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  • 01 May 2018

The growing crossover between labels and flexible packaging

In my presentation at Finat ELF in Dublin in June, I will be looking in more detail at the growing link between labels and flexible packaging, and how label converters are well positioned to take a niche share of the fast-growing flexibles market.

There are several aspects to this. Most importantly, the dominant label converting technology – in-line combination presses – is today capable of printing both self-adhesive (supported) substrates and filmic (unsupported) substrates on the same press line. 

Servo drive technology on web transport and print units, auto-registration and impression setting and the trend towards wider presses all make the handling of thin, heat-sensitive films possible, while matching the larger format size required for flexible packaging. Add to this the ability to add, in-line, processes like lamination and the hot air dryers required to handle solvent and water-based inks and coatings systems commonly used in the flexible packaging world.

Secondly, the trends in the flexible packaging market are all towards shorter runs. Flexible packaging buyers have traditionally been confronted with high (by label industry standards) minimum run lengths and delivery times stretching into months. This is simply because wide web CI and gravure presses entail high plate/cylinder costs, and relatively high material wastage during multiple changeovers.

The label converter, by contrast, is used to dealing with lead times of weeks, and even days, and is a specialist in fast changeovers with minimal waste.

The Achilles heel of the narrow web industry as it moves into flexible packaging is the use of UV curing, which many buyers are not prepared to countenance because of historical worries about ink component migration.

This will see my presentation look at the work of a new Finat-supported group, UVFoodSafe, which aims to establish best practice in curing indirect food contact flexible packaging and labels.

Find out more about Finat ELF and other industry events In the L&L Events diary


Andy Thomas is strategic director of Labels & Labeling.

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