- May 01, 2002, Stanley Sacharow, Contributing Editor
Located in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (pop. 430,000) Mipa S.A. is the only flex-pack converter in the entire nation. Its plant is comfortably nestled in the southwest corner of Luxembourg, aptly called “the corner of the three lands,” i.e., one km from both the borders of Belgium and France.
It is an integral part of the privately owned Mipa Group ($55 million) with both headquarters and an additional factory in Pesaro, Italy. The group also includes Met-Lux (Luxembourg), which was established in 1997 and is the leading metallizer for packaging uses in the Benelux countries. A separate company within the group called OPI-Lux handles all the required artwork and prepress.
The Luxembourg site is home to all three separate companies: Mipa, Met-Lux, and OPI-Lux.
Choosing Gravure for Performance
David Haskins, the British-born general sales and marketing director, told PFFC during an exclusive visit, “We selected Luxembourg as the location of our second manufacturing plant because of its splendid neutral location and excellent environmental standards.” Established as a greenfield facility in 1999, Mipa was preceded by Met-Lux in 1997.
Specializing in rotogravure technology, Mipa controls the entire gravure printing process internally. Haskins explains, “While many other companies serve the flexible packaging market, we're focused on gravure because of its high performance standards and ability to print tight designs. We're trying to deliver new aspects of packaging ideas and capabilities at a very high level and market them in a cost-effective way.”
The facility is well designed, spotless, and nicely organized. It includes two Schiavi Pulsar S gravure presses. Both are ten-station models installed in 1998/1999, and each has a web width of 1.2 m and running speeds to 300 mpm. The presses are capable of applying gloss coatings and cold seal and provide excellent register control, Haskins reports.
He adds, “The trend in gravure is toward shorter and shorter runs. The average print run per design has decreased during the last decade, leading to fast, accurate printing and rapid turnover. Because of the requirements of multi-lingual labels and different designs, our presses must be able to handle small jobs without significant start-up loss.”
According to Haskins, Mipa accomplishes these goals by utilizing the efficient automatic register control and an effective computerized registration control setup (Autotron 1600). This system, integrated with motorized bars for mounting the scanning heads and the use of PressTech controls, allows the firm to closely monitor overall print quality using materials as diverse as film, paper, and foil.
There is a new Schiavi press on order, reflecting “new-generation” technology, and Mipa has plans to handle the entire customer order through the Internet, including “color management.” Laminations are accomplished in the company's Italian facility, which houses five laminators — solvent and solventless, duplex and triplex.
An example of Mipa technology is reflected in the Ferrero Rocher overwrap produced for Ferrero S.p.A. Using ExxonMobil acrylic-coated oriented polypropylene, the film is reverse-printed in register, metallized, and then demetallized in register with a design. The latter step is accomplished with an aqueous solution (patent pending).
While the process for producing Pokemon Chupa Chips normally utilizes eight gravure cylinders, Mipa has reduced this to one set of cylinders, yielding both time and cost advantages.
Additional high-end customers include U.B., Danone Group, Nestlé, and Bahlsen. About 35% of Mipa's production (Luxembourg and Italy) is marketed in Italy, 48% to Western Europe, and 17% export. More than 15% of Luxembourg's production is cold-seal, mainly for Ferrero's Linder Bueno wrap. The firm is also one of the largest exporters of flexible packaging to the Russian Federation.
A new and exciting development for the French-based Danone Group is Actimel, a health-based liquid yogurt drink containing L. Casei Imunitass culture; Mipa is the sole supplier for Danone for the printed shrink label. Using ExxonMobil's ROSSO film, the material is printed in register on eight stations and applied on the unit-of-use plastic bottle with high-speed machines. The application is growing in volume rapidly in Europe, and Mipa plans to utilize various digital printing concepts in future runs.
Serving “New Europe”
Met-Lux S.A. operates three Leybold metallizers from 1,600 — 2,480 mm, producing 1,400 tons annually, mostly utilizing OPP and PET films. The major supplier of OPP films is ExxonMobil, whose headquarters is located just a short distance from the Luxembourg plant.
OPI-Lux, the groups' in-house prepress company, operates two Gravostar cylinder engraving systems from Daetwyler that have been in production since 1999. All cylinders are chromed on a fully automatic line prior to printing.
As a true specialist in the gravure printing area, Mipa S.A. offers superbly printed, short-run material delivered to meet all customer demands. Meeting the requirements of the “new Europe” is the company's strong point, and by aiming its market niche toward producing high-end, gravure-printed short runs, it has achieved great success in only a few years.
About Luxembourg: Big Blessings
A constitutional monarchy presided over by Grand Duke Henri, Luxembourg is a role model of respectability and a respected member of the EU.
The nation, which enjoys a prosperity nations many times larger aspire toward and envy, is slightly smaller than Rhode Island and about as big as metropolitan London.
Luxembourg may not be as big a tourist draw as its superpower neighbors, but its charms are nonetheless unique and its people proud of their heritage and their homeland. In the capital city, Luxembourg City, is inscribed the nation's motto: “We want to remain what we are.”
And so it should — a nation blessed with prosperity, quality of life, and a magnificent blend of farming and high tech — and only one flex-pack converter!
Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. He is also the author of PFFC<'s “Package Converting” column. Contact him at 732/636-0885; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schiavi SpA (a member of the Bobst Group of cos.), Piacenza, Italy; +39 (0) 523 493 1; bobstgroup.com
PressTech Controls Ltd., Herts, U.K.; +44 (0)1442-236-655;presstech.com
Mobil Chemical Films Europe Inc., Luxembourg; +352-45-102-2412;exxonmobil.com
Leybold Systems GmbH, Hanau, Germany; +49-6181-34-1127
Max Daetwyler Corp., Huntersville, NC; 704/875-1200; 800/627-1011; daetwyler.com