US converters invest in laser die-cutting
Published: 8 April 2022 | No comments yet
Repacorp was an early adopter of digital printing and laser cutting technology
Labelin and Repacorp Quality Labels and Packaging have both invested in a SEI Laser Labelmaster laser die-cutting line to enhance their manufacturing.
As a roll-to-roll/roll-to-sheet laser die-cutting system, Labelmaster provides fast make-ready and on-the-fly cutting. It offers a maximum web speed of 100m/min, web widths up to 350mm and roll diameters up to 610 mm. A range of materials can be processed, such as PET, PP/BOPP and paper. Labelmaster systems are modular and can be modified for future capabilities with additional digital and conventional processes such as hot-foil stamping, slitting and sheeting.
At Labelin, such capability is advancing the company from an early-stage business into its growth stage. The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, and was founded by Claudia Soto and José Olavarría six years ago with a vision to help small businesses by providing fast, personalised short-run labels, stickers and decals.
Labelin started by digitally printing precut label stock. As the business grew, it expanded into new facilities and invested in additional digital presses and semi-rotary die-cutters. Since the beginning, Ms Soto and Mr Olavarría planned to further automate the business by offering laser die-cut labels in virtually any shape.
‘Customers often ask for uniquely shaped labels,’ said Ms Soto. ‘We could meet their needs by ordering a new die, which adds cost and three days to the turnaround time. Most customers can’t justify the increased price or additional time for short-run orders. They often select a standard shape and size that will work for their design. In some cases, we lose a project that could be completed with a laser system. For the last three years, we’ve been telling customers that we will be getting a laser that can cut custom shapes and sizes. And that is happening now.’
With the Labelmaster line, lead times for Labelin’s customers will be reduced from 7-10 days down to three to five days or faster, ideally shipping the same week. In addition to the expanded capabilities, Labelin will be able to increase profit potential and accommodate new niches, such as large labels for the agricultural market. Labelin is also now working on a new website to provide easy order placement of fully customisable labels, stickers and decals.
Repacorp is headquartered in Ohio with additional facilities in Wisconsin and Arizona, and is a reseller of stock and custom labels, tags, RFID, flexible packaging, shrink sleeves and wide format products. The company was an early adopter of digital printing and laser cutting technology, and to uphold its reputation for reliability, speed and quality, Andy Heinl, vice president of digital labels at Repacorp, has a robust equipment and facility contingency strategy. Investment in the SEI Laser Labelmaster is seen as an important part of this plan. Repacorp’s Labelmaster has been ordered with a modular finishing station for flood and spot varnishing as well as laminating.
Primarily loyal to one brand of laser equipment since 2007, the company recently experienced downtime because of maintenance problems with its existing laser systems. In addition to lost productivity, some of the laser parts are being discontinued and maintenance costs in recent years have been expensive.
Mr Heinl commented, ‘One of our workhorses is a laser machine we purchased in 2012 that contains SEI Laser components. When we began experiencing issues with our other lasers, we reached out to SEI Laser and Matik [which sells and services SEI Laser equipment in North America] to get a quote on a new system.’
To continue its growth and minimise labour costs, Labelin wanted a fully automated process from ordering to shipping. Cutting was identified as one process where the company needed to advance to digital.
Mr Olavarría said, ‘The laser systems offered by the other vendors were more expensive, had limited roll-to-roll label capabilities, and didn’t offer critical upgrade and retrofit options. The SEI Laser Labelmaster is the only modular system that could provide flexibility for future growth and added capabilities. We also worked with Matik’s financing partner to finalise the purchase.’
He concluded, ‘As everyone knows, there is a significant labour shortage. The SEI Laser system will minimise our need to hire and train new staff. We have a three-month training process for new employees. The Labelmaster is so easy to use current and new employees will learn to operate it quickly. Training will be cut in half or maybe more.’