Brach's bags a winner with nine-color candy graphics
A 10-station gravure press lets Morrill Press print in nine colors, then laminate that structure to a sealant layer in-line on a single pass for Brach & Brock Confections' chocolate-covered raisins.
Nine-color gravure printing and laminating in-line in a single pass is a sophisticated process. Not many converters possess the capability. However The Morrill Press (Fulton NY) is doing just that at its Morristown TN plant. In Morristown a Cerutti 950 10-station press from North American Cerutti (Pittsburgh PA) is providing nearly $20 million worth of business a year operating as the sole press at the plant. The Cerutti's technological capability has earned business from some packaging heavyweights. One example is Chattanooga TN-based Brach & Brock Confections. (The company is the result of a merger between E. J. Brach Corp.Chicago and Brock Candy Co. Chattanooga.) In May the confectioner began selling its milk chocolate-covered raisins in a new bag that takes full advantage of the Cerutti's printing/laminating capability. The result as seen in the accompanying photos is a bag that will certainly not get lost amidst the competition on store shelves. Bags tout a pastel vignette of sea sand and sky and are sold in 1.65- 7- and 14-oz sizes. The new design replaces more traditional graphics and colors used in the product's prior bag design. In a single pass the Cerutti gravure prints the film in nine colors onto AET Packaging's (Wilmington DE) 75-ga oriented polypropylene film. The printed structure is then laminated to a 1.75-mil white opaque linear low-density polyethylene structure from Deerfield Plastics (Deerfield MA). The Cerutti runs the job at 700 fpm speeds. The Cerutti was added to Morristown when the facility was built in '93. And while it's currently the only press used at the plant a new 11-station Cerutti is scheduled to be running by January. Morrill president and general manager Bob Crichton says the new press will double the plant's business. "We expect to do between $18 and $20 million a year on each machine" he tells PW. Yet another 11-station Cerutti 950 press is being installed at Morrill's Edinburgh IN plant. Start-up of this unit is expected by the fourth quarter of this year. This press is designed to print laminate and register in-line a cold- or hot-seal pattern coating. Crichton says Morrill has worked with the candy company for several years. The new design for the chocolate-covered raisins was conceptualized a little more than a year ago. "Our marketing group wanted a package that was visually exciting" says Armand Crema Brach & Brock's director of packaging. "The result was a vibrant but rather complex design." Smooth process Morrill Press a division of Sonoco Products Co. (Hartsville SC) funnels information on the print job through its Fulton headquarters via computer link to Morristown. This information includes appropriate color formulas ink orders film supplies and gravure cylinders to use for this Brach's brand job. For the raisins Morrill required a good ink flow and slow solvent blend to control ink release due to the multiple shades within the vignette. In addition the converter "cross-hatched" the cylinders to prevent a haze from forming around the blue Brach's logo. Cross-hatching involves making minute scratches on the smooth chrome-plated cylinders to cause slight vibration of the doctor blade resulting in better control as the blade wipes excess ink from the cylinder during the printing process. To prepare for the run Morrill compares cylinders to a cylinder composite proof generated by engraver Southern Graphic Systems (Louisville KY) and approved by Brach & Brock's. These proofs are used as a quality target. The 75-ga OPP base film comes in web widths from 48" to 55" depending on package size. The film unwinds through nine color stations. In general inks are applied in colors ranging from darkest to lightest. "This allows you to better trap the darker colors within the polypropylene" notes Chuck Eldridge business manager at Morristown. In printing the structure used for the 7-oz package for example Morrill applies five line colors then four process colors. The color order is: gold/dark blue/red/dark purple/ light purple/black screen/cyan/ magenta/yellow. The gold is applied first Eldridge says "because it has to stay up front around the logo. If we put the gold behind the blue you wouldn't see it." At each station the OPP moves between a series of idler rolls. The diamond-etched print cylinder sits in an ink trolley that is prepared in a set-up room. The print cylinder rotates in the ink so that ink is delivered into the appropriate cells. The excess is wiped away with a doctor blade. As the substrate passes between the print cylinder and the impression roller the image is transferred. After each ink color is applied the web ascends to an oven where air at temperatures between 150 and 250° F is blown onto the film to cure the ink. Once all the inks are applied and cured the printed structure moves to a tenth station where an adhesive is applied. Afterwards the material proceeds to a dryer for curing. "It's a clamshell-type dryer with four heating zones" explains Eldridge. "We step the heat up from one zone to the next so that it dries through properly. If we blasted it at the highest temperature we'd wind up cooling the outer layer while leaving the inside wet." The adhesive agent dries to a tacky condition and the web proceeds to a hot nip where heat and pressure are used to laminate the printed structure to the 1.75-mil LLDPE sealant film which is delivered from a separate unwind. Press earns kudos The Brach & Brock's job is just about as complex as it gets. Ken Miller process leader and press operator offers an example: "If you make the raisins redder the sky will be redder too." To alleviate difficulties proofs are pulled for fine tuning registration and color checks on an on-press inspection station from Fife Corp. (Oklahoma City OK). Quality assurance personnel monitor the finished roll for print defects retained solvents coefficient of friction seal strength odor opacity and curl. They also record process data for machine settings to build history for future runs. "Any time you go from a family-type design to identifying a specific brand like Brach's has done it forces us as a converter to focus on makeready and achieving proper color quickly" asserts Crichton. "That's where the biggest challenge came for this job. With the new Cerutti we've cut our prepress time by more than 50 percent from the traditional time of 45 minutes per color. "A lot of that has to do with the robotics of the equipment" he continues. "With the printing cylinder on a cart you line it into place push a button and it's moved automatically. One unit is disengaged while the new one is locked into position. You can do that on individual stations or for the entire press. In the past an operator had to manually debolt and move the unit from the press. Now the operator can focus on the colors or film tension and look at the printing. These advantages are hard to quantify but it gives us a competitive edge in terms of quicker changeover time." After the run is complete details relating to cylinder status draw downs on ink formulas and density readings in the process area are recorded. Worn cylinders are rechromed at the plant. Rolls are first slit on a Titan Converting Equipment (Lilburn GA) SR6 slitter then palletized and stretch-wrapped for shipment to Brach & Brock's. "The rotogravure process gives us the consistent brilliant color reproduction we wanted while Morrill's 10-station press allows us to print nine colors and laminate in a single operation" boasts Brach & Brock's Crema. "We are very pleased with the final package." Recycling pays The plant gathers scrap material collected from pulled proofs unwind/rewind or slitting operations as well as stretch wrap core plugs pallets and other recyclables. These are either returned to the appropriate supplier for reuse or shipped to a recycler. "Virtually everything gets recycled" explains process technician Jimmy Johnson. "Our goal is to not fill the landfill." That effort pays off. For example a shipment of core scrap sent by the plant to Sonoco earned $750 not to mention the savings gained by minimizing trash collection. Additionally leftover inks from press runs are used on other jobs where color can be matched. That's helped Morrill lower its used ink inventory by 60%. Further progress on this front is expected when a computerized ink system is installed later this year. Hazardous waste disposal has also been reduced as solvent-based waste is now sent to a nearby refinery for distilling then returned to Morrill for use as washout solvent. Self-directed workforce The entire Morristown plant runs efficiently thanks to its "self-directed" workforce concept that requires but a single manager. Teams of employees make hiring training scheduling vacation time and disciplinary decisions. Employees are salaried personnel who earn pay based on skill levels with a bonus system based on overall plant performance. Employees are cross-trained and rotated to new areas as they are certified in their current area. "Changing areas stimulates creativity" says Steve Martin Morrill's director of marketing and business development. "If you've worked on the press and move to washup you understand why makeready is important to a successful job changeover." "And it may spark new ideas" notes Miller. "The self-directed concept hadn't been done in a printing company but Bob Crichton had the feeling it would work" he adds. So far it has indeed as evidenced by the decline in customer returns to a mere 0.6%. Overall plant productivity has increased significantly and customers are delighted. "We've made a lot of improvements because people have looked at things with a new eye and they're not content with 'it's always been done this way''' concludes Chuck Eldridge.