TCL Packaging Teams with Creation Reprographics & Asahi Photoproducts to Bring Gravure Quality to Flexo
About TCL Packaging
TCL Packaging is a leading UK printer and converter of packaging films. The company provides food and non-food flexible packaging and promotes itself as a supplier of perfectly printed packaging films. TCL partners with Creation Reprographics for plate production. Founded in 1999, TCL Packaging invests in the latest technologies to ensure the highest quality packaging production. It has a team of 55 staff working across reprographics, lamination and ink technical management.
When current Managing Director Mike Golding joined the company in 2009, he saw a need to develop new systems, procedures and go-to-market strategies to bring the company in line with then-current market realities. After completing a management buyout in 2012, Golding set about finding the best solutions to increase TCL Packaging’s competitive advantage, productivity, and profitability, while reducing its environmental footprint.
In addition to investing in a new 70,000 square foot facility in Telford and three new Uteco presses, Golding turned to the company’s repro house, Daventry-based Creation Reprographics to find a way to bring gravure quality to flexographic printing. Creation Reprographics was able to help the company meet those requirements using Asahi Photoproducts AWPTM water washable flexographic plates to deliver the photo-quality reproduction that brand owners and retailers seek in the specialty packaging market.
“From the outset, TCL aimed to be a technically capable, high quality packaging producer; and the fact that much of the original team is still in place is testament to the vision and focus we’ve have engendered in the business in recent years,” says Golding.
Dean Langford, TCL Production Manager, attributes much of the company’s success to the focus on teamwork at the site. “We are very demanding as a customer to our supply chain,” he says, “but we also believe that every problem can be turned into a success, as long as there is collaboration. We grow and develop our people internally, and we partner with our suppliers to get the best business and product performance.”
Partnering for Success
TCL & Creation Reprographics Shopfloor
One of TCL’s valued partners is Creation Reprographics. The Daventry-based company’s use of Asahi AWPTM plates was a key factor in establishing the relationship. Founded in 2004 as a reprographics studio, Creation Reprographics provides a range of platemaking, proofing, design and management services. It delivers high levels of customer service for brand, label and wide-web print customers and supports brands with innovative technical production strategies, including moving work from gravure print to flexo for more flexibility without any compromise in quality.
Whilst flexography has always been a more efficient and cost effective printing process, the challenge has been to close the gap between offset and gravure printing, both in terms of quality and environmental sustainability. Plate manufacturers have been challenged to create a more environmentally friendly plate without losing the benefits and advantages of quality and efficiency; and according to both TCL and Creation Reprographics, Asahi Photoproducts has met that challenge with its AWPTM plates.
Asahi AWPTM Benefits
Traditionally, water washable plate quality has been considered a second-best solution when compared to solvent plates. However, the AWPTM plate does more than match traditional solvent technologies; it outperforms the best digital plates currently available for flexo. For the first time, a digital photopolymer plate can hold extremely small dots, smaller than those of solvent processed plates; and its stability on press is superior to solvent plates. The plate is engineered to deliver a sustainable quality output with fast plate access time. Its water processor keeps water use to a minimum and washed photopolymer residues are filtered, resulting in solid polymer cake that is easily recyclable.
In addition, due to the smaller dot size, low dot gain and high dot stability of the Asahi AWPTM plates, especially when used in combination with the latest generation of screening technologies, as well as its extraordinary ink transfer that minimizes press stoppages due to wash-ups, these plates deliver the best of all worlds – high quality, smooth gradations with vignette fades to zero, environmental sustainability and optimum overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
“At Creation, we pride ourselves on our approach to the environment,” says Matt Franklow, Managing Director. “We invested in AWPTM Plate technology from Asahi Photoproducts some years ago as part of our environmental strategy. The AWPTM Plate uses water rather than solvent to clean the plates, which has to be better environmentally. And it uses water sparingly.” At Creation Reprographics, rainwater from the site roof is collected, filtered and then used for plate processing before being recycled again, minimising the carbon footprint of the process even further.
A Winning Combination
All of these factors presented a winning combination for TCL. Langford adds, “We’re all about replacement of gravure here at TCL. We initially assessed about five different flexographic plates. But when we began working with Creation Reprographics we were really impressed with the quality standard they could deliver on the Asahi AWPTM plate solution. Working with our repro team, Creation Reprographics took two eight-colour gravure jobs, did extensive colour management and fingerprinting work and delivered them in five colours for our new Uteco line investment, with outstanding performance according to our customer.”
Langford concludes, “The fact that we can drive our print performance up above standard gravure using the Asahi AWPTM plate, says we going to be competing and ahead of the game in the long term.”
And the strategy is working. Today, business is booming at TCL Packaging. For the past three years, TCL has been growing at an average of 10% per annum, which outstrips overall market growth, with the UK flexo packaging market having grown at about 3% annually in recent years.