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Solidus prepares for changing packaging market with strategic investments

Wifac Supplies New Koenig & Bauer Presses and ECO3 CtP to Solidus

Mijdrecht, August 10, 2023 – As a specialist in solid board and solid board packaging, Solidus is well-positioned to meet the increasing market demand for circular paper-based products. The expansion of their product range necessitates investments: with two new Koenig & Bauer Rapida presses and an ECO3 (formerly Agfa) Avalon VLF CtP system, Solidus’ facilities in Oude Pekela (the Netherlands) and Hoogstraten (Belgium) will be poised for the future.

With five mills, eleven converting locations, and around 1,500 employees, Solidus is one of the major players in the European solid board packaging market. Circular design principles, as outlined in Solidus’ brand promise “Your circular packaging partner”, are at the forefront of their operations. Thierry Sneyers, Operations Manager Converting Benelux at Solidus, oversees the Oude Pekela and Hoogstraten locations. “These are two converters specialized in the production of secondary packaging – essentially transport packaging. In this market, we’re observing an increasing emphasis on high-quality printing, as these packages are finding their way onto store shelves more frequently.”

Rising demand for sustainable solid board packaging

Thierry Sneyers, Operations Manager Converting Benelux

“To better respond to the retail sector’s trend towards more sustainable food packaging, we have expanded our portfolio,” explains Sneyers. Solidus identifies opportunities for new ‘retail ready’ products, such as ‘punnets’: cardboard baskets that replace plastic containers for items like soft fruits or mushrooms. Additionally, ‘skin packaging’ is gaining popularity: a type of vacuum packaging for fresh foods (like meat or fish) with a solid board carrier.

“Both punnets and skin packaging require high print quality. They need to stand out in-store. At the same time, the food safety requirements for those types of packaging are strict due to direct food contact taking place. We’re fully aligning our production processes with these requirements.”

Solidus also collaborated on a special machine to produce ‘modified atmosphere packaging’ (MAP) using solid board – as a substitute for the current plastic MAP trays. MAP trays are used to package fresh or prepared foods, fruits, and salads in a modified atmosphere to extend their shelf life. The MAP machine was initially introduced at the Solidus facility in Spain and will also be installed in Oude Pekela and Hoogstraten, alongside the specialized punnet machine. “With all these innovative packaging solutions, we offer circular alternatives and significantly reduce the presence of plastic in the market.”

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)

Investments in Koenig & Bauer Presses and ECO3 CtP

The growing market demand, diversification of the product range, and increasing emphasis on high print quality call for investments in the machine park. In Hoogstraten, a 6-color Koenig & Bauer Rapida 164 with a coating unit will be installed in early 2024. This hybrid sheetfed press is from the latest Rapida generation. “We print using MGA foodsafe inks and dispersion varnish, but with these machines, we can also opt for UV inks and UV varnish, both foodsafe and suitable for direct food contact if the substrate or application requires it.”

“UV printing also offers the advantage of instant drying, allowing us to work with larger stacks and reducing logistical movements. Furthermore, the printed materials can be further processed immediately, leading to shorter lead times.”

The 6-color configuration of the press enables the use of additional colors, Sneyers explains: “For instance, the ability to print with opaque white is important for brown materials often used for eco-friendly packaging.”

Since the new press in Hoogstraten replaces an existing Koenig & Bauer Rapida 142, new ECO3 CtP equipment will also be installed for the larger 164 format. The ECO3 Avalon N-24-90S VLF CtP system, including a pallet loader, processes thermal plates from ECO3: “A chemistry-free technology that aligns well with Solidus’ green principles.” Apart from offset plates, Wifac will also supply the pressroom supplies, says Robbert Amse (Sales Director Press & Packaging at Wifac): “This includes Direct Food inks, barrier varnishes, and inks for special applications. The pressroom package is tailored to the new Koenig & Bauer presses, enhancing their optimal performance. Additionally, these supplies enable Solidus to expand possibilities for their clients.”

Wifac offers comprehensive package and partnership

The Oude Pekela location will see the installation of a hybrid 6-color Koenig & Bauer Rapida 145 with a coating unit in the second quarter of 2024. Robbert Amse is pleased that Solidus once again chooses Koenig & Bauer and Wifac: “Both machines are elevated, feature palletless stacks, and incorporate a fully automated logistics system. This makes them particularly suitable for ergonomically handling solid board of up to 1.8 mm thickness.”

“The machines have a sensor-guided sidelay-free infeed – our Sensoric Infeed System – enabling higher production speeds and increased net output. Inline quality monitoring ensures optimal process stability, resulting in a significant boost in productivity.” Sneyers adds, “This process stability is crucial for print quality. It enables us to work more consistently according to agreed standards and guarantee our customers a consistent quality.”

The choice of ECO3 CtP equipment and plates from Wifac’s range further demonstrates the strength of a comprehensive package, according to Amse: “We aim to establish partnerships with our customers, offering them complete service.” Sneyers notes, “Over the past years, Wifac has proven to be the right partner for supporting our Technical Department at both locations. While we strive to resolve any issues internally in the first instance, Wifac serves as a reliable backup. Wifac also manages the annual maintenance of our machines, ensuring optimal availability.”

Thierry Sneyers, with extensive experience in the graphic industry, is also convinced of the collaboration. “Both Koenig & Bauer and Wifac have efficient communication channels. They actively listen to the customer’s actual needs and contribute to finding solutions. With these investments, we lay the foundation for further growth and a sustainable future.”