Ramón Serra: “Cardboard must be handled carefully throughout the entire printing process to keep all of its qualities intact”.
In an increasingly ever-changing world, customer demands and needs mean implementing the latest technological innovations in order to offer a service that meets customer expectations. Viewed in these terms, SERRA INDUSTRIES, a company that has been dedicated to the machine design and production of corrugated cardboard for over 49 years, has decided to focus on innovation in international digital printing with the aim of leading the packaging industry of the 21 st century.
In recent years, the R&D department at SERRA INDUSTRIES has developed a new easily integrated module concept for handling cardboard before and after the digital printing process. These perfectly compatible modules are able to offer the combined advantages of extensive flexo-printing experience with the quality and versatility of digital printing.
All these R&D efforts have resulted in the Digital Printing Modules, easily integrated units that respond to a superior strategy and provide an end-to-end solution to the digital printing line. Ramón Serra, CEO of SERRA INDUSTRIES, discusses the company’s new “modular” philosophy.
What is your impression of the corrugated cardboard industry today?
The corrugated cardboard industry is experiencing considerable growth, thanks to the boom in recyclable and sustainable packaging. However, the sector needs to incorporate innovations to continue to succeed in an extremely competitive market. To that end, technological advances like digital printing, process digitalization and Industry 4.0 have enormous potential for the sector. The incorporation of digital processes into the production chain allows for more effective manufacturing and enhanced task planning. In addition, digitization makes new ways to communicate with the customer possible.
Are you focusing your efforts on digital printing?
Of course, and without any hesitation. Digital printing is fast making its way into the corrugated cardboard sector. SERRA INDUSTRIES collaborated with Barberán’s first single-pass digital printing line together with Chimigraf in 2013, which earned the Gold Award for
Best Innovation in the Corrugated Paper Sector at the 2013 FEFCO Technical Seminar. Since then, there has been a technological race among different newcomers to our industry including Barberán, EFI, Durst and HP– to develop the best digital printing line on the Market.
What has SERRA INDUSTRIES contributed to this technological race?
Our best contribution has undoubtedly been know-how. We have 40 years of experience in the industry, we have over a thousand installations worldwide, 60 of which are already modules incorporated into several brands of digital printers. Many of our patents are currently used by numerous OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
As I said before, big companies have entered the sector as yet another player in the game, and while they all have extensive expertise in digital printing technology, they’re just starting out in corrugated cardboard, or “new substrate”, as they call it.
What is the most common mistake that people make when choosing a digital printing line?
I wouldn’t call it a mistake, if anything, it’s about a lack of knowledge. That is, I think all the attention is always focused on choosing the right digital printer for each case —and it’s certainly complicated, since the market offers excellent options— however, what people forget is that cardboard must be fed into the printer and stacked post-printing with the same standard of quality expected of the digital printer. A Ferrari can’t reach its maximum potential on bike wheels, everything must be up to par: quality, registration during transport, stacking, etc. Cardboard must be handled carefully throughout the entire printing process to keep all of its qualities intact. It’s not that easy, and if we want to be successful and win the race, we need a powerful engine and tires proportional to the power of the car just to be on the track.
What do you mean when you say that cardboard must be handled carefully?
Cardboard isn’t completely flat, it has dust on its surface, its grooves may not be perfectly symmetrical, the quality of the paper may vary and the cardboard curves slightly after the print dries.
Therefore, it must be treated with extreme care, avoiding rollers and other elements that crush the flute between the paper, and in a digital printing line the cardboard isn’t crushed against a plate, and therefore keeps its qualities intact better.
When it comes to ensuring the highest quality box, these and many other factors can only be taken into account with the right technology. Printing is one of a series of important processes, but it is during the handling of cardboard sheets when the quality of the box is either put at risk or maintained intact. It’s just plain common sense that if we choose a high- quality printer we must ensure that the rest of the modules along the line also meet the same standards. Like I said, a Ferrari on bike wheels is useless.
How do the SERRA INDUSTRIES Customized Modular Units (CMU) help meet these high-quality standards?
As I said, 40 years of experience in the corrugated cardboard sector along with remarkable patented innovations, the result of our R&D, ensure that our integrated modules contain all applicable technological advances and are optimized to guarantee the perfect handling of the corrugated cardboard sheets to keep quality intact.
Overall, I can say that all the modules can be easily integrated into the best digital printers on the market today. Fully integrated, that is, both mechanically and electronically so that the digital printer controls the entire line. The modular concept makes it possible to purchase the entire suite of modules together with the printer or gradually add them later with the same quality commitment and assurance. Having modules from the same manufacturer significantly streamlines maintenance and makes better after-sales service Possible.
When do customers turn to SERRA INDUSTRIES?
There are several scenarios when this happens. End customers come from the OEM of the digital printer or they can contact us directly. Either way, we always work together with the OEM of the digital printer to provide an integrated solution.
It is important to keep in mind that all digital printers come with a feeder and a stacker for bundles and stacks. The end customer also comes to SERRA INDUSTRIES when their expectations aren’t met, either because of a technical matter or factory space issue.
There are also those customers who want to complete the line with other modules that the OEM of the digital printer doesn’t offer, such as a pre-feeder and a turning and stacking Machine.
Are there any real cases that could better illustrate the digital line solutions SERRA INDUSTRIES provides?
I could give you several examples, but perhaps one of the most illustrative is the job we did for a large group in southern Europe. The manager came to SERRA INDUSTRIES after choosing the digital printer that best suited his needs. He had already bought several pieces of equipment from us in the past and knew that he could count on us for complex solutions.
The customer wanted the following modules: pre-feeder, feeder, counter ejector and stacker. The issue was that this set-up is usually 45-meters long, but there was only 3 meters of space available.
After working together with the OEM of the printer module and taking into account that we had to add the feature of turning the sheets before and after printing, we came up with a U- shaped design where the pre-feeder and the counter ejector are at a 90º angle. We also designed a stacker robot to save even more space for the customer.
Could you briefly explain to me what advantages SERRA INDUSTRIES modules have over those of the competition?
Versatility is increased with our pre-feeders, since these prepare any sheet of corrugated cardboard with a minimum distance between each sheet, regardless of whether the printable side is on the top or bottom; it also increases productivity by allowing multiple sheets to be fed. It is important to emphasize that our feeders are the only ones on the market that can feed several sheets at once, since this is a technology patented by SERRA INDUSTRIES. They also ensure the quality of the cardboard while preserving its resistance when integrating the non-crush system technology.
On the other hand, the outputs of the bundle or stack ejectors optimize space; they’re the to decide if he wants the printed side on the top or bottom inside the stack and the robotic solutions optimize factory space. Most compact on the market. With the stackers, the customer gains versatility by being able to decide if he wants the printed side on the top or bottom inside the stack and the robotic solutions optimize factory space.
What other options do customers have for customizing their digital printing line?
The SERRA INDUSTRIES CMU (Customized Modular Units) can be modified, adapted to the needs of the client, and we can even create new modules to satisfy a requirement from a specific client. All our modules have the “mirror” option, which means the customer can choose which side of the line (left or right) they want the touch screens and control panels.
Currently, we are working to provide special solutions to customers, such as a robot preintroducer and line rotary die-cutter.
I understand you have already done several installations. Where are they?
In fact, there are already about 60 modules installed and operating worldwide. Specifically, in Europe, the US and Australia.
How do you provide tech support in places that are so far away?
The entire line has a remote connection system through which we can see the status of the equipment and its performance. Should anything fail, both the OEM of the digital printer and SERRA INDUSTRIES can go solve the problem.