Abbey Labels installs world-first die cutter

Abbey Labels, based in Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia in the UK, has installed a label press from MPS complete with an integrated, high-speed die-cutting solution from AB Graphics. Tom Allum, Abbey Labels’ Chairman, said: “I firmly believe that this press with this particular option is a real game-changer not only for us, but for the flexo industry.”

From left: Barry Pettit, managing director, and Tom Allum, chairman, of Abbey Lables with their new die cutting solution.

The concept behind the new die cutter came from Abbey Labels, which first saw MPS’s Fast Track Die module at Drupa 2016 but wanted to have even faster finishing capabilities. Allum explained: “The Fast Track Die was demonstrated as an inline solution for a digital press when we first saw it in action in Germany. My immediate reaction was that it would be a better fit on a flexo press, which prints at much higher speeds and so could take full advantage of this super-fast die-cutting capability.”

The company, which already had two MPS presses, worked together with MPS and AB Graphics for some three years to develop it, making this installation the first of its kind. The new die cutter has been installed onto one of the new entry level EFS presses that were introduced last year, giving Abbey Labels three MPS presses in total. This press, which can run at up to 200mpm, has been configured with eight flexo printing units, all complete with UV curing. Additionally it’s equipped with multiple rail units, such as delam-relam, web turner bar and a variety of lamination options, as well as iStrip for difficult die shapes and high speed stripping of liners and a sheeter to produce sheets.

The new cutter includes a new semi-rotary die-cutting module that has two anvils on the Fast Track and runs at 150mpm, more than doubling the speed of cutting compared to conventional single-anvil semi-rotary systems. Moreover it has a die repeat of up to 508mm so that the size of the repeat no longer affects the speed of the press. It is also much quicker to change the die as the magnetic cylinder stays in place at all times. The new die-cutting unit can use the existing cutters an flexible dies that Abbey Labels already has which has saved on having to invest in new tooling. 

Allum adds: “The benefits in time savings should be immense. We’re a short to medium run printer and we’re constantly changing size, so if you’re saving 20 minutes every time you do that, we’re looking at a huge improvement.”

Nick Tyrer, MPS UK’s sales director, explained: “When Abbey Labels first introduced the idea of us combining the ABG Fast Track Die with our EF platform, we had a few reservations in terms of integration and what it would involve. However, our past collaborations with ABG, integrating the Big Foot flatbed hot foil system had gone very well, so we decided to give the customer exactly what they wanted.”

He added: “The whole project was a very exciting concept. Apart from being a world first, it was also going to be a very challenging technical integration that would offer web transport, tension and register questions that we had not encountered previously. Thankfully the engineering departments of both ABG and MPS were able to overcome these challenges and give Abbey Labels a machine that really challenges the conventional model when converting labels.” 

Abbey Labels serves various clients from global brand owners to small artisan producers sith both digital and flexo equipment. The company started in 1982, with this new press being part of a major investment and reorganization program to expand its flexo department and optimize the workflow throughout the whole operation. This has involved acquiring a 4000sq ft property close to its 25,000sq ft factory. The new building has been converted for warehousing of label material stock and finished goods allowing the production area in the exisiing factory to be extended.

Allum commented: “Due to our continued expansion over the last 2 years we felt it necessary to improve our workflow by adding more space to our production facility. By purchasing the neighbouring property and land we have created a 4 acre site we can easily expand into over the coming years.”

As part of this, Abbey Label recently invested in an Ab Graphic Digicon finishing machine in order to produce  hot foiled, embossed, de-bossed and multi layered labels, both digital and flexo. It’s configured with a 25 tonne Big Foot hot foil, embossing tool, 2 flexographic printing heads and also a re-register web option. Allum noted: “The demands for labels is changing and whatever markets our customers are in they want their products to look different and standout.” He added: “The options we have specified will make the machine capable of fulfilling the needs of our ever-growing customers in the food, drinks, beauty, vape and retail markets. Our customers are evermore requiring their products to stand out with a high-quality look and feel.”

You can find further information on Abbey Labels here, MPS here and AB Graphics here.

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