FFP Packaging Solutions is a flexible packaging printer located in Northampton in the UK and has been in the flexible packaging sector for more than 50 years. The company specializes in high quality flexographic printed and flexible packaging, heat seal lidding films and films for high temperature or oven use. FFP, with its work force of 140 talented employees, prides itself on continuously innovating to add value to the work it does to set it apart in the marketplace.
Five years ago, FFP initiated a project called Platinum Print. The objective was to find the best combination of plates, ink and consumables for its in-house platemaking operation to deliver Platinum quality packaging to its customers.
After extensive due diligence and in-house trials, FFP selected Asahi AWPTM-DEF water-washable plates based on the quality, set up speeds and consistency, particularly through highlights and tonal transitions. FFP have so much confidence in the plate that they have recently installed a new Asahi AWPTM 4835 P plate processor (48” x 35”) to complement their solvent processing system. Not only are they achieving premium quality through the new configuration, they have also improved plate out-put by over 60% due to the faster processing time.
FFP specializes in flexible packaging with an emphasis on innovative products and services. These include:
- Esterpeel, specialized lidding film for ready-made meals packaged in C-PET, A-PET, R-PET, PS, PP, HDPE, PET lined board, PVC, paperboard, and aluminum and foil trays;
- Estercook, a heat-resistant packaging suitable for cooking packaged foods in the oven or microwave; and
- Partnership, a rigorous approach to project management for a guaranteed product launch process and ongoing supply blueprint, coordinating all efforts among both internal and external stakeholders.
FFP operates with three modern 8-colour flexo presses, including their recent installation of a second W&H Miraflex commissioned last month. They also have five lamination machines, and extensive array of finishing equipment including slitting, laser perforation, hole punching and re-seal label applicators. Following a rigorous review of available solutions, FFP tested an Asahi AWPTM 2530 Auto Platemaker with Asahi AWPTM-DEF water-washable plates. The trial was so successful that FFP decided to acquire the larger Asahi AWPTM plate maker, the AWPTM 4835 P, with a maximum size of 48” x 35”. “This decision was made due to the very high quality we were achieving,” explains Paul Hesketh, Print Development Manager at FFP. “We also wanted the larger size to accommodate both our growth in volume and the reduction in cycle times as our customers push for faster time to market. The results have been exceptional. Plate durability is also good, with runs of more than 200,000 meters and more with no durability issues.”
Platinum Print: the New Standard in Flexographic Printing
Hesketh reports that this configuration has resulted in FFP winning a number of prestigious awards for the quality of its work, including the coveted award in the Flexible Packaging Wide Web category at the FlexoTech Awards for its Thorntons Triple Layer Toffee Cake packaging. An international panel of judges selected FFP out of a field of five nominees based on reproduction degree of difficulty of the project and the quality of the work, including the reproduction of photographic images. “Bringing in the new Asahi AWPTM 4835 P plate processor was a great decision,” Hesketh adds. “Not only were we able to significantly improve quality as evidenced by these awards, but we also increased our throughput and reduced cycle times. Especially for the photographic work we do, the Asahi plates deliver the perfect highlight capability that we need. We are also guaranteed fast plate changeover, even if a plate is damaged or has to be changed in the middle of a run.”
Achieving the Impossible
That being said, FFP is not resting on its laurels or slowing down its continuous improvement efforts. The company has established a colour lab where it controls and evaluates print consistency using the X-Rite ColorCert® statistical process control solution. “Monitoring our production this way has confirmed that our AWPTM plates get us to colour faster than other plates,” Hesketh says, “and that adds up to significant savings in press set-up along with a reduction in make-ready waste. Our ColorCert® Scorecard results have ranked us as the top scorer and set new quality targets for our brand owner clients. Hesketh cites the work FFP is doing for Whitworth’s as an example of how Platinum Print with Asahi AWPTM plates has helped the company improve quality. “This customer was undergoing an extensive brand Packaging improvement Project,” he says, “they wanted ‘stand out’ Packs on shelf with high quality reproduction of photographic images”. This required us to print very fine tonal transitions with no hard edges. The brand owner was absolutely delighted with the results we achieved, and we certainly would not have been able to do this on standard digital plates.” This project also earned us a nomination for outstanding Technical innovation at the forth-coming 2016 EFIA print awards”