Uteco makes UV LED breakthrough

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Pictured (from left): Paolo Nascimbeni, AMS Europe; Marco Mastandrea, Flint Inks, Italy; Moreno Melegatti, Uteco printing department manager; Pino De Gradi, La Gerunda Merletti managing director; Davide Cucinella, Uteco CMO

A Uteco Onyx 810 CI flexo press equipped with UV LED curing technology from Air Motion Systems (AMS) has passed its print tests and is now ready to ship to Italy’s La Gerunda Merletti. This is said to be the world’s first UV LED-enabled, ultra-fast, low migration VLF flexo press.

The Onyx 810 has been specified with eight printing stations, 1250mm maximum web width and 1100mm maximum print repeat cycle. Seven AMS UV LED curing lamps are fitted at the printing stations around the CI drum with the eighth situated at the exit of the web on the top deck. The press has also been supplied with the housing for a ninth AMS unit, adjacent to the eighth, if La Gerunda Merletti should decide, at some time in the future, to upgrade the press to the 500m/min option with the next AMS UV LED lamp development, the XP Ultra.

During the tests, which took place on October 11 at Uteco’s advanced manufacturing facility near Verona, the team from La Gerunda Merletti was joined by specialists from AMS to see the press deliver ‘excellent performance’ at running speeds up to 400m/min. Color vibrancy and tight registration were reported as being maintained at all speeds, even during changes in speed, and the printed substrate was ASTM tape-test dry on the roll in the delivery. Further, because there is no heat emission during UV LED curing, the printed roll was ready for immediate downstream processing.

AMS lamps use blue light LED, switching on and off instantly, eliminating the need for a stand-by mode and using much less electricity, offering typical savings of 60 percent over conventional UV.

The suppliers added that the price of UV LED inks is becoming more competitive as the process gains traction within the flexible packaging sector.

According to Pino De Gradi, La Gerunda Merletti managing director, these operational benefits offer him a clear manufacturing advantage over his four existing UV and EB presses, although the technical and environmental characteristics of the new Uteco system are of equal importance, as his 8.5 million EUR turnover company targets new market sectors.

‘The bulk of our existing business is in the horticulture, agriculture and pet food sectors, but we have identified flexible packaging for the healthcare and food industries as our target growth markets. For this we need secure substrate integrity and ecologically sustainable operation. The new UV LED low migration inks and the AMS system’s low-energy, ozone-free, non-mercury lamp units offer us that.’

Uteco chief marketing officer Davide Cucinella added: ‘Once again, Uteco is at the vanguard of the drive to higher performance and more environmentally responsible production. The eyes of the industry have been on this project, even from the aisles of drupa, and the absolute success of these print tests confirm that this solution will be a major player in our sector in the years ahead; we already have several other orders in the pipeline and the verdict is clear – blue light gets the green light in large format flexo.’

‘We already have contracts in place to supply diaper packaging, as well as high volume food products,’ confirmed De Gradi. ‘We are aiming to push turnover to 12 million EUR per annum within three years.’

The press is to be commissioned at La Gerunda Merletti in November.

Pictured (from left): Paolo Nascimbeni, AMS Europe; Marco Mastandrea, Flint Inks, Italy; Moreno Melegatti, Uteco printing department manager; Pino De Gradi, La Gerunda Merletti managing director; Davide Cucinella, Uteco CMO