Eco Flexibles installs first Fujifilm FP790 digital press

Fujifilm’s new FP790 water-based inkjet press has passed its beta testing and looks set to further disrupt the flexible packaging market. 

L-R Simon Buswell and Matt Francklow

UK-based Eco Flexibles has taken the printing of flexible packaging in-house with the installation of the first Fujifilm Jet Press FP790 digital press outside Japan.

Located at Eco Flexibles’ new state-of-the-art 40,000sq ft factory in Northampton, the water-based inkjet FP790 will form a central part of the company’s sustainable flexible packaging pro position.

Eco Flexibles develops recyclable mono-polymer flexible packaging constructions that provide equivalent or improved performance over incumbent mixed plastic designs, as well as paper-based packaging.

The Jet Press FP790 press was installed at Eco Flexibles in August 2023 and completed beta testing in December. It is now operating commercially over two shifts. With capacity rapidly filling up, a second press is already planned.

Jet Press FP790

The Jet Press FP790 reverse and surface prints (on films and paper) in CMYK+ double white at 50m/min (164ft/min) on a 790mm (31in) wide web with a print width between 520 – 733mm (20.5 – 28.9in).

The 1,200 x 1,200 DPI inkjet heads jet from heavy coverage down to 2pt positive type and 3pt negative text.

The press has been qualified to print on 12-40 micron PET, BOPP and paper, and Fujifilm says most common flexible packaging materials can be used after preliminary testing. Registration is automatically controlled within +/- 0.15mm (5.9thou).

The press has three coating and print towers. The first is a web conditioning station incorporating corona treatment and flexo coater applying a water-based primer, followed by heat drying boxes and chilled roll. The primer is used to improve ink anchorage on plastic films.

The second tower houses the CMYK print heads on a retractable rig with automatic head cleaning. The pigmented water-based inks were developed by Fujifilm with a high color density which allows over 90 percent of Pantone colors to be matched with just four colors. Again, there are powerful heat boxes to dry the inks followed by a chill drum.

The third tower is for the double white inks, which Fujifilm says outperforms flexo with a combined opacity of 55-58 percent.

CMYK+W inks are compliant with a range of food contact regulations including Nestlé, Swiss Ordinance, EuPIA guidelines, EU regulatory framework, GMP and FDA. The inks are currently manufactured in Japan, but manufacturing is likely to be rolled out to the US and Europe in the future.

After the inkjet unit, is an integrated inspection tower delivering 100 percent defect detection and automatic nozzle compensation to prevent the appearance of white lines in the event of a blocked nozzle.

Niche positioning

Eco Flexibles is an excellent example of how the Jet Press FP790 could further disrupt the flexible packaging market.

The company has two main divisions: Creation, a repro/ platemaking house; and Eco Flexibles, a supplier of sustainable flexible packaging films. In the past, Eco Flexibles outsourced the printing and laminating of these films to wide web flexible packaging converters.

Interestingly, it was through Creation, the platemaking side of the business, that Eco Flexibles first came into contact with Fujifilm through an investment in Flenex water-based plates and processors in 2021. Flenex forms a core plank of Creation’s ‘net zero’ reprographics offering.

‘A wider conversation about the future of sustainable production led to a trip to Japan where we introduced Eco Flexibles to the Jet Press FP790,’ recalls Manuel Schrutt, head of packaging at Fujifilm EMEA.