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  • 29 Oct 2010

Argentine packaging converter sees rapid label growth

The label division of Argentina’s premier pharmaceutical packaging converter is the fastest-growing part of the company, with further investment and a move to a new facility planned for this year. James Quirk reports

Buenos Aires-based Tallares Gráficos Corti is Argentina’s biggest pharmaceutical packaging converter. Founded in 1930, it operates a fleet of presses for folding carton printing in its 23,000 square meter facility, producing some 200 tons of packaging every month. Long established in the packaging sector, it is now Corti’s label division that is the fastest-growing area of the company.

As in a number of countries in South America – neighboring Chile is another example – Argentina’s label sector is relatively youthful; large-scale production and investment in North American and European machinery only began in earnest in the 1990s. 

Tallares Gráficos Corti is one of a number of package printing companies to have ridden this wave. Its interest in label production – seen as a natural progression from its successful folding carton business – began in the 1980s, but it waited until 1992 to open a dedicated label printing division. 

This division began with a Mark Andy 910 press. Early clients were companies to whom Corti was already supplying folding cartons and who were beginning to seek locally produced labels. While serving these existing clients, the division began to attract new business in its own right. A Mark Andy 2200 – the first fully UV flexo press in the country – was installed in 1996. With a 10 inch web width and eight colors, it allowed Corti to compete for work usually carried out on Gallus and Ko-Pack machines.

Since then, a 7-color Mark Andy Scout has replaced the 910 and an offset press from Rotatek was brought in to handle pharmaceutical leaflet printing in rolls – non-adhesive informational labels placed inside pharmaceutical packaging. The flexo machines count rotary die-cutting, UV varnishing and lamination among their options. Corti plans to buy a further narrow web press for its label division during 2010, with machines from Mark Andy and Nilpeter being considered.

The investment doesn’t stop there. Impressed with what he saw at Labelexpo Europe 2009, managing director Gustavo Corti ordered a machine from Italy-based Cartes which will bring hot stamping and silkscreen capabilities. A second Prati rewinder will also be purchased during 2010.

Pre-press revamp

A key element of the label division’s growth has been the investment in 2009 in digital plate-making equipment. Previously outsourced – as is often the case in Argentina – the addition of Cosmolight digital plate-making from Japanese company Toyobo, installed by local distributor Leftech, and the purchase of Screen PlateRite CTP equipment for flexo, has had ‘a big impact’ on the company’s label production, says managing director Gustavo Corti. ‘Our label business has grown a great deal since its inception. We have many more clients and the trend towards shorter runs in the market results in an increased number of print jobs. It has been a big advantage for us, therefore, to bring plate-making in-house.’ Corti’s label division currently produces up to 80,000 square meters of materials per month.

Production manager Diego Castellano reveals that the reduced environmental impact of the Cosmolight water-wash plate technology is part of a wider strategy in the company. ‘It means we can avoid using solvents, which is an advantage from a point of view of environmental sustainability,’ he says. ‘Production is also much quicker: plates are ready within an hour and a half, while the quality is comparable to digital plates produced using solvents.’

Further environmental initiatives include only using FSC-certified materials, while Corti is also in the process of acquiring ISO:14001 certification.

Corti’s pre-press department also counts on Screen PlateRite CTP equipment for offset plate-making for its folding carton division. Pre-press is located directly next to the carton division, and Corti now plans to move its label production – at present housed on the other side of the premises – into a currently empty area adjacent to the folding carton division. The development will not only increase the label division’s physical size, but will also allow easier and swifter communication between it and the pre-press department. The move is due to be completed by the beginning of next year.

Further investment in the label division – in the form of RFID technology and equipment – is also being planned. Corti already buys labels with pre-inserted RFID tags for pallet tracking, and has installed a reader from Alien Technology which ensures pallets have passed through quality control as they leave the premises. 

Investment will take the form of an RFID insertion machine, says Gustavo Corti, who reveals that this machine will also allow for the production of peel-off labels – useful for pharmaceutical products where space for requisite legislative information is often at a premium.

While the RFID-enabled pallet tracking stands as a useful capability in its own right, Gustavo Corti says that it is also serving as a dry run for the planned future capacity to supply RFID labels to customers.

The company’s plans for RFID technology have not been driven by the pharmaceutical industry directly. Corti plans to move ahead irrespective of impending legislation, viewing it as the most effective technology available for track and trace. Should legislation never come, Corti reveals there are ‘other plans’ for the technology’s use.

Meanwhile, testing is also being carried out for Braille printing on labels. Unlike in Europe, there is no legislation for Braille on pharmaceutical products, though Corti already counts on that capability in its folding carton division.

Corti’s folding carton printing is handled by a fleet of presses from KBA, Ryobi and Man Roland. Die-cutting takes place on four machines from Bobst, while a stamping unit from the same company caters to hologram applications and contains an electronic multi-register system that Gustavo Corti says is unique in Argentina.

Folder glueing lines are equipped with a verification system specially developed for pharmaceutical applications, which automatically expels faulty products from the line after reading a code.

While the company’s production is dominated by pharmaceutical applications, it also produces labels and packaging for the cosmetics, food and beverage industries. It mainly serves its local market, with some products also exported to other Latin American countries such as Mexico and Cuba.