The fine print
Richard Piper visits Jørgen Windelev, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to find out how this innovative firm can offer near photo-quality finishes on metal substrates.
Printing technology for the can making industry has come on leaps and bounds over the years as we all know, but what allows these advances to happen? One element is the ink itself, but the plates have an awful lot to do with things too. Plate technology has evolved considerably and one company who considers itself to be at the very leading edge is Jørgen Windelev A/S.
Jørgen Windelev started as an apprentice in Lithographics, specialising in producing flexo-plates for the Flexo Graphic industry. Shortly after getting his qualification, he founded the company. He has now been in the business for the past 55 years, and is still the sole owner of the company.
The managing director, Flemming Olesen, has himself been in different part of the printing industry for the past 35 years, and has a background in management studies at The Danish School of Media and Journalism, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration – studied at the Business University of Denmark (CBS).
“As mentioned, the business started with servicing the packaging Industry with flexo printing plates,” says Flemming. “Approximately 25 years ago, Jørgen got to know about the Dry-Offset technology for printing plastic containers, and he and the company invented a new technology where a special screening was invented. The idea was to solve the problem with contamination at the decorator, and it was a big success.
Together with the machine manufacturer Polytype in Switzerland, the new technology was refined and after a few years it was widely recognised that Windelev are the world’s best in creating high quality when it comes to offset technology.”
Around 15 years ago, Windelev came into contact with Rexam and presented the new technology to the management at the plant in Malmø. They were immediately very excited about the perspectives and possibilities of this new technology, which apparently allowed a quality never seen before.
The next 2-3 years that followed saw the technology adapted for printing two-piece cans and especially decorating aluminium instead of white plastic.
“The first pictures were produced in Rexam Malmø, using Windelev’s technology and it was at a stunningly quality when it comes to metal decorating in two-piece,” Flemming comments.
After this partnership was formed, the next two years were spent producing some commercial artwork at the Rexam Malmø plant, and in 2005 the quality was recognised in the Rexam Headquarters in England. The technology was presented and from that time onward it gathered momentum, with commercial contacts with many of the Rexam factories worldwide.
“Since then, we have many other can producers as customer in our house, and we are producing the highest picture-realistic quality artwork, colour separations and DLE laser engraved plates for all three of the big can manufacturers.”
Windelev’s vision as a company is to continue to develop and service the dry-offset industry worldwide.
Its mission, according to Flemming, is to seek partnerships with the most innovative customers and to
define, challenge and find solutions for any difficulty, and to reach the highest quality in Dry-Offset prepress and printing plate manufacturing.
“Windelev will employ and educate the best and most competent people in colour-separations, prepress and plate manufacturing. We will challenge them to be curious, innovative, solution orientated and wanting to be number one,” says Flemming.
Training of staff is very complex, as the processes involved in creating such high quality images are complicated to say the least. I sat down with Anders Aistrup, a graphics consultant for dry offset at the company, to find out a little more.
Anders clearly has the expertise required, but to explain the process to me in layman’s terms was perhaps more of a challenge than his daily responsibilities. As I understand it though, the images are created to be flat, therefore avoiding the need to print over the top of any other colours. A series of dots are created, and then a number of dots are removed where they are not necessary or do not add anything to the finished image. The colours are built up in this way and the plates are then laser etched at different heights. This means that a saving can be made in the amount of ink used to create the finished image, which to a certain extent offsets the cost of the process itself to the customer.
So how is this different from the way in which competitors operate? Flemming says that it’s difficult to describe.
“I am not completely knowledgeable on what other companies are doing, since we are in the situation that we do not have competitors seen from a quality point of view. But what we are doing is as stated in our vision and mission – always seeking to reach the highest possible quality. We know quite a lot about many of the other processes in producing two-piece cans like for example the decorator, the printing process etc.
We have for many years been working in very close cooperation with Polytype and other printing machine manufacturers in the dry offset industry for plastic, which is using the same decorating technique as two-piece cans.
“This cooperation has led us to invent our own screening technology – we call it Plate Merger – which has solved the problem with colour contamination and varying quality during the decorating process. At the same time our screening technology saves between 10-25 per cent inks compared to the screening technology most other companies are using.
“Another result is our DLE Direct Laser Engraving. We were the first in the world to use that technology to produce printing plates for dry offset and we have now approximately 15 years of experience. We solved the problem at the decorator with damaged high-light areas in the decorating process, and made it possible to reach an extreme picture realistic high quality in dry offset. Our particular laser technique and our experience makes it possible to decorate two-piece cans with fine gradations, fine details and without problems to print all the nice high-light areas in pictures.”
In terms of challenges faced by the company, they are twofold. The first is from a technical point of view, to transfer the technique and quality to the CTP technology, which is also a laser engraving technology, but does not have the advantages in DLE engraving to engrave the dots at different heights. “We are looking into different solutions with creating our pre-press and colour separations in another way to transfer the technical solution we already have in DLE into a design and colour separation solution,” says Flemming.
The second is being able to educate more employees quickly. “We are currently 25 employees, and would like to employ five or six more. Since everything we do is invented in our own company, like software, technology and technique, there is a large amount of knowledge in doing what we do. Even though we entirely employ the very best from the industry, they do not know anything of what we do, and the learning period lasts around six months before the first jobs can be produced and about one year before the experience and competencies have become a natural part of everyday working life.”
Flemming tells me that the company’s greatest achievement so far is that Windelev has been broadly recognised worldwide as the company producing outstanding quality in colour separations and printing plates for the dry offset industry.
“Our products are used in different industries like two-piece can decoration, plastic and aluminium tube decoration, plastic cup and container decoration and plastic pail decoration. And of course, seen from a business point of view we are very proud of having customers in 55 countries worldwide. Companies of our size do not usually work worldwide and we see it as testament to our quality.”
Having spent a day at the company it seems to me that Windelev has a bright future, and that during its time working with metal decoration it has entrenched its position. Flemming believes the company is the best at what it does, concluding: “We base our assumption on the fact that we regularly get new customers from all over the world, and also have many requests and inquiries from customers in the two-piece can industry worldwide.”