Düsseldorf, Germany — Bobst Mex SA, the Swiss company that specializes in substrate processing, printing and converting equipment, launched its new Vision CI flexo press at K 2019.
The new printing press is described as delivering efficient performance for all sizes of production runs. In addition, the machines can use a wide range of material substrates.
The new model is one of three printing presses that Bobst previewed at K, the largest plastics fair in the world. Other models already available in the range include the Expert CI and Master CI. It is possible a fourth example in the CI range could be launched next year.
"We're looking to regain technology leadership," said Christian Zeller, business unit manager at Bobst, at the company's news conference in Düsseldorf.
The Vision CI initially will be offered as an eight-color press. To support the company's push for improved sustainability across its product range, the equipment can use either solvent- or water-based inks.
Four key application areas — SmartHeat, SmartClean, SmartKey and SmartSet — offer additional sustainability-driven features.
For example, the SmartHeat system can use the machine's own heat as an energy source. The SmartKey system helps to reduce material waste by directing users to how to accurately set the material.
The printers also support a range of substrate materials, including polypropylene and polyethylene. At K 2019, a series of companies released packaging choices based solely on recycled version of these materials to help improve sustainability and strengthen the circular economy.
Eric Pavone, business development director, explained more: "We have launched a series of lamination technologies and resins to support improved sustainability."
He added: "They are cheaper than films using aluminum to create the barrier properties. The cost per square meter is very competitive, but you have to remember that this is a volume business."
Developed with a series of partner companies, including Brückner Machinenbau, Dow Inc., Elba and Hosokawa Alpine, the new materials can be used to manufacture a variety of packaging solutions, including standup pouches.
Speaking after the Bobst news conference, Pavone said that the products now being launched were a result of the company's focus on delivering materials that offer improved sustainability.
"With our new films, the idea is to have a thinner product but still have the same performance. Then we can transfer this into applications, cereal bars, pouches, etc. But then we have to address how to reduce the cost while delivering that higher performance."
As various companies start switching to what are considered more sustainable packaging alternatives, such as cardboard and glass, Pavone was asked what can convince customers to stick with plastic.
"We are the partner with Nestle [which recently launched the Yes! cereal bar in a paper package]. I think these solutions will make up about 5 percent of the total market. There are lot of things that this solution cannot do.
"We developed a product which is as thin as we can achieve, because it can be used for a lot of applications, snack, flow pack. But we also have a 120-micron product in a multilayer format."
He added that over the short- to mid-term, there would be an increase in the use of biodegradable plastics, which could compete with paper solutions.
"It's compostable, it biodegrades, there's a lot of possibilities with these products," said Pavone.
In response to reports that biodegradables were not as effective at degrading as advertised, either breaking down into microplastics or not breaking down at all, Pavone said: "There are some grades which need eight hours at 42° C to start degrading. There are other plastic types which break down in an hour in water and sunlight."
Continuing, he noted there is now a choice of biodegradable, biocompostable, recyclable and paper products. Moving forward, Pavone is convinced that no single choice will win out over the other but will instead take a percentage of a fluid material mix.
In addition to its European operations, Bobst also has a research plant in Manchester, England. As Brexit negotiations creep forward, is there any concern about doing business with British customers?
"The devaluation of the [British] pound is impacting our business there," Pavone said. "But on the positive side, we're more competitive with our pricing."