Edition 40 / December 2014

Gallus ECS 340 – where tube laminate meets efficiency

Virtually no packaging sector in the last few years has grown as strongly as plastic tubes. And, according to experts, this extremely versatile and reliable form of packaging will continue to be popular in the future. Gallus identified this trend early on and certified the third machine system for processing tube laminate – the Gallus ECS 340. While the Gallus RCS is used mainly for high-finish tubes, and the Gallus EM S is used primarily for volume orders, the Gallus ECS 340 now fills the gap in processing simpler tube laminate jobs.

A versatile and reliable form of packaging

Although the plastic tube is relatively rare in the food sector, it is becoming increasingly popular in pharmaceutical, cosmetics and hygiene product packaging as an alternative to solid packaging containers. Thanks to the multilayer structure of tube laminate and a corresponding selection of individual layers, features such as gas- and light-tightness are relatively easy to achieve. Other elements such as ease of application and operation can also be controlled effectively under various conditions. Compared to moulded aluminium or plastic tubes, tube laminate can be printed and finished extremely easily and cost-efficiently and transported in a flat, space-saving form. In the last few years, these positive features have led to enormous expansion in the range of applications for plastic tubes, resulting in a substantial increase in their market share in comparison to alternative packaging forms.

The intelligent web-feed system of the Gallus ECS 340 plays a major role in efficient processing of tube laminate jobs.

Tube laminate processing on a label press

The wide range of applications for plastic tubes has also resulted in a wide range of different tube laminates. A tube laminate consists of up to five different layers that determine the properties of the moulded tube. The layers facing the contents are generally plastic and adapted to the contents. The barrier layer is located in the centre of the sandwich structure and may also be plastic. However, aluminium or ceramic barrier layers are also often used. The outer layer of the tube is adapted to the application and defines the tube’s springback force. A distinction is made here between “bounce-back” and “squeezable” tubes. The application also dictates the tube’s actual wall thickness / the substrate thickness of the tube laminate. The innermost and outermost wall thicknesses are also designed in such a way that the tube can be sealed and connected to the cap. Standard tube laminates are available in thicknesses ranging from 250 to 450 microns.

This application-specific multi-layered structure of the tube laminate brings with it a number of printing challenges, as tube laminate is not optimised for processing on an inline press, unlike standard substrates such as self-adhesive materials and monofoils. The basic principle is that the thicker a tube laminate, the harder it is to print on it with register accuracy. This is because the tube laminate, due to the process used to manufacture it, exhibits relatively large fluctuations in thickness compared to self-adhesive materials. These fluctuations result in the web tension in a press being distributed unevenly within the tube laminate, thus leading to transverse forces in the tube laminate that divert it from the direction of travel.

Physical properties of tube laminate – tension inside the tube laminate leads to lateral web deviation – force is not distributed evenly!

The stretch properties of tube laminate also differ substantially from a self-adhesive material. Unlike self-adhesive substrates, tube laminate deforms with much lower web tensions and thus requires a highly sophisticated web-feed system.

The third major challenge in processing tube laminate is its surface. It, too, is of only limited suitability for printing and finishing and requires special pre-treatment. Particular importance is also attached to the migration of ink components if the innermost layer comes into contact with the outer printed layer when rolling up the laminate.

The Gallus ECS 340 for commodity tubes

The Gallus ECS 340 ensures maximum efficiency at the lowest possible cost for manufacturing commodity labels. As a result of optimising the press for processing tube laminate, these unique properties are now also being used in printing tube laminate for the first time.

The combination of the short web path of just 1.1 metres between two printing units and a special coating of all the path rollers ensures stable transport of tube laminates within the press and thus prevents cross-register problems in printing, without any additional web-edge controls being needed. The resultant extremely short web path cuts waste significantly, which offers a twofold benefit, given the expense of substrates such as tube laminate. However, as well as these structural attributes, the intelligent web-feed system of the Gallus ECS 340 also plays a key role in enabling tube laminate to be processed precisely and with minimal waste. The relevant parameters can be set and stored by the printer quickly and easily on the mobile touchscreen of the Gallus ECS 340. A high-performance corona conditioning system and contact web-cleaning system are available to pre-treat the surface of the tube laminate. Active antistatic units can be used to prevent static charging of the tube laminate. The optional hot-air drying system enables application of water-based primers and migration-free coatings to prevent set-off migration.

All in all, the certified tube kit offers owners of a Gallus ECS 340 a package that allows them to produce tube laminates with maximum efficiency and at the lowest possible cost. If you have any questions about processing tube laminate on Gallus presses, please contact your local Gallus partner or get in touch with us using the contact form.

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