via FLEXO Magazine: Heeding The Call: RevereFlexpak Prepares For The Future
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Companies that supply packaging materials to the food industry are facing growing challenges. These include market shifts toward an increased number of SKUs with lower run quantities, environmental issues with a growing focus on carbon footprints, and food safety concerns.
RevereFlexpak, a company that has been printing high-quality labels and packaging for the food industry since 1989, has been a leader in this segment from the beginning. It has recently made significant investments in emerging technologies that will help it meet these challenges head on and enhance its leadership position for years to come.
FOOD INDUSTRY ROOTS
While RevereFlexpak has been providing printed packaging materials for more than 25 years, its roots in the food industry go back much further.
RevereFlexpak is one of two divisions under parent company The Revere Group. A second division under its umbrella is the Glerup Revere Packaging division, which offers stock packaging materials and custom packaging options.
The Revere Group is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Mark and Sally Revere. Mark’s grandfather, Marius Glerup, founded MJ Glerup Co. in 1938 as a brokerage company supplying ingredients, raw materials and packaging for the candy industry in the Pacific Northwest. The company was founded with guiding principles to provide excellent service and top-notch products to its clients, and that philosophy continues to form its foundation today.
RevereFlexpak services customers throughout North America. Market segments in which it participates include confectionary, gourmet food and snacks, pet foods, nutritionals, water/beverage and health/beauty. The food industry as a whole is a demanding market, in part due to the importance of food safety and the ever-increasing awareness and role of packaging printers in that chain, says Thomas D’Angelo, the company’s vice president and general manager.
“Just a few short years ago, the focus on food packaging was relatively small. Today, food packaging manufacturers and printers are being held to standards that are comparable to the food producers themselves,” he says. “This means as a printer and converter, we need to understand and fulfill our role as a partner in safety with our customers to ensure that together we are delivering safe, quality food products to the public.”
SETTING THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS
To support its demanding markets, RevereFlexpak operates with 58 employees in a 53,000 sq.-ft. facility in Seattle, WA. It currently runs three flexographic printing presses and 14 bag converting machines. The company also partners with gravure and digital printers as necessary to meet the specific needs of its customers.
This year, RevereFlexpak invested in new flexographic printing technology that will allow the company to meet its challenges in the coming years. It has acquired two Bobst digitalflexoHD MS printing presses, each one configured with Air Motion Systems’ (AMS) UV LED curing systems.
The first press, installed in April, is a Bobst MS 24.8-in.-wide machine with nine print stations. This is a dedicated film press. The second, a 14.5-in.-wide unit, also has nine stations, along with cold foil capability and two die-cutting stations. This press was installed in early June
and is dedicated to label printing.
Mark Revere invested more than a year researching press options, including digital presses, before deciding on the digitalflexoHD platform.
“We chose the Bobst presses because of the forward-thinking engineering that we believe has been intelligently aligned with the future of the marketplace,” D’Angelo explained. “The technology provides the leverage in our narrow web market to attract business and provide
customers with the best the industry has to offer.”
LEAPING FORWARD WITH UV LED
The acquisition of the digitalflexoHD presses was just one of the emerging technologies RevereFlexpak decided to incorporate into its arsenal. UV LED curing was introduced to the flexographic industry just a few years ago, and like any new technology, it is taking some time to see mainstream use. As a progressive leader in the markets it serves, RevereFlexpak investigated the technology, learned about its many benefits and decided to become an early adopter by specifying AMS UV LED curing systems as a critical component of its new press
“It was very appealing to us to take a leadership role and incorporate a technology that has been proven in other segments of the graphic arts industry,” says D’.Angelo. “UV LED technology will help us significantly reduce our carbon footprint and set a benchmark for others in the industry to be measured against.
“We believe UV LED energy curing is the future of printing,” he continues. “It wasn’t about saving a few bucks here and there; we made this investment for the long term. AMS partnered with us and we believe our investment in this technology will offer us a unique competitive advantage in our marketplace.”
One of the significant advantages of UV LED curing is its effective and efficient use of energy, which delivers reduced consumption, less waste, faster press speeds and much less heat generation. Unlike conventional mercury vapor UV lamps, the LED light source is instant on
and instant off. So, with no long warm up times, an LED light source doesn’t need to be left on (consuming energy) during press stoppages. UV LED curing technology is also engineered to a much narrower wavelength that eliminates the peripheral heat that is a byproduct of conventional UV. This is especially important when processing thin film materials, which are widely used in labels and flexible packaging applications.
The environmental benefits offered by UV LED were especially appealing to the leadership at RevereFlexpak. “More and more companies are looking for environmentally sensitive methodologies, especially in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast,” D’Angelo notes. “As a third-generation, family-owned business, we are committed to being a good, healthy community partner.”
Conventional mercury vapor UV lamps generate foul-smelling ozone that must be removed from the press area using noisy air removal systems (that also consume energy). UV LED technology does not generate ozone as a byproduct and therefore does not need an exhaust system. Mercury vapor lamps also require special environ mental disposal at the end of their lives, which is typically less than 1,500 hours of operation. LEDs can last up to 30,000 hours of printer run time.
With this long list of benefits, RevereFlexpak knew it wanted to be at the forefront of this proven technology. According to D’Angelo, his company selected AMS as its system vendor because of quality manufacturing methods, a commitment to moving the industry forward
and a commitment to the partnership.
“They are truly partners in our project,” he says. “We have much more than just a customer/supplier relationship.”
Implementing UV LED technology also requires collaboration with the ink supplier and in this case, RevereFlexpak partnered with Flint Group. D’Angelo reveals that his company has partnered with Flint to introduce its Low-Migration UV LED line of inks.
“RevereFlexpak is a pioneer, and we are excited to partner with them,” says Mike Buystedt, North American vice president of Flint Group.
“UV LED technology provides a step change improvement for converters in processing, print quality and environmental impact.”
“This work is very exciting because again, the market demands are just one part of the story,” says D’Angelo. “The ink system we have started to work with – EkoCure ANC ORA – is a critical component to delivering high-quality print, developed and cured in a manner that fulfills our commitment to food safety. This has taken a lot of testing and R&D, but we are committed to being the North American example of what can work and help push the narrow web industry into the next generation of printing.”
Although UV LED systems are slightly more expensive than conventional UV options, the ROI is impressive. UV LED systems provide the potential to nearly double production throughput with faster press speeds when compared with conventional UV curing technology.
Greater production output means increased profits. ROIs for UV LED are typically less than one year, stemming from both hard-dollar savings and increased business opportunities. “Hard-dollar savings include items such as increased production, less power consumption, material and ink waste reduction, replacement parts reduction and other factors that add up over time,” notes D’Angelo.
FULL SPEED AHEAD
RevereFlexpak’s investment in LED technology took an additional step forward earlier this year when it converted its entire plant to LED lighting. “We realized this was a sizable, upfront investment that will pay dividends over many years,” acknowledges D’Angelo. “Doing this was consistent with who we are and who we want to be as a corporate citizen. We want people to know we conduct our business in an authentic manner, and we will do whatever we can to support the future, not the past. It’s not just good for business, it’s good for all of us – and it’s the right thing to do.”
D’Angelo is supremely optimistic about the company’s investments in 2016. He says it has leapt forward 30 years in print technology with its new Bobst platform, massively automated, precise and built to produce industry-leading quality in a cost effective manner. Along with his company’s other print partners, he says, “We are offering the marketplace an incredibly attractive print solution while helping to sustain our environment and increasing the company’s profitability. lt truly is a win/win solution.”