04 December 2023

Flexo emerges stronger from Labelexpo

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Labelexpo Europe 2023 gave us the definitive answer. Flexo is not dead – but it is evolving in interesting new directions.
Firstly, wider, mid‐web 26in presses are emerging as powerhouses for diversification, giving converters the option to move into new markets, and to be more efficient in markets they already operate in. They give converters access to the more common larger formats of flexible packaging, shrink sleeve labels and in‐mold labels. At the same time, the high degree of automation makes converters better able to compete in commodity‐based markets, where overall cost‐per‐label is the critical factor. That may include, for example, non‐embellished pressure‐sensitive food labels and wraparound labels.
Converters who have purchased these wider, faster machines for PS label work can either use trolley‐based fast‐change die‐cutting modules or can print at high‐speed roll‐to‐roll and either slit on the press and finish off‐line, or both slit and finish off‐line. This workflow is particularly interesting with expanded color gamut (ECG) ink systems, as it allows flexo converters to print multiple SKUs across the same web and finish them as individual jobs – something offset printers have been able to do for a long time.
One issue facing label converters diversifying into flexible packaging has been brand owners’ reluctance to accept UV inks for indirect food contact applications because of the risk of uncured photo‐initiators migrating through non‐barrier containers.
But there were interesting developments here too at Labelexpo Europe.
After extensive testing, the initial results of the UVFoodSafe project were unveiled. The final product will be a set of guidelines laying out best practices across the whole UV flexo flexible packaging workflow, from designs that minimize migration risk, to standardization and process measurement ‐ in particular accurate measurement of UV dose ‐ maintenance and testing protocols.
For the full Labels & Labeling article click here.


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