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Color management key to success at St-Luc

Family-run St-Luc Labels & Packaging Group has been on something of a growth spurt in recent times.

The progenitor of the group, St-Luc Labels & Packaging, has been added to with the addition of France-based folding carton specialist Microbox and Altrif Label in the Netherlands. The group is now able to offer labels, shrink sleeves, flexible packaging and folding cartons printed conventionally or digitally, coupled with an array of finishing techniques. These are offered to markets including food, cosmetics and chemicals. More recently, it has added Pharmalabel, a Dutch pharmaceutical label specialist, giving it presence in a new sector. 

Dion Goderie, Altrif Label’s COO, notes the company can meet every demand since joining the group in 2016. ‘We can handle any assignment in the label and packaging field. Together with St-Luc, we offer offset, flexo, screen printing and digital printing. Our digital printing presses make us even more versatile. With our team of experts, we can produce short runs and short delivery times. We even print flexible packaging and shrink sleeves digitally.’ 

‘Our “one-stop shopping” philosophy means a customer can source all their packaging products from one company,’ continues Niko Dhondt, MD at St-Luc Labels & Packaging Group. He says many of the group’s customers were using labels and flexible packaging, but struggled with order quantities and lead times for flexible packaging in the face of new designs, on-pack changes and destocking. With its expertise in digital label printing, the company decided to move into digitally printed flexible packaging and hasn’t looked back. 

‘It has been very successful, and we have invested in a second machine to increase capacity,’ says Dhondt. ‘We choose a base laminate that makes it 100 percent food safe. As the ink is sandwiched between two layers, it can’t migrate and we are able to produce on demand with product ready to go to market in four days.’ 

Color management 
Speaking at this year’s Xeikon Café in Belgium, Dhondt sees color management as central to the group’s overall integration of different packaging products as a ‘one-stop shop’. ‘In every company we have an integrated pre-press department with color management. With color management we are able to produce folding boxes, flexible packaging and labels, printed conventionally or digitally, but which look the same.’ 

Nestling between labels and flexible packaging is shrink sleeves, which he describes as ‘a fantastic product’, although he notes: ‘Color management is very difficult with shrink sleeves, as we are reverse printing but require the correct finished look when the sleeve is applied to the primary package.’ 

The situation is complicated further by the group’s use of different digital technologies, dry toner and liquid toner. The group’s digital press portfolio includes multiple HP Indigo and Xeikon machines, with big investments including the 100th HP Indigo 20000 installed globally and an HP Indigo 8000 at Altrif Label, which was also recently confirmed as a beta test customer for the Xeikon CX500. The wider width of this press – up to 520mm – suits the bigger chemical and oil labels that Altrif Label is commonly associated with. 

‘Altrif Label and Xeikon have a long history, as it was the first digital printing company in Benelux using a Xeikon web press. St-Luc is known as an HP Indigo house and with the takeover we suddenly had a Xeikon portfolio. They are completely different printing processes, but when we use color management we hardly see any difference,’ says Dhondt. ‘We often use a mix of different technologies to complete a project so use color management to ensure a uniform look, and to match conventional and digital print. Color management is also very important in regard to the substrate being printed on.’