Cost effectiveness on short run labels
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Nick Coombes attends the MPS Open House to see what the company’s new EB 370 high level entry press has to offer label converters.
The market perception of MPS, since it launched its first rotary servo driven press in 1999, has always been one of high-end technology for high end work, combined with a price tag that, while not necessarily the highest, put the ownership of one of the company’s presses outside the financial capability of many label converters. Well, that’s all changed now, with the launch of the MPS EB series of flexo presses, which was the subject of an Open House at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Didam (Netherlands) in May.
I spoke with owner and co-founder Eric Hoendervangers about the rationale behind launching a simpler and lower price press range at a time when the market demand appears to require ever more added value. “We enjoy a good market share in the top end sector, but have always been conscious that we are missing sales opportunities in other market segments that require more cost effective presses. The new EB series has been designed to address that gap in our range by offering fully proven MPS technology to label converters that operate in these sectors.”
Available with a 370mm web width (print width maximum 360mm), the EB series is essentially a simplified version of the existing and successful EF range in that it shares much of the operational technology. This includes a short web path and a pre register system, which combine to reduce substrate waste on job changeovers, and iStop, which allows the operator to pull the press to a complete halt, with the print and anilox rolls remaining in position, and then ramp up to production speed with no loss of register and no waste. Repeat length for printing is 6-18” and 10-18” for die cutting, and the EB series is capable of handling a variety of substrates including paper, PE, PP, PET, BOPP, and PVC, on reels up to a maximum diameter of 1000mm.
Designed and built in response to extensive field research among existing and potential customers, the MPS EB series offers the fundamental principle of stability. This has always been essential on its top models, and is now available at a more affordable price. Like all MPS technology, the concept is all modular and functional, with the company’s own ethos of ‘Effectivity’. This allows a label converter to specify the new EB press to his/her own specific requirements for installation, and, significantly, be able to upgrade the specification at a later stage as demand changes and market conditions dictate. According to MPS, the EB is designed as a low running-cost press, with unique ergonomic controls, and the absence of what it calls the ‘over-complexity’ of some of its competitors.
Co-founder and Head of Technical Development, Bert van den Brink, explained the philosophy behind the new press. “We knew we had to keep to our cost base, so we went back to basic functionality. This meant retaining a high degree of web transport control because we wanted to dispense with any automatic register system. The pre register solution reduces waste and set up time, and can be manually adjusted with a disk on the print cylinder. Because MPS presses use many common parts, we were able to build a specification that offered the functions needed at an affordable price. Our mantra was: vary the functionality, not the quality. The result is an EB series that can be whatever the customer wants it to be, from a simple press to a sophisticated one, but always with the same build integrity.”
High on the list of design ‘must-haves’ was ease of operation. “With print quality very much a given commodity these days, the emphasis was on making the attainment of consistent quality as easy as possible. The benefit of MPS is that our presses are controlled in the same way because we use a common system, and all have digital servo drive technology. It makes switching from one press to another very easy and offers a far shorter learning curve for operators because the skill is contained within the technology,” he explained.
Highlighting this concept are the iSet, and the previously mentioned iStop. iSet is a simple print setting technology for the anilox and plate rolls, which are adjustable with rotary wheels that have a distinct and audible click as each is rotated, along with a fixed mark on the machine frame which acts as a reference point for the operator – ‘one click left of the mark, or three clicks right etc.’ This intelligent means of pressure setting separates left and right hand side of the press and allows adjustment in parallel, but with neither side affecting the other. Other standard MPS features that are standard on the EB include ‘Crisp.Dot Light Technology, which results in minimal dot gain. Because there is no connection between the plate roller and the impression cylinder, there is no friction, and this means no gear marking, and the press setting is not influenced by the gear profile.
The EB series can be fitted with delam/relam, cold foiling units, turner bars and a screen printing station, all on a rail system with an easy securing action. Both anilox and plate cylinder are quick and easy to change, with MPS demonstrating both in less than 60 seconds, while the Doctor Blade angle is adjustable and fitted to a pre set position. At the delivery end, there is a quick to change die cutting station, with easy locking of the die tools, and iStrip Matrix Rewinding, a new type of tensioned controlled stripping and matrix rewind, which caters for complex shape labels on difficult substrates at full press speed. To simplify operation of all functions, MPS has fitted the EB series with its iControl interface. This allows the operator to select and run individual functions via a small touch screen and button, and minimises error.
The decision to develop the EB series was boosted by positive feedback from Labelexpo Europe in Brussels last September, where the concept of the new press was floated amongst users and potential customers. The result prompted MPS to stage an Open House event, which was attended by more than 120 visitors over the three days, with visitors coming from as far afield as Central America, Southern Africa, and the Indian sub continent. As Eric Hoendervangers concluded: “We were very pleased with the reactions we received during the Open House, and see particularly good prospects for the EB machine all around the world.”
With an ambitious growth plan, MPS knew that it needed to broaden its product offering to tap into a volume market. By using existing technology, the EB is unique among new presses, because it comes with a proven track record, and like other current generation flexo presses, will lead the fight back against the tidal rush of digital engines that are so often put forward as the only short run option. Series production began in May, and delivery of the first batch is expected in Q3. With plans afoot to increase its presence in the USA and commence first stage assembly there, as a demonstration of its commitment to supporting the market, MPS is a competitor to be taken seriously.