A rebound in flexible packaging

The market for flexographic packaging printing in India is growing year over year. Already well established for label printing on narrow web presses, wide-web flexo also seems finally, to be catching on. Instead of the usual two or three wide web flexo presses, the 2014-2015 financial year will see the installation of at least 6 or 7 presses including those from F&K, Comexi, Uteco and KYMC. In addition there are likely to be more than a dozen digital flexo imagers installed in the year with Esko and Kodak leading the pack as usual and some new entrants such as Screen and Xeikon also establishing their accounts in the country.

It is the higher quality of flexo plates that is now making flexographic printing comparative and competitive in quality with gravure and offset printing and with distinct advantages over both of these dominant processes for certain substrates and products. While technological advances have turned flexo plate making into a controllable, exact science, currently two hot products – HD screening from EskoArtwork and Flexcel NX technology from Kodak are competing in the Indian market. The two technologies share the same objective – imaging digital flexographic plates with excellent screen vignettes down to perhaps holding a 2% dot and thereby providing a long sought-after solution to a major problem specific to flexographic printing. Digital flexographic printing is also gaining popularity because the analog process is comparatively expensive and film is becoming scarce and seemingly heading towards obsolescence.

Meanwhile Indian users of Esko’s CDI flexo imagers are increasingly adopting its HD Flexo and full HD Flexo solutions which include both imaging at higher resolutions with a smaller spot size and a form of frequency modulation of the screens to create smooth vignettes even in the highlight areas. Esko’s flexo solution is fully digital in the sense that there is no lamination of an imaged film in the process. In addition, it now has a UV2 exposure available on the imager itself that allows the creation of textured flat-top dots for improved ink transfer and durability on the press. Esko also says that with UV2 technology it is possible to produce both flat-top dots and the more traditional round top dots on the same plate.

Gravure still rules the Indian flexible packaging industry While wide web flexo is finally seeing some visible growth in the flexible packaging market, largely driven by milk pouches and hygiene products, gravure has also seen an upsurge in the current financial year. An estimated twenty gravure presses of 450 metres a minute or more will be installed in the April 2014 to march 2015 time frame. Of these about half will be imported from manufacturers such as Bobst-Rotomec and Cerruti while the other half will come from the leading Indian gravure press manufacturers – Expert, Kohli and Pelican. Reinforcing the expansion of the flexible packaging and particularly its dominance by gravure is the large number of electronic engravers that will be imported by Indian cylinder makers and converters this year. Perhaps as many as two dozen engravers overwhelming from the Hell Holdings group will be installed in this period, highlighting the continued expansion of what is known as the reliable process for the high coverage reverse printed flexible packaging market in the country.

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