Barthel GmbH in Essen/Germany is installing two MPS flexo printing machines

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Barthel GmbH in the middle of the Ruhr district is a member of the ever growing Barthel Group.

Investment in tried-and-tested machine designs

The company is regularly adding to its business sites and is constantly on the lookout for new label printing companies which it can take over. In its production processes which make use of conventional printing methods, Barthel mainly relies on flexo printing machines from MPS Systems B.V. A total of 12 systems from the Dutch manufacturer are currently installed at two different sites. They include two new additions, an EF 330 model with nine colour units and an EC 330 with four colour units.

Barthel was founded in 1984 and initially concentrated on the retail food sector. For this reason, only thermolabels, which are e.g. used on food scales in supermarkets, were originally produced. After positioning itself successfully in the market, the enterprise installed UV letterpress printing machines to produce decorative labels for the food sector. At the end of the year 2000, all printing systems were replaced with UV flexo printing machines. The enterprise also invested in the first of its now six Nilpeter UV offset printing machines.

In the year 2005, Barthel Digitalprint GmbH was founded and an HP indigo digital printing machine was installed. Because of the growing need for small quantities of good quality labels, the subsidiary company constantly had to increase its capacity in order to cope with incoming orders. As a result, Barthel Digitalprint now has five HP indigo machines.

The printing enterprise was able to achieve further growth by taking over the Dutch label printing company Kienlabel b.v. in Utrecht. Immediately after incorporation, the small company was completely reorganised. This involved changing the production from letterpress to flexo printing. Only three years later, the branch also moved from its original location to Venlo/NL about 150 km away and not all that far from the German border. Other plans include starting work on the expansion the company’s buildings in the course of this year with a view to increasing the capacity of the whole of Barthel GmbH still further. 22 employees currently work at this site.

Etipro GmbH & Co KG in Essen was also taken over. Here the printing enterprise produces blank labels and distributes thermal transfer ribbon, printers and similar products. Barthel has a total of 190 employees who were able to generate a turnover of 50 million euros last year.

Small dot gain and sharply focused printing

The enterprise is managed by Mischa Barthel and Jules Simons. Both managing directors have committed themselves to production using UV flexo printing machines from MPS. As a result, the printing enterprise has already installed 16 MPS systems in the course of its history (a seventeenth machine is to follow soon). Some of the machines have been sold over the years and have been replaced with more up-to-date models, so that the German site currently has more than ten MPS machines (the Dutch site has two MPS machines). The two most recent models are an EF with nine colour units, which was installed at the end of 2012, and an EC with four colour units, which was brought into operation in June 2013. Another EC with eight colour units, whose production is to be finalised in August 2012, has already been ordered. The two new machines have a printing width of 330 mm and are able to reach a maximum production speed of 200 m/min.

Barthel Gmbh In Essen Germany Is Installing Two MPS Flexo Printing Machines

Numerous functions which facilitate the rapid set-up and problem-free production of good quality labels have been incorporated into the machines. These include e.g. multi-axis servo drive technology. This transports the material web independently of the printing and processing stations, which means that a constant web speed and tension is able to be achieved. The Crisp.Dot technology makes it possible to achieve a small dot gain as well as the sharply focused printing of small writing by means of a non-driven rubber-coated impression roller. Web tension rollers are driven instead of this. The result is a tension-free zone between the printing and impression roller, which has a positive effect on the life of the printing plates as well as on the print properties.

The initial set-up and repeat set-up times are made shorter by means of automated process control (APC). The print settings for a first order are loaded from the calibration database of the machine, while the job storage function is available for repeat orders. As a result, an order is set up within a short period of time with the use of few materials. An MBS 6 UV curing system from IST Metz is connected in series to each printing machine. For the curing of the printed colours, the latter require a lamp output of only 120 W/cm, which the manufacturer has been able to achieve by optimising individual components such as reflectors, UV lamps and electronic components. This helps Barthel to save energy costs.

Printing machines relieved

While the newly installed nine-colour EF 330 replaces an older eight-colour model, the four-colour EC 330 is to relieve the other flexo printing machines. For example, Barthel produces a large number of labels for small coloured and lacquered boxes, which are again ordered by customers in a variety of different colours. As it is mostly a matter of small quantities of two-colour orders for which the equipment has to be set up again quickly, the use of a printing machine with a lower hourly rate of production and a smaller number of colour units is recommended. “Formerly, these orders were produced on our various MPS machines, which had six to nine colour units. Now, these jobs are all printed on the EC 330. However, we can produce even more elaborate labels with a large number of colours on this machine because of the four colour units.

Low maintenance

As a result of many years of co-operation, a close partnership has developed between both companies and the large number of MPS printing machines which have been installed at Barthel shows that the printing enterprise is convinced of the value of these machines.” In our experience, MPS printing machines lose relatively little value during the first five to seven years and so constitute a sound investment,” explains Jules Simons. “We also value the high print quality and the short set-up times, which result from numerous integrated and innovative technologies such as Crisp.Dot and APC.”

And Mischa Barthel adds: “We also value the proximity of the customer base and the excellent service which MPS provides. Both our main business site in Essen and the Kienlabel branch in Venlo are only about one hour away from MPS in Didam/NL. As a result, the printing machine manufacturer is able to respond and provide help very quickly if there are ever any problems.” And Mischa Barthel continues: “Fortunately, the printing machines hardly require any maintenance, so these services are hardly ever required. However, we have always felt as though we have received good support and advice since the installation of the first MPS printing machine.”

It is also important to both managing directors that they are able to deploy their employees flexibly on the different machines. “If one machine operator is not available, it is not difficult to find another employee to stand in for him, as the majority of our machines come from MPS and are operated in the same way,” says Mischa Barthel.

Ready to make further investments

Barthel is also able to serve its customers at short notice. If an urgent order is received by 4 pm, the printing enterprise is able to supply the ordered labels by 11 am the following day. However, material is ordered for each separate order and is first delivered to an intermediate store before it arrives at the printing machine. The machinery is then already set up for orders which are required at short notice before the printing materials are made available at the printing machine. The packaging and final inspection then take place the following day.

Despite the heavy workload, this is possible as the printing enterprise is engaged in production over 3 shifts on seven days a week. The company’s buildings are currently being expanded and new buildings are being erected in order to create the capacity which is required in order to be able to cope with the increasing orders. Mischa Barthel and Jules Simons are also always on the lookout for label printing enterprises which might be suitable for a takeover. However, they are very discerning in their choice; as Mischa Barthel says: “The enterprise structures have to be suitable and have to be compatible with our structures; only then would we consider a takeover.”

Holger Knöll