INOMETA – Interview with Frank Rudolph, Bobst Bielefeld
With a history dating back 130 years, BOBST has established itself as one of the world's leading suppliers of substrate processing, printing and converting equipment and services for the label, flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated industries.
BOBST offers a uniquely wide range of solutions for packaging manufactures and brand owners, with production facilities and Competence Centers worldwide, backed by a distribution and service network that spans the globe.
INOMETA GmbH Account Manager Tobias Seeger manages our relationship with Bobst Bielefeld, BOBST’s Center of Excellence for CI flexo printing technologies. He sat down with Frank Rudolph, Process Manager and Head Competence Center at Bobst Bielefeld, to discuss unique selling points, machines and printing components, as well as to take a peek into the future. Frank has been working in flexo printing for over 25 years, starting at Fischer & Krecke and then, further to the acquisition by BOBST in 2008, at Bobst Bielefeld.
Frank Rudolph, Bobst Bielefeld
Good morning, Mr Rudolph. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about what you do on a day-to-day basis, about printing machines, and about your experience with INOMETA INOflex products. Let me start by asking you something about your company: What do you think it is that makes BOBST's site here in Bielefeld special?
Frank Rudolph: Our Bielefeld site has been operating since 1880. Just as they did in the past, today's customers appreciate our ability to innovate, the high quality of our products and services, and the way BOBST Bielefeld maintains close ties to our customers and to the market. We can offer a number of unique, market-leading machinery solutions, such as smartGPS, and we have our exclusive Flexo Center of Excellence, complete with a fully-equipped Pre-Press Centre, which is supported by strong partners within the industry. Working together with them allows us to ensure seamless integration of all components right across the wide web central cylinder flexo printing process.
You offer a very broad range of products and services. Where do you think your customers (by which I mean printers) face their biggest challenges? And where are the biggest challenges for you?
Frank Rudolph: From our point of view, standardizing the printing processes is a challenge for many of our customers. It has to be done though, because it allows packaging manufacturers to produce top-quality products consistently and efficiently. One way to ensure consistency and repeatability is printing using a fixed color palette or the Extended Color Gamut process, something we are demonstrating with our partners in the Competence Center in Bielefeld.
Flexographic printing is facing more and more competition from offset printing, rotogravure printing and digital printing, and is increasingly being compared with these printing processes. This in turn leads to very high quality expectations from customers. That's the biggest challenge in my view. The key to success for all of us is a combination of top-quality machinery and great printing hardware.
That tallies with what printers often tell us. What worries you most about these challenges, and what ideas do you have for new developments and innovations in flexographic printing?
Frank Rudolph: As I've just said, we are facing a number of challenges, but none of them is a major cause of concern. Quite the opposite, in fact. We love to solve our customers’ challenges, with an eye to industry trends and future developments, and we are working on a raft of ideas to do that. We've already implemented some smart development in new products like the VISION CI and the MASTER CI, and we are demonstrating these solutions on the machines in our Competence Center in Bielefeld. But we still have plenty of ideas up our sleeves for the future, too.
That's fascinating to hear. Which machines are installed in your Competence Center at the moment, and what are they printing?
Frank Rudolph: At the moment we have two CI flexo printing presses: one EXPERT CI and one VISION CI. We are also about to install MASTER CI, the brand new addition to our press range. All three machines are mostly printing flexible packaging with water-based, EB or solvent-based inks, depending on what we choose to use.
I see. So you are using three different types of inks. What about the printing speeds for these machines with different inks? What kinds of speeds do you get?
Frank Rudolph: Up to 400 m/min with the VISION CI, up to 600 m/min with the EXPERT CI. The MASTER CI can produce perfect quality printing at up to 800m/min.
Those are high speeds our products are designed for, too. Which INOMETA products do you use for this kind of printing, and what do you think of them?
Frank Rudolph: We are currently using INOflex® INObridge® CP CFRP bridge adapter and INOshaft® CP CFRP air cylinder. We are very pleased with the quality of both. We use your INOlox anilox sleeves and anilox rollers for some machine configurations, too. Our partnership has been very successful for both companies.
We are glad to hear that! We have exactly the same view of our partnership. As far as the pneumatic adapters are concerned, the key thing to know is that we applied all longstanding experience of hydraulic adapters when we developed the pneumatic ones. The design used by INOMETA is based on the bridge principle, which enables force to be applied close to the bearing points to the air cylinder. Moreover, we are one of the few suppliers on the market that can supply this kind of fullycompatible combination of an air cylinder and an adapter.
Let's move on to the new BOBST machine, the MASTER CI. Who made the decision as to which manufacturer's components should be used in the new machine?
Frank Rudolph: Of course, no-one ever makes that kind of decision by themselves. The whole project team was involved, so we took a joint decision on each individual product.
Why did you opt for INOMETA, and what challenges did we help you to meet?
Frank Rudolph: INOMETA's technology suits BOBST equipment very well. Especially when printing high-end graphics, it becomes obvious very quickly that it is a high-performance product that prevents bouncing, even when printing at high speeds and long print runs.
The combination of INOMETA's and BOBST’s technologies delivers high-quality print results that no other combination can match.
Are you planning to fit INOMETA products to more machines?
Frank Rudolph: Definitely! INOMETA is proving an excellent partner for BOBST, and we expect to continue working closely together on new developments and projects.
We are obviously very glad to hear that! We’d like to thank you very much for talking to us today. We are looking forward to working with you in the future and we're just as excited about the challenges we will face and win.