Qualvis builds on-demand, short run folding carton service

In response to demand for dramatically shorter packaging run-lengths in the food and personal healthcare sectors, folding carton converter Qualvis Print & Packaging, of Leicester, UK, has moved into digital production with major investments in printing, coating and finishing equipment. With two digital printing and integrated folding carton coating lines from Xerox and Tresu, Qualvis is offering an efficient on-demand service with lead-times of between six and 10 days.

Installed in early 2017 in a dedicated clean room, two printing and coating lines provide personalised packaging, multiple brand and language variations, as well as market testing samples. With minimal makeready costs, the production lines are providing a cost-effective source of quality packaging to start-up companies such as farms and home delivery providers that, in many cases, are seeking a print run of only 100 cartons. Additionally, customers have benefited from reduced stockholding and material waste, and reduced chance of stock-outs.

Each production line features a sheet-fed Xerox iGen digital press, integrated with a Tresu Pinta flexo coater, providing a single-pass package printing solution with speeds of up to 2,500 sheets per hour, overseen by only one operator. One line features the iGen5, featuring CMYK plus a station for blue, green or orange, allowing the matching of up to 93 per cent of the Pantone colours; the other features the iGen4, with four process stations but the same levels of speed, automation and quality, with maximum resolutions of 2400 x 2400dpi. The iGen 4 line includes a CP Bourg dual feeder, making dual-sided coating possible. After coating on each line’s Tresu Pinta, the automatically stacked sheets, of sizes up to 364 x 660mm, are wheeled to a KAMA DC76 cutting and creasing system nearby.

“In the last decade we have seen average packaging print runs reduce by over half to about 8,000 sheets,” said Jason Short, Qualvis’s managing director. “The make-ready times in litho mean we could not fulfil the growing need for shorter runs and maintain the machine uptime critical for success. With practically no setup times, a digital investment would clearly enable us to offer the variety, responsiveness and flexibility demanded by the market, and critical to creating value.

“The two Xerox iGen presses combined with the Tresu Pinta coaters give us the combination of sharp quality, productivity and reliability to compete in these short-run markets. And, with two lines, we have the back-up to ensure the most demanding delivery times, common for foods, are met on time,” Short continued.

Coating is a vital process that adds impact and aesthetic appeal to the package. The Pinta coater uses food-safe varnish media, including water-based matt, gloss and soft-touch, as well as UV-gloss, specially formulated by Tresu. The large gamut of the Xerox iGen 5, combined with the Pinta’s ability to create a wide range of finishes, means Qualvis can achieve an indistinguishable look to litho on the vast majority of its jobs.

The digital lines run one shift per day, and production schedules can vary heavily. Some shifts can be devoted to a single run, whereas others may comprise as many as ten jobs. Digital printing has grown quickly and already represents about 10 per cent of Qualvis’s turnover.

The digital investment at Qualvis complements a litho operation centred around a seven-colour KBA Rapida 106 and a six-colour Heidelberg 6LX Speedmaster.