Archive for the ‘Finishing/Converting’ Category

Student Question about Corrugated Use in North America

November 15, 2018

Christoph asks,

Hi Ralph, I was wondering if you may help me with a few questions. I am a German Master Student studying Printing Technology at CalPoly State University. The topic is about the corrugated packaging market and the most common used papers and purpose of the boards.

Therefore, I would like to ask you if you can provide me with information for the following questions:

  1. Which are the three most produced board qualities (e.g. Brown Kraftliner 35# – recycled fluting 30# – Brown Kraftliner 35#: C-flute) in the Northern American market?
  2. What is the most common purposes for corrugated boxes? (shipping, shelf-ready packaging, …)
  3. On average how many colors are printed on the above requested corrugated board qualities?

I am very thankful for any information you can provide.

 

Hi Christoph, happy to share a little information with a student of the industry.

  1. The most common combined board grade is 33/35 test liner / 23# test medium / 33# test liner.  While virgin kraft linerboard is still present, the US is about 50/50 new verses used fibre.  In Europe this is very different.  Mills that use the newest papermaking technology can use 28/26/23 C flute constructions.  We make heavier boxes here than you do in Europe.
  2. We ship durable and nondurable goods in corrugated packaging.  If you want this broken down by manufacturing segment I can provide that.  The biggest market is food.  Yes there is shelf ready packaging and displays.
  3. On average we probably print three colors via flexo. There is a great deal of four-color work done, but there is still a significant amount of two-color and one-color work being done (think Amazon, Home Shopping Network, etc.). Digital is gaining ground quickly, but it is not the ideal process for most boxes. It has its niche and its popularity is growing especially in the graphic market. However, digital has yet to reach the speeds necessary to make it ideal for high throughput orders. You’ll want to keep your eye on it though as the technology is continually evolving.

— Ralph

Skip Feed Repeat and Max Print Area

November 15, 2018

Chuck asks,

My question, is there a formula that determines how long of a print area (thru the machine) can be printed without being printed a second time when running skip feed. We have a 66” rotary diecutter with skip feed. We did a test on a sheet size of 79-1/4, mounted a 28″ plate, centered and it did not reprint.

I reached out to a few of my industry contacts. My colleague Dwayne Shrader put together some info for this post.

Max Sheet Length Before Print Repeat

On a 66 inch machine the print is going to repeat every 66 inches from the lead edge of the plate. That’s the key to determining the length of the sheet before repeat… ‘from the lead edge of the plate’.

To determine the maximum sheet before print repeat where …

Cylinder Circumference with plate installed = CC
Lead Edge Offset = LEO
Max sheet Before print Repeat = MBR

Then…CC + LEO = MBR

You say you mounted it in the center, I assume you mean you centered it around the cylinder. So the lead edge of the plate would have been at 19 inches behind zero register… (66 – 28)/2=19. This being true, then CC + LEO = MBR, or 66 + 19 = 85. Therefore, you could run a sheet just under 85 inches before the print would repeat.

Maximum Print Length

Now, determining the maximum print length, is just a little different because the cylinder circumference is not the maximum machine print length. Keep in mind that the lead and trail edge lockup takes up some of the circumference (or print area). On the typical 66 inch cylinder your maximum machine print length is going to be between 61 and 64 inches depending on machine design, lockup type, etc. Your machine manufacturer should be able to provide the maximum through machine print length.

To determine the maximum print length where …

Maximum Machine Print Length = MMPL
Lead Edge Offset of printing plate = LEO
Maximum Printable Length through machine = MPL

Then… MMPL – LEO = MPL.

For example, let’s say the maximum machine print length is 62 inches and the lead edge is offset by 5 inches… 62 – 5 = 57 inches of available print length. Consequently the maximum sheet before repeat would be 71 inches in this case.

Sometimes a converter may have a plate that is made for a normal feed job, but they want to use it to print a larger skip feed job. In this case the plate is mounted in the normal position and then the register is retarded to offset the distance from the lead edge to the start of the print. The same formula for maximum print length is used here as well just substituting the register offset from zero register.

To determine the maximum print length where …

Maximum Machine Print Length = MMPL
Register Offset from Zero = ROZ
Maximum Printable Length through machine = MPL

Then… MMPL – ROZ = MPL.

Hope this is helpful.

How Much Washboarding is Acceptable

April 24, 2018

Paul asks,

I would like to know about washboarding in corrugated – how much variation in surface flatness (in microns) is typically seen for the types of corrugated board used in applications like shelf ready packaging?

I don’t know that there is a published standard on how smooth the surface of a corrugated sheet should be for the type of printing used for display or shelf ready packaging, but I think we are safe to say pretty darned smooth.

One of the key elements of printing the type of quality high-graphics usually found in display work and shelf ready packaging is minimizing the impression (pressure) between the plate and the substrate. The greater the impression pressure the more the printing plates distort and that distortion results in growth and distortion of the dots that create your image. Typically in high-graphics printing we are looking for a kiss impression, just enough that the printing plate just touches or “kisses” the surface of the board and transfers the ink. For the best print results we want .0015” to .003” (~38 to 76 microns) impression when printing. Oh course the lightest impression we can get away with.

Now, if the high and low points of the board surface exceed this kiss impression depth then additional pressure will be necessary in order to obtain coverage in the low points caused by fluting. Then, as stated above, as we add more impression our printing starts to suffer. With large block print you might think you can get away with over impression and perhaps you can a tad more than you can with process or fine lines and text, but excess impression on solid coverage will result in color variation through striping of the print.

We should also note that typically washboarding is less prevalent on small flute (such as a E, F or N) because there are more support points and they are closer together than a C or B flute.

Digital printing may be a little more forgiving than offset, but we still have to remember that the smoothness of the surface contributes to the overall aesthetics of the packaging and not just the print quality.

—Ralph

How Can the Cobb Rating Affect Flexo Printing?

March 26, 2018

Kim asks,

What effect does the Cobb rating of paper have on printing with flexographic inks?

Cobb determines the paper’s ability to absorb water. The higher the Cobb reading, the more water is absorbed into the paper.

Since flexographic inks are predominately water, the Cobb reading has a great affect on how the ink interacts with the paper. Color, drying and coverage are all affected by the Cobb rating of the paper.

A lower Cobb rating will absorb less liquid into the paper and therefore more ink will stay on the surface of the sheet. If the ink is formulated to match the paper the results can be superior coverage, deep bold colors and remarkable surface effects. If the ink is formulated for a higher Cobb rating it may dry slower, offset from one print station to the next down and color and coverage may suffer.

A higher Cobb rating will draw more liquid into the paper, usually faster, leaving less ink on the surface of the sheet. This has its advantages and disadvantages too. The ink may dry faster minimizing offsetting, but coverage and richness of color may be sacrificed as the inks and solids are drawn into the paper and less stays on the surface.

So, it is very important that the paper, inks and printing plates are closely matched for each job. If you were to run a job on a high Cobb rated kraft and then simply switched to a low Cobb rated high hold-out paper without switching inks and plates, the results would most likely be far from favorable.

Now there is a little leeway and ink viscosity and pH can be adjusted to a certain extent to control drying, transfer and coverage. But it’s always best if the ink is formulated to match the desired results to the characteristics of the paper.

This is a very simple explanation of how Cobb can affect flexographic printing, but it could be a complete seminar on its own. If you have a question about a specific job your ink supplier is a great resource.

— Ralph