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Aspen Products expands paper tableware production with TRESU Flexo Innovator inline printing and coating line at Kansas City plant

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Aspen Products expands paper tableware production with TRESU Flexo Innovator inline printing and coating line at Kansas City plant

June 27, 2018 - 15:15

BJERT, Denmark, June 26, 2018 (Press Release) -Aspen Paper Products is boosting output of high-quality paper table top products and achieving production efficiencies after installing a nine-colour TRESU Flexo Innovator printing and coating line at its Kansas City, Missouri, facility.

Established in 1977, Aspen Paper Products has become one of the United States’ leading manufacturers of table top paper products including plates, bowls and lunch bags, supplying retail, wholesale and quick service restaurant markets nationally. Its Kansas City headquarters employs over 500 people and produces 400 tons of paper products per day.

Changing social trends in the 1990s transformed the market with “time-poor” consumers switching to disposable plates for home meals. Even with the factory’s three existing flexo presses running three shifts, five days a week - and sometimes seven - Aspen was struggling to provide printed material to the converting lines. By 2016, it was clear that a new press was needed.

Aspen met with a number of press manufacturers but made the decision to invest in the TRESU Flexo Innovator press after seeing demonstrations of the printing and drying systems at the drupa fair that year.

Troy Walls, general manager, Aspen Paper Products, Inc., explained what the company was looking for:

“First, high output and quick setup times were crucial to our competitiveness. We need high speed to supply our largest superstore customers that place orders of up to 500 rolls for their major distribution centres. Second, was substrate versatility, as we work with a wide variety of paper thicknesses, from 12 to 26-point [approximately 270g/m2 to ~570g/m2]. Third, we were determined to install a line configuration, because it allows the operators to be on the ground at all times and work quick and safely. With our common impression presses, we were losing time because we needed ladders and hoists to gain access and exchange equipment.”

The Flexo Innovator press at Aspen features nine colours, with CMYK in the first four positions, followed by spot colour positions, and units to apply seal-coating for waterproofing and grease resistance, as well as the option to apply reverse-sided coating. Aspen uses water-based inks only, the press features energy-efficient unit-to-unit drying systems. The chilling system, built by TRESU, manages all the process temperature control requirements on the Flexo Innovator to tightly controlled specifications.

“We specifid more stations than we needed for any printing job to save makeready time, especially when spot colours and ink changes are needed. Idle units can be prepared for the next job while the press is in production. Thanks to the automated ink supply and controls, job changeovers can occur within a few minutes – significantly faster than on our other presses,” Walls said.   

Inline double-sided printing gives Aspen further production efficiencies:

“The Flexo Innovator’s two-sided printing and accurate registration allows us to produce the printed product with backside coating in a single pass and restrict the application of coating to the desired location,” he continued.

The Flexo Innovator features TRESU’s enclosed chamber doctor blade systems with F10 iCon ink supply system which automatically ensure ink supply at constant viscosity, flow-rate and pressure. The chamber doctor blade systems feature a rubber seal system to prevent leakage, while the doctor blades are positioned to avoid anilox wear and stop air entering the chamber. This means the Flexo Innovator can run at top speeds and assure uniform ink coverage as well as consistent ink density throughout the print run. 

“TRESU’s enclosed ink supply systems are definitely the most advanced we have had. The automatic wash-up system makes ink changes fast and thorough without operator involvement. We are saving ink at the end of each job as almost all the ink is returned from the chamber for reuse.”

The enclosed ink supply system – combined with unit-to-unit air drying – provides the stability to the Flexo Innovator, enabling Aspen to achieve consistent quality when printing at up to 2000fpm (approximately 600m/min), significantly faster than existing machines at its plants. The fastest speeds are achieved with 60-inch (1.5m) rolls of material that is 20-point (350g/m2) thick, which take three and a half minutes to print.

“With its fast setup times, and stability at high speeds, TRESU’s Flexo Innovator enables us to offer rapid response times for large and small volume orders, without compromising on productivity. With the big accounts, we may run 40 rolls at a time, then jump out to run a few rolls for a discount store, then return to the large order. This kind of flexibility is essential to maintaining customer satisfaction as well as margins,” Walls said.

“The Flexo Innovator is a long-term investment, to assist us to realise our long-term growth strategy. The Flexo Innovator is a step-change in productivity at Aspen, and that brings new challenges as well as opportunities. We are very satisfied with the collaboration and the progress makes us well positioned to continue with the next stage of our growth phase at our Kansas City facility,” Walls concluded.