Revere Flexpak's New Wave of Narrow Web
When a converter is able to reduce the time needed to complete a job from 12 shifts to eight, that would typically be considered a significant victory on its own.
Such was the case when a national snack food manufacturer tasked Seattle-based Revere Flexpak, a division of The Revere Group, with a narrow-web job requiring 25 SKUs and multiple spot colors. In addition to the increased efficiency in completing the run, Owner Mark Revere explains the customer was so impressed with the print quality, it became the standard for which other packaging in its product line would match.
“They actually sent our product to the wide web people and said, ‘Here you go, the bar has now been set pretty high,’” Revere says.
Significant increases in efficiency and improvements in print quality are just a sampling of the benefits that Revere Flexpak has been able to leverage since investing in Digital Flexo Technology, a highly automated flexographic printing platform developed by the REVO Project Team, which consists of BOBST, X-Rite, AVT, UPM, DuPont, Esko, Americk Packaging, Apex International and Flint Group. Revere Flexpak has implemented the technology into its workflow via its two in-line BOBST M5 presses.
From its founding, Revere Flexpak has prioritized investing in the latest technology to help it meet its customers’ needs. As one of the first converters to add Digital Flexo technology, Thomas D’Angelo, VP and GM of Revere Flexpak, explains that despite the technology’s recent arrival on the package printing scene, Revere Flexpak has successfully integrated Digital Flexo into its workflow to meet its customers’ evolving needs.
“We’re still forging ahead,” D’Angelo says. “We know we’re providing our customers with a product that represents the top end of the narrow-web flexo market.”
A Value on Manufacturing
When Marius Glerup, Revere’s grandfather, founded the company in 1938, it was a drastically different operation than today. After spending time as a buyer for a candy company in Seattle, Glerup decided to branch off and become a packaging supplier to the local candy industry, shipping in corrugated containers from the East Coast.
As the company grew, Revere explains his father, Bill Revere, joined the business and it began to add more packaging products to its repertoire that it supplied to local confectioners. After Mark Revere joined in 1982, he says the company began to expand to a national customer base, and added in some upscale packaging options to its offerings. But, after a few years, Revere says he could no longer resist his desire to transition the company into a packaging manufacturer, rather than “brokering or acting as a middle man.”
“The product that we chose to manufacture was printed aluminum foil for chocolatiers to wrap their pieces with their logo on it,” Revere says. “It was something that was unavailable in any reasonable quantity at the time. They had to buy a couple thousand pounds of foil at a pretty significant cost, so we found a way to produce very small quantities and make it affordable for people.”
To print on the foil, the company bought a Mark Andy 830 flexo press, but made a few modifications due to the fragility of the substrate. But even with the new press, Revere explains that the company did not transition into becoming a full-fledged package printer right away.
While the company was achieving a return on its investment with the Mark Andy press printing on aluminum foil, Revere says the press still had a great deal of capacity available. Because the press was originally designed to print labels, Revere says the company hired a label salesperson to bring in additional business to supplement the foil printing.
As the company continued to evolve into a package printer, Revere explains he made a commitment to make the transition an environmentally friendly one. The company printed solely with water-based inks and utilized clean solvents in its platemaking process. Additionally, Revere says the company operated its prepress procedure electronically from the start, implementing a computer-based system, rather than a more manual setup.
“It was kind of unique because we didn’t have the old-school knowledge or approach and went straight into electronic prepress,” he says. “It was a priority and it was the right approach to take because it was an investment in new technology and not old technology.”
Ahead of the Flexible Curve
With decades of experience as a packaging distributor, the company was already familiar with the bag business, selling millions of film-based bags annually. D’Angelo explains that around 1999, the company began realizing the opportunities in printed film.
At the time, D’Angelo says the company had expanded its printing press fleet to two Mark Andy 830s and two Mark Andy 2200s. Though those presses were not designed to print on film, the company spent two years of research and development finding ways to run film on those presses.
However, in 2007, The Revere Group made the decision to acquire a 22˝ Comco Proglide flexo press, which was specifically designed for film applications. To bring the printing and packaging technology full circle, D’Angelo explains Revere acquired a packaging company in California that had bag converting machines in-house. With the acquisition, the company could now print and convert flexible packaging, expanding its product line in both the printing and packaging sides of its business. Now, with a full flexible packaging printing and converting operation on board, The Revere Group established Revere Flexpak as a division of the company.
The Digital Flexo Decision
In a manufacturing environment, having a piece of equipment that can be described as a “work horse” is a positive. With its long run capabilities, Revere Flexpak’s Comco press proved to be a reliable option for large-scale jobs. But with the rise of short runs and versioning in packaging, the company needed a press better suited for these customer needs.
“The Comco is a work horse press, but it’s not the most nimble of presses,” D’Angelo says. “If you have a three-day job, or a week-long job, it’s great. If you’re trying to get multiple jobs done in one day, you’re going to put a lot of horsepower behind keeping that propped up because it’s not that nimble.”
With the decision in place to seek out a new press, D’Angelo says there were three key considerations the company required. The first was the flexibility to run multiple jobs at varying lengths and versions. D’Angelo explains the second key was sustainability, stating that if the company was going to make a major technological investment, it wanted to ensure it was keeping environmental best practices in mind. The third element was that the press had to meet the evolving requirements of food package printing, leading to the company’s desire to acquire a press that could accommodate low migration inks.
Revere Flexpak first became aware of Digital Flexo technology at Labelexpo 2012 in Chicago. Paul Polewko, Revere Flexpak’s production and technical manager, explains he was impressed by several of the flexographic press manufacturer’s products at the show, but it was the Digital Flexo technology from Gidue (which has since been acquired by BOBST) that stood out.
The first aspect of the press that stood out, Polewko says, was its expanded gamut printing capability, adding orange, green and violet to the traditional CMYK process colors. Additionally, he says that with the press’ LED-UV curing capabilities, the amount of daily clean up time on the press would be decreased significantly.
Compared to the Comco press’ 11 printing decks requiring daily cleaning, Polewko says a significant amount of efficiencies can be gained with LED-UV.
“It’s at least an hour of cleanup time and it’s at least an hour of setup time every morning to set that job up to run,” he says. “UV inks print much cleaner, crisper, higher quality and you don’t have to clean them up. At the end of the day, you can just walk away, leave the inks in your pan and you’re set.”
In addition to not having to cleanup ink decks on a daily basis, Revere Flexpak saw substantial efficiency gains through the press’ expanded gamut capabilities. Polewko explains that prior to expanded gamut, when a spot color was required, it had to be mixed each time. However, with expanded gamut printing, Polewko says any PMS color can be created through Esko’s Equinox software and be produced within an acceptable Delta E value.
“That’s the beauty of expanded gamut printing,” he says. “You have seven inks and maybe a white, a varnish and an adhesive that you’re stocking for the most part. So you can imagine, from many different angles there, the efficiencies are much better.”
More efficiency was found by using LED-UV inks, which reduce the need for lengthy wash ups and setups. Meanwhile, the corresponding curing technology provides the environmental benefits Revere Flexpak was searching for.
Polewko explains that LED-UV curing’s instant on/instant off capabilities, the lower required power consumption, the lack of mercury in the lamps and the elimination of ozone release, leads to a better overall system for the environment. Additionally, he says LED lamps require less maintenance and, unlike conventional UV lamps, are not subjected to the slow degradation of output over time.
With increased awareness surrounding food safety, D’Angelo explains that Digital Flexo is able to accommodate LED-UV low migration inks from Flint Group. During Revere Flexpak’s conversations with Flint Group about low migration inks, D’Angelo explains that he learned that the vast majority of wide-web printers are actively engaged in the low migration conversation, but in the narrow-web space that Revere Flexpak operates in, many of its competitors were not as knowledgeable about low migration printing environments.
“I thought, ‘We want to be at that service level like the wide web printers,’” D’Angelo says. “We want to be a narrow-web food packaging provider that is engaged in the topic of food safety and Flint Inks and the whole Digital Flexo team is on board with that, so that was very attractive to us.”
The Results Are In
After it became clear to the Revere Flexpak team that Digital Flexo and BOBST M5 presses were the right solution for their needs, the company didn’t just stop at one. It first acquired a 630mm-wide press for film production, followed by a 370mm press for labels.
Since the presses have been installed, D’Angelo says the predictability they provide through their close connection to the prepress department has been highly beneficial. He explains that with the new presses, Revere Flexpak is “printing by the numbers,” producing colors via measureable L*a*B* values.
Additionally, the presses are so heavily automated to the degree where toning inks and changing anilox rolls is not required during print jobs. D’Angelo explains that these time savings allow the operator to focus on the actual print, rather than machinery issues, leading to an increase in predictability of print.
“The technology of the digital flexo press is such that it automates so much of the system,” he says. “It creates stability in the press that allows prepress to deliver a consistent and predictable product. That saves you time up and down the line.”
Because the technology is so new, D’Angelo explains that Revere Flexpak has not made a huge splash with the technology quite yet. However, he says that the company is nearly to the point where it is comfortable enough with Digital Flexo to make a major push in getting the technology more widely recognized in the marketplace.
Throughout the implementation process, D’Angelo says that the entire REVO Digital Flexo team, along with Revere Flexpak’s supplier partners, has been instrumental in helping the company acclimate to the revolutionary technology.
Polewko explains that the entire team has helped refine the technology to the point where he is confident that Digital Flexo will prove itself to be the go-to technology in the industry.
“With the experience we’ve gained, not only for ourselves, but for our partners, we’ve all grown together,” he says. “We’re it as far as I’m concerned when it comes to being the tip of the spear in printing technology.”