Folding carton production has used more print techniques than any other printed product over the years, from offset, gravure, flexo to digital with both sheet, web feeding of cardboard; Edale continues to adapt to changing demands through R&D, engineering

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April 25, 2022 (press release) –

AS THE OLD DEMARCATION LINES BETWEEN VARIOUS PRINT TECHNIQUES AND THEIR MARKET APPLICATIONS CONTINUE TO BLUR, FOLDING CARTON INDUSTRY VISITED LEADING UK MANUFACTURER EDALE TO ASSESS THE LATEST IN INLINE FLEXO PRODUCTION OF FOLDING CARTONS

– NICK COOMBES REPORTS FROM THE COMPANY’S HEADQUARTERS IN FAREHAM, HAMPSHIRE.

The production of folding cartons has probably used more print techniques over the years than any other printed product, from offset to gravure and flexo, and more recently digital, with both sheet and web feeding of the cartonboard. In Europe, the home of the leading sheet fed press and converting machine manufacturers, the concept of using inline flexo attracted little interest even though it had long been a well-established and highly cost-effective production method in the USA. But, to European carton houses, where job runs were shorter and print quality more critical, it was an unnecessary investment risk to take.

So, what has changed?

The answer is all manner of things, from the dramatic improvement in flexo print quality in recent times, to the adoption of JIT production, to the massive increase in SKUs and not least the changing habits of the consumer brought about initially by online shopping, which was accelerated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

And if there is one industry you can rely on for innovation and adaptation to new market trends, it’s the print industry.

Today, any print company worth its salt will evaluate all the technology available and assess which will best satisfy the demands of its customers. There is no room for the retention of traditional methods that are uneconomic or lacking in the flexibility that today’s market demands – and this has breathed new life into inline flexo with its single-pass carton production method.

One manufacturer that has been quick to respond to the changed situation is UK-based Edale, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020 and coincidentally enjoyed one of its best sales years ever in 2021. Situated in Fareham on the south coast of England, the company operates from a modern and high-tech 60,000sq ft factory unit that generates business worth around £20m per annum. The company’s history can be traced back to 1920 when it was the engineering arm of British American Tobacco. It moved into label press manufacture in the 1950s and 1960s, but it was really in the late 1980s that the company began to establish its reputation as a leading supplier of narrow and mid-web printing and converting technology. Today, the company is acknowledged worldwide as an innovator and manufacturer of tailor-made solutions, with around 50% of its entire output dedicated to the folding carton sector.

James Boughton, who joined the company in 1995 and has been Managing Director since 2004 commented,

“We have a strong engineering background here that allows us to be creative with our R&D – but innovation is worthless if it is not practical and commercially sound. If our customers believe they won’t make money with our technology they won’t buy it, and importantly, they won’t buy a second and third machine. That’s why we’re proud of the fact that more than 70% of our revenue comes from existing Edale users.”

Typical of the company’s approach to new technology was the way in which it developed its range of carton equipment. The Edale FL5 and FL7 carton press lines were designed from the ground up in close collaboration with carton converters whose sole interest was the folding box board market. The Edale FL5 is one of the most versatile single-pass carton presses ever produced, capable of taking a plain web of carton board and printing and converting it into finished blanks in less than 60 seconds.

Available in three web widths from 510mm (20″) up to 650mm (25.5″) it will handle boards up to 700-micron (27pt) at speeds up to 200m/min (660ft/min). In addition to flexo printing in any number of colours to meet customer requirements (even 17!), it can apply cold foil, laminate, cast & cure, varnish, emboss, cut and crease, strip, and deliver in one-pass, making it ideal for jobs from 1,000 to 100,000 cartons. Working inline with Edale’s FDC-600 flat-bed die-cutter, which has a maximum speed of 13,000iph with blanks nested up to 5-across, the entire production line is geared for rapid response, fast changeovers, and minimum waste with the cost benefit of flatbed die tooling.

The unit can be reconfigured for a wide range of carton sizes and forms without the need for specialist tools, and it also has a Braille function. In addition to a shingle conveyor, there are options for stand-alone large unwinds, side unloading conveyors, and batch stackers – in other words, it can be tailored to specific job requirements. The FDC-600, which can be retrofitted to an existing Edale or other mid-web press, can also be run offline for conversion of analogue or digitally printed webs. Moving up in size, the FL7 is Edale’s mid-web size press. Available in web widths up to 1000mm (39″), its fully servo-driven print units with direct drive print sleeve cylinders and anilox rolls can be specified for water, solvent, and UV inks. This high-performance press has a top production speed of 300m/min (990ft/min) and uses Edale’s AiiR camera-based autonomous registration control for optimised productivity. Board capability is up to 700-micron (27pt).

The FL7 is fully modular in design and can be configured with Edale’s 1800mm (70″) jumbo unwind/rewinds or integrated with a third-party continuous butt splicer. Post print, the FL7 can be specified with heavy duty rotary die-cutting stations for cutting, creasing, and stripping or with Edale’s variable length sheet cutter. Solutions for stripping, de-nesting and automatic stacking are also available dependent on customer requirements or application.

According to Sales Director, Darren Pickford, “We say our carton solutions offer the best of everything as standard. The pre-register automatically positions the print cylinders in the correct position based on job recall, there is continuous web infeed, and impressive 165 tons of cutting pressure, a quick release chase, de-nesting facility, waste stripping and chopping and a waste transfer conveyor – it’s all perfectly set up for ease of operation with maximum productivity – and all in one pass.”

But, as mentioned at the beginning, Edale engineering is all about customisation, and while the extent of this capability is beyond the scope of this article, the company welcomes discussion with carton converters that have specific requirements from their customers. In fact, the past 10 years have driven a rapid evolution of the company’s range of presses with its engineering team delivering cutting-edge technology to all sectors of the market and around the World.

Boughton summarised the company’s situation, “Our vision for the future is clear. We will build on and develop new partnerships worldwide and continue to innovate, customise, and provide solutions to the printing sector. We have kept moving forward because it’s about pushing the boundaries, knowing when to stop and understanding when to keep going with your idea, often resulting in ground-breaking design.”

The company is excited about the future and the continued growth in the printing industry, specifically in the carton market. It is realistic enough to understand that inline flexo will never be the dominant process, but optimistic enough to see a niche in the market that will continue to grow. Whether it’s a start-up carton business, or a narrow web label converter looking for diversification, or a traditional medium or large format offset house looking for an economical method of producing shorter run work, Edale offers attractive solutions, as future issues of Folding Carton Industry will showcase.

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Dan Rivard
- VP Market Development -

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