In-mold labels are more versatile, sustainable, and in demand than ever before, and the market is growing by around four percent a year. They are used for packaging an ever-increasing number of consumer products – from ice cream and margarine to shower gel and paint pots. New products are constantly being added, which leaves no time to rest – either for IML manufacturers, who have to continuously increase their capacity and productivity, or for Heidelberg, the solution partner for the world’s leading IML production companies.
“The challenge is to reliably process the increasingly thinner films at ever-higher speeds,” explains Philipp Doley, Product Manager Sheetfed Label at Heidelberg.
Heidelberg is working non-stop with its customers to drive performance even higher, from sheet feeding to die cutting. The latest generation of the CutStar sheeter has just reached new heights in productivity, with throughput now some 30 percent higher. Heidelberg has achieved this performance boost by completely redesigning the machine, which is already delivering greater productivity in sheet feeding for hundreds of customers all over the world.
This redesign work focused on extremely simple operation and maximum automation to achieve the best possible performance when working with thin materials. To reach these targets, Heidelberg has integrated the CutStar into the digital Prinect workflow and press makeready processes, which are controlled by the Intellistart smart assistance system. The Push to Stop production that this makes possible eliminates manual intervention. Air/format settings and format changes take place fully automatically, resulting in 50 percent shorter makeready times.
A further innovation is the surface treatment integrated into the CutStar, which ensures high end-to-end quality by improving ink adhesion. It is the blade geometry, which has been specially developed for thin materials, that sets the pace. Along with easy-to-maintain drive technology and intelligent control technology, more sheets are now being fed into the press per hour. When working with foils with thicknesses between 50 and 70 µm, throughput rises to as much as 16,000 sheets per hour, while up to 13,000 sheets per hour is possible for lower thicknesses.
“In developing the new CutStar, we’ve benefited from our expertise relating to the IML performance package for the Speedmaster XL 106. This package, which has been successfully established on the market for three years, gives our users much higher net output,” reports Doley. As a result, most new installations feature presses with the high-speed configuration, frequently in combination with LED UV interdeck dryers. While LED UV technology minimizes the heat used, the performance package ensures stable, crease-free high-speed production. Thanks to special modifications in the feeder and delivery, modified sheet transfer, and anti-static devices, IML manufacturers can reliably process sensitive plastic foils even in thicknesses of 40 µm while ensuring maximum performance.
The production workflow goes even further with the Speedmaster XL 106-DD, the next pioneering success from Heidelberg. Reaching speeds of up to 10,000 sheets per hour, the rotary die cutter is around twice as fast as standard flat-bed die cutters. “The precision of the cylinders and die-cutting form means that no separate setup process is required,” Doley explains. There are now more than 60 machines of this type in use all over the world.
Due to popular demand, Heidelberg has further developed this successful machine. For hole punching, it has been fitted with an extraction system and a magnetic cylinder that supports ultra-fine 1 µ pressure adjustments. The Speedmaster XL 106-DD thus punches the shape of the label, as well as decorative and extremely small injection holes with diameters from five millimeters. Die cutting, stripping, and extraction are all performed in one single step. This cuts tooling costs by up to 50 percent compared to a flat-bed die cutter, with production speeds that are three times higher.
Since last year, this revolutionary system has also been available with just one die-cutting unit. The new Speedmaster XL 106-D thus makes it easier for label printers to move into rotary die cutting.
Digital offerings such as maintenance management and performance analyses increase availability and highlight unused efficiency potential. These supplementary services can be booked as required through service agreements. Here, too, Heidelberg is an undisputed pioneer, just as it is in the IML sector, where its market share is around 90 percent.
“Our early entry has given us a huge head start when it comes to expertise that we will continue to develop in close partnership with our customers so we can pursue further growth together,” underlines Doley.
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