October 8, 2021 | Tahnee Alves

Barthel Group Standardizes on LED UV Curing With Mark Andy Flexo and Digital Hybrid Technology in Germany

Since its inception in 1984, the Barthel Group has continued to expand and develop its business, which in more recent times has seen the company embark on the acquisition trail. One of the newest Group members is ATB-Systemetiketten based in Herne in the industrial Ruhr area of Germany. Already equipped with LeoLED curing, manufactured by UK-based GEW, the ATB production facility was recently enhanced by the installation of two Mark Andy Evolution Series E5 narrow web flexo presses, which were also fitted with LeoLED technology.

Group Managing Partner, Mischa Barthel, explained his company’s investment philosophy:

“We see ourselves as an innovative driver in the industry and use the latest technology to future-proof our production capability and offer our customers long-term added value that sets us and them apart from the competition.” In practical terms, this translated into an investment last year in a Mark Andy Digital Series hybrid press for the Group’s eprint Druck- und Veredelungsgesellschaft mbH facility in Bünde.

Members of Mark Andy and Barthe Group in front of Mark Andy press

Timo Donati (Mark Andy) with Mischa Barthel (Barthel Group) and Andreas Puzik (ATB-Systemetiketten) at the installation in Herne, Germany

In addition to expanded production capacity, the new technology falls in line with the Group’s stance on environmental protection and sustainability. “We have focussed for many years on resource-saving production processes to minimise energy and material waste wherever possible,” he added. This applied not only to the choice of LED UV curing, which offers longer lamp life with reduced energy and heat flow, but the elimination of ozone and the need for extraction facilities.

Andreas Puzik, Managing Director at ATB also commented: “In addition to the ecological aspects, the new Mark Andy Evolution Series presses had to meet the highest levels of productivity, process speed, and print quality. So, we opted to fit both with Martin Automatic MBS unwind splicers and ABG automatic rewinders.”

The servo-driven Evolution Series presses, a 4-color and an 8-color, both have the 430mm (17”) web width and a high standard specification that includes web cleaning and corona treatment. The 8-colour machine also has an overhead rail system for moveable unwinding/rewinding for cold foil and lamination, and die-cutting units with adjustable counterpressure. The GEW LeoLED systems chosen for the new Mark Andy presses offer both conventional mercury arc and LED lamp UV curing. This affords ATP the flexibility to use inks and lacquers of both types, as not all are available in LED formulation at present.

According to the operators at ATP, the Evolution Series presses are very user-friendly, with short set-up times and minimal waste even at production speeds of 230m/min. Substrate capability is from 25- to 305-microns and includes monofoils and laminates as well as self-adhesive stocks. Best of all, is the modular design and construction of Mark Andy’s Evolution Series, which allows the presses to be adapted to changes in market demand by reconfiguration with additional units, as required.

According to Bernd Schopferer, European Sales Manager for Martin Automatic: “Mischa Barthel chose the Martin Automatic MBS splicer because of its reputation for being the most robust and reliable nonstop unwinder on the market. After visiting a working installation and noted the efficiency of Martin splicers and Mark Andy flexo presses with LED UV producing a variety of short and long-run jobs, it was an easy decision for him to invest in this economic and ecological solution.”

The decision by The Barthel Group to standardize on LED UV curing is one that is becoming more familiar in the narrow web sector, according to Timo Donati, Mark Andy’s Sales Manager for DACH and Benelux. “Mark Andy recognized the value of LED UV as far back as 2009, but its take-up by the industry was limited by the low volume and high cost of LED formulation inks and lacquers on offer, which are different from those used in conventional UV curing. This issue has largely been resolved and around 60% of the new Mark Andy presses installed in my area are now LED UV equipped.”

With the early higher price situation for LED UV systems and consumables now improved, Donati believes that companies should take a more holistic view of the investment opportunity. As costs have reduced, the other benefits of longer lamp life, lower energy consumption, and zero ozone have become more obvious too, not to mention a better overall cure. “Too many companies just look at the upfront cost and don’t evaluate the lifetime value of technology. There are now sufficient systems out in the market to draw conclusive evidence that LED UV is better in every aspect than conventional arc lamp systems.”

These points are echoed by Bernd Prattl of GEW. “It’s how the numbers stack up that’s impressive. We estimate that our LED UV offers a 35% higher dosage, rising to 40% higher over 30 W/cm at a 50% lower purchase price level for the system – and that doesn’t take into account the reduced running costs of lower energy consumption and fewer lamp changes.” He estimates a typical LED lamp life of 40,000 hours, which allows GEW to offer a 3-year warranty with no usage limit.

With no moving parts, low maintenance, and no warm-up/cool-down periods, an LED UV system allows the press line to be more productive across a wider range of job applications, with the lack of heat generation working well with sensitive substrates. “Current LED UV is based on UV-A rays, which penetrate better into thick ink layers and give a more even cure, especially with screen printing, laminates, and film processes. Future developments will use UV-C technology for even greater efficiency,” he concluded.

All parties agree that LED UV is the way ahead, and the significant investments made by The Barthel Group in recent times are both a statement of ecological intent and a strategic move to gain ground in the market by improving operational efficiency. Its choice of Mark Andy and GEW as key suppliers is a testament to the two manufacturers’ excellence in their respective technologies.