An example of multiple screen use in a single job can be to apply a no-label look, with a tactile matte, gloss or “velvet touch” varnish over the flexo-printed graphics.
“The RSI Compact engages with the servo drive on the press,” explains Don Johnstone, USTL’s director of manufacturing. “This means that the units are ‘plug-and-play’ and not ‘retrofitted’ in the traditional sense. Should we wish to add more RSI units, we could just mount them on the rail.”
Long-term cost-savings with reusable nickel screens
SPGPrints’ nickel rotary screens feature an electroformed, nonwoven and 100% nickel mesh with a hexagonal hole formation. There are two screen programs, each offering long-term cost-savings, productivity and quality benefits. RotaMesh screens can be both re-imaged and reused multiple times, supplied as a complete cylinder with end-rings, while RotaPlate screens, for assembly by the operator, are reusable. The structure provides strength to maintain stability and precision at high press speeds that can be up to 450 fpm, depending on application. With careful handling and storage, US Tape & Label is able to reuse its RotaMesh screens in excess of 10 times, making an important contribution to lean production.
“The RSI Compact units and nickel screens from SPGPrints have made it possible to print a full range of applications from small text to raised features up to 250 microns thick. For the finest print, we use RotaPlate 355 mesh screens,” Johnstone says. “We achieve coarse or tactile effects with the RotaPlate 75Y screens. For general varnish applications and printing opaque white on clear labels, the SPGPrints’ RotaMesh 305-17 is our go-to screen.”
Focus on screen innovation for new, distinguishing effects
US Tape & Label maintains a strong focus on research and development, working closely with screen ink manufacturers to find new ways of distinguishing its clients’ brands. As a result, it has introduced special effects, such as glitter and Iriodine, into label designs. SPGPrints has also developed a RotaMesh Glitter Screen that can delicately handle the relatively large particles that are essential to the functionality of the coating.
“SPGPrints also supplies our RotaPlate and RotaMesh screens very quickly,” says Johnstone. “They keep a supply of end-rings for the RotaPlate screens and can get imaged screens to us in a few days. Since our supply chains are just-in-time, this is essential.”
SPGPrints’ long experience, global support network and ability to offer high levels of technical and application consultancy means that companies like US Tape & Label have access to the best possible support and advice.
“Our success is the result of working closely with our suppliers to get the most from our presses, plates, inks, screens and substrates,” adds Greis. “Making all the elements work together optimally means that we can achieve lean production while delivering the print quality and competitive designs that our customers want.”
Other equipment that can easily be added to either Mark Andy line are web laminators and dual UV lamps if printing with UV-curable flexo or screen inks. The Mark Andy presses can be changed from water-based to UV-curable inks as the need arises for shrink-sleeve production, for example.
Adding value to digital print
Rotary screen embellishments are adding value to US Tape & Label’s growing output. The company has two HP Indigo 6800 digital presses, which are used for short run work and jobs that requires variable data for coding and marking, track and trace, and product security, as well as image and text variation.
“Cross-over from digital to analog isn’t as straight-forward as people think,” Greis explains. “It’s not simply just a question of ‘above this number, we print flexo.’ Variable data is a factor, as are press schedules and the time needed for substrate changes. Finishing is also a factor, and the growth in demand for raised type, tactile and other special effects may mean that we take a digitally-printed roll and put it on the flexo press for varnishes and rotary screen embellishments.”
US Tape & Label has seen the use of rotary screen-printed embellishments move to shrink sleeves. “This creates a number of technical challenges as well as opening opportunities,” Greis notes. “But customers see the addition of tactile features to sleeves as a strong differentiator, and it’s up to us to find them a solution. SPGPrints has been working with us as this trend accelerates. It’s all part of our mission to elevate our customers’ products’ presentation.”
In May 2019, US Tape & Label announced the formation of a new cannabis-focused division – USTL Canna Pack. The new arm of the now 70-year industry leader will focus on the cannabis market, leveraging USTL’s long history of market innovation and manufacturing excellence.
For over half a century, US Tape & Label has provided full-service label printing and application services for companies across the nation, offering both digital and flexographic platforms to deliver a solution that’s on-brand, on-budget and on-time. USTL maintains GMI, FSC, and ISO 9001 certifications. USTL Canna Pack’s packaging experts can solve the problems that may arise for brand owners in this up-and-coming market.
“We are focused on a solution-based business model, aiming to make USTL a leader in the canna market” says Jim Benetin, the director of the initiative at USTL. “Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all label, pouch or bag for your product. USTL Canna Pack provides packaging solutions that are as unique and specific as the product you’re looking to market. We use the newest technology to create packages for extracts, liquids, edibles, vapes, supplements, fertilizers and more.”
USTL Canna Pack’s team of experts have provided over half a century of beautiful, durable labels for a broad variety of products. “Label design, testing, and in-house manufacturing streamline our process to give you a quick turnaround time, as well as total control of the final product. If you want to increase your product’s shelf appeal for a look that leaves a lasting impression, give us a call today and see how we can elevate your product’s presentation,” Benetin adds.