A&R Carton can look back on a history of many successful years in the manufacturing of folding carton, for example for tobacco products, confectionery and FMCG. Throughout the 50-year existence of its Augsburg factory, the company has played its role as an innovative pioneer, which it is now reinforcing with an investment of 9 million Euros in gravure printing.
An investment of this magnitude is unique in the company's history. Harald Schulz, CEO & President of AR Packaging Group, acknowledges the bold step as the starting point in a new era:
"We will revolutionise in particular the premium folding carton market. All current finishing stages, including stamping, are to be processed inline in only one working step. In the future, all users of premium finished folding carton will come to appreciate the unique advantages of this exclusive technology."
The potential of the machine, the idea and implementation is almost unmeasurable and will more than fulfil the extremely high demands and complex requirements of this greatly changing market. Peter Misof, Works Manager at the Augsburg factory, says of the already hard-working machine:
"We have the opportunity to reduce tool costs that have previously been very high. The new technology will make the brilliant gravure printing unimaginably competitive against competing printing processes and will be of significantly higher quality. The process also shows the red line through all working steps that up to now have been separate, including all the necessary processes and machinery."
With this advance in technology, gravure printing, previously considered to be more suited to larger print circulations, will remain and become attractive even for print circulations that are becoming demonstrably and significantly smaller.
"As a company with a specialist and innovative orientation, Gallus has proven itself to be the ideal partner to make a reality of our complex performance targets," continues Markus Eberl, Production Manager at the Augsburg factory.
Combining modular platforms
The highlight of the machine is the inline-coupled multi processing by rollers, which reduce various processing and finishing steps to one single working process. So-called Easy Value Add (EVA) platforms use variable combinations together to enable unlimited flexibility with minimal personnel requirements. An EVA platform can be equipped with screen printing, flexographic printing, hologram applications, inkjet coding, laminating, cold foiling, hot foiling, gloss, matt, barrier and special effects finishes, security printing as well as structure, micro and multiple embossing. The EVAs can therefore process perfectly each commission to meet its individual requirements.
Individual products optimum prices
Besides the platform principle, another advantage is the enabling of exceptionally efficient gravure printing on the Gallus in the A&R Carton factory at Augsburg. Usually the cost factor of printing plate manufacturing lies at factor five between offset and gravure. Profound optimisations of the new hollow cylinders, such as a small roller diameter, thin steel plates on the cylinders and other benefits, have significantly reduced the manufacturing costs and have more than halved the current delivery times from the engraver.
"We are approaching something like equality with offset," says Peter Misof.
It is likewise new that the print cylinders are designed with RFID chips to store manufacturer data and machine parameters. The advantages here are flawless tracking, quick reaction times and perfectly attuned job repetitions. The most decisive cost advantage lies however in the short set-up times. Certainly, all add-on processes for embossing, stamping and other previously separate working procedures are completely dispensed with by the inline principle. Complex computer control aligns the finishing processes precisely one after another, also enabling a flawless accuracy and fit.
Precisely accurate intelligent inline processing
An optically and haptically demanding print on the Gallus ICS 670 can take place as follows: the material is drawn by a roller over a monomatic feed reel into a feed-in area with track cleaning in 2 EVA platforms with laminating uppers. Here the carton track has cold foil applied for example to the rear side or is printed by flexographic printing. Then printing takes place on a total of 11 gravure printing mechanisms. Additional rear-side printing is possible on the first 6 mechanisms. An inert UV plant is positioned between colour mechanisms 9 and 10. In this way, besides sufficient special colours, exceptional paint effects can also be created on both sides of the material. With the cold foil principle, graphic surfaces, all-over prints or texts can be perfectly finished.
Behind the gravure printing mechanisms are two further EVA platforms, which can undertake an additional screen or flexographic printing process. Embossing is carried out subsequently via a rotary embossing sleeve stage. Through varying combinations of different thickness embossing rollers, different embossing can be processed here one after another in one working step per print motif. The embossing stage is in a position to ensure the strictest requirements in inline production processes e.g. filigree "Debossing & Embossing". According to the subsequent print image error detection facility, depanelisation takes place via a flatbed die cutter with integrated error exfiltration and a separation unit. The finished and processed cut-outs are separated and are scaled on a moving conveyor belt laid out in separate panel streams before they are finally loaded onto an automatic stacker. This is still fully electrically synchronised with the main machine and can work with different cassette sizes. Through its great flexibility and inline processing, the new Gallus 670 guarantees attractive prices for premium gravure printing even for small print circulations.
A further innovation is the regenerative thermal oxidiser (RTO). By this principle, the necessary start temperature of the plant is generated by a gas burner. As soon as the necessary process temperature is reached, the remaining paint solvents in the machine become so strongly concentrated that they can be fed in as a flammable mixture for post-combustion. The consequence of this is that the plant can work auto-thermally without additional firing. versatile and highly capable. Besides the Augsburg factory, A&R Carton has 13 location in Europe. All specialized in their different areas.
"In the past year we have made a clear cut between our two German factories. The differentiation of the two locations will ensure our competitiveness in the medium to long term and enable enormously efficient working conditions in A&R Carton" says Harald Sculz.
The Augsburg unit has become specialised with the new Gallus with a view to a future in gravure printing focusing strongly on tobacco products. In Frankfurt, offset printing has been enlarged and the contract range has been expanded. In Augsburg and Frankfurt a total of 400 workers are employed, who in the last year have generated a turnover of around 88 million Euros. Both factories have always been pioneers with regard to their DIN ISO certifications and they satisfy all parameters with regard to Food Safety Standards. In the future even more space will be offered for special finishing technology. Collectively in the two locations, everything from 6-colour offset with acrylic paint through to 11-colour gravure printing can be implemented in unimaginable finishing combinations for premium folding carton solutions and appealing material surfaces. Also practicable are metal gloss effects, hot foil applications with micro embossing, inline coding, OPP laminating, soft-touch finishes, aromatic finishes, hologram foils and much more.
Optimum technology mix for the highest requirements
The creative possibilities will appeal not only to the numerous and very demanding customers from the tobacco industry and confectionery. The wide spectrum of combinable finishes also perfectly targets the requirements of cosmetics, chewing gum, food and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
"Process flexibility and high quality requirements are today unavoidable and important for survival in folding carton printing," explains Harald Schulz. He adds:
"Through the newly organised capabilities in the factories we can guarantee quick reaction times in all departments as well as the unchecked spirit of innovation in our company, so that we advise each of our customers in the shortest possible time and rapidly and efficiently meet their expectations. The investment in Gallus technology is the right step at the right moment. We are still observing the much fought-over market very closely and are proud right now to have initiated a revolutionary and highly attractive era in folding carton manufacturing!"