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  • 14 Jun 2022

Kirk Group automates platemaking with XSYS

(L-R) Robert Selvaggio (Kirk Group) and Yves Vanryckeghem (XSYS)

Australian prepress specialist Kirk Group has added XSYS ThermoFlexX imager combined with a full Catena+ platemaking line. The new system offers automated and touch-free production of flexo plates, claimed to offer a waste reduction.

Over the five decades since its inception in 1972 when Graeme Kirk first set up his business to produce gravure cylinders, Kirk Group has grown to become one of the leading players in the packaging industry. The company claims to be the largest supplier of artwork services and image carrier solutions across Australia and New Zealand, counting global brands and major printing companies as its customers.  
 
Headquartered in Minto, in Sydney, Kirk Group also has manufacturing sites in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Auckland, with a total of 120 staff, along with sales offices in Christchurch, and more recently in Mumbai, India. As managing director, Kirk is still very much involved in the business. His large contribution to the industry was acknowledged in 2018, when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Flexible Packaging and Label Manufacturers Association (FPLMA).   
 
General manager John Kapiniaris joined in 2015, bringing with him a strong background in flexible packaging and an entrepreneurial drive to innovate. ‘We work with leading brands and printers across ANZ and into Asia, offering a proven systematic approach to print management. We launched the Flite On-demand e-commerce platform to automate daily tasks, boost productivity and help our customers win the race to shelf.’   
 
To support this type of innovation, Kirk Group implemented the automatic platemaking line from XSYS, consisting of a ThermoFlexX imager combined with a Catena-E LED exposure unit, a Catena-WDLS washer, dryer and light-finisher and a Catena-R for rotating the plates between the exposure and wash-out units. This modular system, known as Catena+, is an end-to-end automated technology. It became commercially available in October 2020 and Kirk Group is among the first companies to invest in it.   
 
The new Catena+ platemaking line features dual head imaging with imaging speed of up to 12sqm/hr and standard resolution up to 5080dpi, and a high-resolution option, which Kirk Group uses for security printing.   
 
Kapiniaris continued: ‘We saw the opportunity to centralize and rationalize our production by increasing efficiencies and productivity. With the new system, we can maintain a lower cost base by consolidating production and removing manual steps throughout the process. This reduces the human touch and opportunities for errors, so we end up with a superior product.’   
 
The choice to invest with XSYS was made after a rigorous review process that evaluated all the options currently available in the market. The team was especially convinced by the build quality of the modules and the fact that they are all produced by the same manufacturer.   
 
Kapiniaris added that the equipment integration is second to none.  
 
The purchase was partly carried out through the XSYS partnership with local distributor GMS Pacific, which facilitated the ThermoFlexX component of the system. This automated imager is plate agnostic and comes with optical system. When integrated with the Catena modules, platemaking is fully automated, with each part fully enclosed creating its own controlled environment.  
 
At the start, the plate is simply placed on the tray of the ThermoFlexX unit and will then automatically travel through imaging, exposure, washing, drying and final light exposure, before being stacked ready at the end.    
 
Roy Schoettle, VP, XSYS Asia Pacific, added: ‘The Catena+ platemaking line is perfect automation in action, and we are excited that an industry leader like Kirk Group has recognized the benefits that this innovation will bring to their business. Catena is the Italian word for “chain”, and this is exactly what XSYS has introduced into flexo platemaking – a “chain reaction” that needs no intervention by the operator. This is smart manufacturing at its best.’  
 
Kirks CEO Robert Selvaggio concluded: ‘We see ourselves as industry leaders and innovators, and our continued investment in the latest technology and automation means that we can satisfy our customer’s requests for the highest quality print outcomes, maximum consistency, and fastest time to market, all whilst maintaining lowest costs and minimizing waste.’ 

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