At the end of April 2021, label printer Interket in Ommen, the Netherlands, commissioned a new six-colour E5 flexo press from Mark Andy's Evolution series. It is fully equipped with Modulux units for LED UV curing. In this article, Interket Production Manager Robert Stappenbelt explains the reasons behind the investment decision and the company's experience with the new technology to date.
The European-based Interket Group specialises in label printing and has production sites in Denmark, Holland, England, Germany and Sweden, as well as sales offices in other countries, such as France. More than 200 employees generated group sales of around 44 million euros in 2019. The customer base includes smaller local businesses as well as large companies operating globally as well as across Europe. Interket supplies all common industry segments with a wide range of label solutions. They range from standard labels to complex special labels, e.g. for security applications.
Label printing plant with typical product mix
The main focus of the 30 machines used is on toner-based digital printing systems and flexographic presses. Six flexographic printing presses in the group operate at the Dutch site in Ommen. Interket NL employs around 50 people and generates annual sales of around 12 million euros. As is typical for many label printers, the product portfolio covers various application areas. These range from the food sector to the pharmaceutical industry and from blank labels to multilayer label solutions.
When it was time to purchase a new production line, the decision was made in favour of an E5 flexographic press from Mark Andy's Evolution series. Each of the six printing units (web width 330 mm) is equipped with its own LED UV unit. They have an output of 90 to 100 W/cm, are water-cooled and operate in the 390 nm wavelength range. The supplier of the LED UV systems is the company Modulux. This start-up company is a spin-off from the well-known UV supplier IST Metz, which has equipped all of Interket NL's previous flexo presses with its classic UV systems.
Ecological responsibility influences decision-making
For Robert Stappenbelt, it was clear from the outset that the new press should be equipped with LED UV for ink curing due to growing ecological responsibility. The various advantages of this pioneering technology, e.g. lower energy consumption, longer service life, elimination of the warm-up phase, no ozone formation, etc., were already familiar to him before the investment project. After all, they have been the subject of intense discussion in the industry for years. The final deciding factor for Modulux was the recommendation of Gerard Brieko from IST Metz Benelux in Apeldoorn. He suggested the new Modulux brand as a possible supplier, which specialises in systems for narrow-web flexographic printing. The many years of good experience with IST's UV technology influenced Robert Stappenbelt's decision to follow the advice of the proven supplier.
In selling its products, the start-up company Modulux is breaking new ground. For example, it offers the option of purchasing inexpensive UV LED systems through ecommerce store. An online configurator can be used to select all the components required, such as the LED unit, cooling, control cabinet and control system, to equip a printing line. With this basic package, the technical integration and electrical connection is usually carried out by the machine manufacturer. Additional services, such as system installation by an experienced technician or special designs, can also be booked. The all-inclusive option, which Interket NL has chosen, includes all services from design integration, installation and application troubleshooting to remote service and a maintenance contract. All these additional services are carried out by Modulux's service partner IST Metz.
Production start with no waiting time
Having the installation carried out by an experienced technician was worthwhile in retrospect from Robert Stappenbelt's point of view. The combination of Mark Andy machine and Modulux LED units was adjusted to each other in such a way that it could be quickly integrated into the daily production routine. In practice, the immediate availability of the LED systems stood out as a particularly advantageous feature right from the start. They are instantly ready for use after startup because there is no warm-up time. Since there is no cooling down time required in addition to the time saved, there is a reduction in energy consumption.
Robert Stappenbelt also sees an improvement in the curing result with the Modulux units compared to the classic UV systems previously used in the company, which have been in use since 2013 or longer. This advantage of this is that higher printing speeds can be achieved with the new press and its LED UV equipment.
LED is the system of the future
The Mark Andy E5 installed in April 2021 is the sixth flexographic press in total at Interket NL in Ommen and the first to be fully equipped with LED UV technology. Based on experience to date, any other new press will also feature LED curing in any case. The company also plans to gradually retrofit its entire machine fleet with LED systems from Modulux within the next three years. Robert Stappenbelt sees this ambitious investment project as an important contribution to securing the future, which also seems feasible thanks to a currently good business development. For its customers, who are increasingly demanding more sustainable label production, and considering in part due to EU climate targets, Interket NL will be able to demonstrate they have a suitable solution in the future.