- March 31, 2000, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
A flexo press from Bell-Mark makes a large contribution to Filmex Corporation, a smal specialty tape converter.
If you're talking about being a car, we'd fit in their glove compartment." That's how Ron Abendroth, president of Filmex Corporation, describes his only competitor. His company, whose sole product is polyester identification marking tape, may be small, but it's wiry. But then so are its customers.
Filmex Corp., Warren, RI, is a family-owned converter with just ten employees that produces polyester ID marking tape for the wire and cable industry. (The tape is concealed inside the cable to identify the wire manufacturer, which is required by United Laboratories in case of fire or other problems with the line.) Filmex's only competitor is a conglomerate with $100 million in annual sales. It may be a modern-day matchup of David and Goliath, but in this case, both companies are winners.
"There are only two places they can go," he says of wire and cable manufacturers, "but that's not why they come here. The reason our customers come to us, as opposed to our competitor—and they're a fine company—is because this is all we do. We're specialists. So, in many cases somebody can call me at eight in the morning, and FedEx is taking the package away by two in the afternoon."
Filmex recently increased its production and reduced delivery times with the installation of a custom-engineered Bell-Mark flexographic printer that Abendroth says runs four times faster than its other equipment. The stand-alone printhead can convert 1-mil films as narrow as 3/64 in. at speeds to 800 fpm.
Broadening the Customer Base
Abendroth reports that the new press has not only allowed Filmex to serve existing companies more efficiently, but it also is helping the company attract new customers that require Goliath-sized capabilities. "We have some accounts that take large quantities, millions of feet, and we were having a hard time doing it because we were limited to certain speeds."
The Bell-Mark press typically prints on eight different strands of narrow tape after it has been slit. As difficult as that process might seem, registration fortunately isn't a problem since the type is in a single color, says Abendroth. "The only registration concern would be that you can't have the type half on and half off the tape."
Even printing on such a narrow width is no problem, notes Abendroth with a laugh, "It might be difficult for some, but it's all we do. For us, it's simply guiding it to keep it straight, and once the machine is adjusted, the Bell-Mark holds the line, and it just goes."
The company's six other presses were built in-house, largely because there were no commercially available presses that could print on tape with dimensions no larger than 3/16 in. Abendroth recalls, "I saw an ad for a Bell-Mark press that was printing on strapping for packaging, and I thought, 'Wow, that's similar to what we do.' Anybody else you talk to about a machine like this looks at you like you have two heads. Nobody had seen [wire and cable ID tape], nobody had heard of it, nobody could do it."
He faxed a hand drawing of how he needed a printer to operate to Bell-Mark's Converting Div. manager Jim Accuosti, who assured him the 12-in.-wide Bell-Mark unit could be adapted to print narrow ID tape. Plus, the one-color machine also is ideal for Filmex because it prints the required letters, dots, and dashes on ID tapes in 12 different colors-but only one color at a time.
"It was a great experience working with Bell-Mark," says Abendroth. "They gave me a ship date, and my experience with machine companies is that they are always late. With Bell-Mark, it arrived on the date it was supposed to be shipped, and the equipment has been flawless. It's just been a great situation."
Better Ink Laydown
Abendroth credits the laser-engraved anilox roll and doctor blade system, also from Bell-Mark, as a true money saver. He explains that the anilox roll itself was a "big improvement, since it controls ink flow and laydown better than previous systems. That not only saves money by applying a much thinner layer of ink, but it also allows much greater press speeds." Inks are from Flint Ink.
Says Abendroth. "We had a roll-over-roll system before, and you'd reach a certain point and the ink would fly all over the place. It greatly limited what we could do, but this press doesn't. It's really helped make us more competitive."
And possibly brought it one step closer to defeating Goliath.
Bell-Mark, Pine Brook, NJ; 973/882-0202; bell-mark.com.
Flint Ink Corp., Detroit; MI; 313/538-6800; flintink.com