High end ink production

The secret for perfect colors

Rotoflex AG is an important partner of Bühler when it comes to developing new products for grinding and dispersing ink colors. For over 10 years, the Swiss-based company has thoroughly vetted our new technologies, actively contributing to ensuring that MacroMedia, MicroMedia+ and Invicta are fit for the market. Rotoflex is now testing prospective service offers for Bühler. Both sides benefit from the partnership.

  

Chemical containers as far as the eye can see and an intense paint smell in the air. Three chemists mix various ingredients in the open and spacious laboratory as they create ideal ink color mixtures for printing new chocolate packaging and labels for beverage bottles and even banknotes. 

The company, Rotoflex AG, based in Grenchen in the Swiss Canton of Solothurn, specializes in dispersing – mixing – ink colors for food packaging and security printing. Its clients are primarily print shops. The company’s production halls accommodate seven high-energy agitator bead mills. These seemingly inconspicuous bead mills are responsible for almost the entire magic of the production process. Due to consistent grinding and dispersion at micro-scale, the agitator bead mills produce the proper ink color intensity and ensure the consistent quality of the finished product. “Working with Bühler machines opens the door for us to new customers,” says CEO Pascal Diemand. “Technicians will often ask us: ‘So, what kind of bead mills do you use?’ The Bühler brand is like a reference – and we benefit from it.”

Working with Bühler machines opens the door for us with respect to new customers. The Bühler brand is like a reference – and we benefit from it.

Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG

Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG

Bühler, in turn, benefits from the flexibility of SMEs and their willingness to advance developments. Rotoflex is one of the companies with which Bühler collaborates in the area of wet grinding to advance its respective technologies. “We have a very close partnership with Rotoflex, an innovative enterprise that is highly agile,” says Sandro Perone, Business Development Manager at Bühler. “When it comes to new developments, there are always phases where nothing goes as planned. Honest and constructive feedback from the customer and quick decision-making are crucial in moments like these to achieve a breakthrough.” 

 

As was, for example, the case with the development of MacroMedia. In the first test runs in the lab, things looked promising. In real life production circumstances, however, reaching the desired quality was a challenge. Together with Rotoflex, Perone and his team reached a breakthrough and brought MacroMedia to market maturity. “The contribution of our customers should not be underestimated,” explains Perone. “We are very grateful that Rotoflex provides this essential service.” Diemand sees their contribution from a different perspective: “Our employees are highly committed. It is exciting and fulfilling for them to participate in new developments.” 

Efficiency is the top priority

For Rotoflex, efficiency is the top priority for all new developments. “Operating in the packaging industry means working in a fiercely competitive market with tight margins, which is why we can only be successful by ensuring maximum efficiency,” explains Diemand. Rotoflex strives to make its processes even more efficient. For example, it uses the digital customer portal myBühler to ensure quick and hassle-free ordering of spare parts. Many of Rotoflex’s machines are also connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) via Bühler Insights.

Rotoflex is currently testing other possible IoT services with Bühler that could be of interest to other customers. “Our production manager can monitor the systems 24 hours a day with the help of the IoT and can track the behavior of the machines for each batch produced. Using graphs and data, we can compare and optimize operations,” explains Diemand.

The Smart Dashboard is especially useful for his employees. “Up until now, the machine operator had to remain and wait on-site for many hours during the night shift until the batch was fully processed. Employees can now simply go home during processing. If there is a problem, an alarm is triggered, and the on-call service can intervene if necessary.”

Operating in the packaging industry means working in a fiercely competitive market with tight margins, which is why we can only be successful by ensuring maximum efficiency.

Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG

   

    

Rotoflex AG is a leading provider of specialty ink colors and varnishes for the package and security printing industry. The medium- sized enterprise has been in business for over 40 years and is characterized by a high degree of flexibility and the ability to react to particular client demands. Rotoflex has been part of the Daetwyler Group since 2017. The Daetwyler Group is a family-owned, longstanding corporation from Switzerland with 10 sites and over 500 employees worldwide. Rotoflex exports about 75 percent of its products and exclusively works with bead mills by Bühler for its core process of wet grinding.

    

New markets as a new opportunity

“Rotoflex is an incredibly flexible and client-oriented small-scale company,” says Perone. So much so that Rotoflex even makes individual formulations for each client, according to Diemand. This is necessary, he says, because the climate in Italy, for example, is different from that in Russia, resulting in a different viscosity. “Only by taking the individual parameters into account can you achieve perfect print quality,” explains Diemand. And yet, the last few years have not been easy for the company. After its largest customer fell away in 2017, the company was no longer profitable from one day to the next. Diemand was brought on board in 2019 with the requirement to move the company away from traditional business to more innovative niche business and to secure Switzerland as a production location in the long term. A lot of positive change has happened since then.

 

Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG and Sandro Perone, Business Development Manager at Bühler, appreciate their longstanding partnership and look forward to new and exciting development projects. Pascal Diemand, CEO Rotoflex AG and Sandro Perone, Business Development Manager at Bühler, appreciate their longstanding partnership and look forward to new and exciting development projects.

“By getting into security printing, we have been able to build a second foothold that is ideally suited to our strengths – very small volumes for specific applications in top quality,” explains Diemand. Rotoflex has also put out feelers into new markets such as Africa and Asia. “In this regard, we are benefiting enormously from the good network that Bühler has around the world.” During the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic when customer visits were simply not possible, Rotoflex sought opportunities in the crisis and used the time to optimize its processes and focus even more on research and development opportunities. “We have made huge progress and are coming out of the crisis stronger than we went in,” explains Diemand. “We’ve been able to expand our European business a lot.” Currently, like many others, the company is challenged by raw material shortages in the procurement market. “We are using our full flexibility so that our customers don’t have to feel any of this.”

The classic packaging market is a competitive market in which smaller companies are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the bigger players. With innovative solutions, for example packaging reduction, Rotoflex nevertheless intends to hold its own in the future. “We have a laboratory that is almost oversized for the size of our company, allowing us to push ahead with the development of sustainable solutions that are of interest to the industry,” says Diemand. 

Rotoflex is working on a barrier coating that doesn’t allow liquid or oxygen in. Such barrier coatings could replace today’s triple-film laminates, which include an aluminum layer in the middle, reducing waste and enabling recycling. It is also working on an antimicrobial barrier coating designed to render viruses harmless, but the difficulty is to develop a product that can come into contact with food. Given Rotoflex’s agility and drive for innovation, it should come as no surprise if they achieve a breakthrough in this area as well.

 

Due to consistent grinding and dispersion at micro-scale, the agitator bead mills produce the proper ink color intensity and ensure the consistent quality of the finished product. Due to consistent grinding and dispersion at micro-scale, the agitator bead mills produce the proper ink color intensity and ensure the consistent quality of the finished product.
Rotoflex is constantly researching new innovations to find the ideal color mix for printing new packaging. It is moving away from the more traditional inks business to niche markets to gain a competitive edge. Rotoflex is constantly researching new innovations to find the ideal color mix for printing new packaging. It is moving away from the more traditional inks business to niche markets to gain a competitive edge.
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