Sterling Print House in Kochi Adds Robus Automated Converting Equipment

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Venugopal Nair, Sterling Print House, Kochi

When I spoke on the phone with Venugopal Nair a few weeks ago, he almost apologized for entering a package that he doesn’t yet find as fascinating as commercial print. He says there are two types of people – romantics and rationalists and that he, being a romantic, loved and loved being a commercial printer in Kerala – a place of kindness and good medicine and not just literacy, but where citizens buy and read books.

Born and raised in Mumbai, he created a nice job there and went to Kerala for thirty-five years to start a printing business in Kochi. He has found success and joy in commercial printing and during our brief conversation on the phone he said that since becoming a packaging printer he misses seeing the smile of an author or company. a publisher receiving the first copy of a well-printed and bound book.

Although commercial printing has been and is under threat everywhere, according to Nair, in Kerala it was expected to continue for quite a while – perhaps another ten to fifteen years of printing. directories, magazines and books. However, Sterling, which had several sheet-fed offset presses, a rotary offset press and complete folding, finishing and binding equipment, including a perfect PUR binder for commercial printing, decided several years ago that it was time to start producing both single fluted cardboard boxes. He added an automatic platen die-cutter from Autoprint and began to expand his packaging business.

Coating press Sterling RMG 920 5 colors plus installed in 2018
Coating press Sterling RMG 920 5 colors plus installed in 2018

Nair seems to have decided that his fourth RMGT press, a 5-color sheetfed press with a 92cm coater installed in October 2018 would be a good workhorse for printing unibody and lithographed cardboard packaging. A full load press with straight 5 color printing and convertible perfector, it features a Heber and Schroder coater for water and UV coating, IR blade dryer with hot air. A multi-wave LED curing system capable of curing conventional UV inks was also installed in the extended delivery after press installation. The press has automated cleaning and adjustment systems and a modern console with a large screen receiving live images from three cameras and a spectro reader for quality control of the printed sheets. Processing paper and cardboard up to 0.6mm with a maximum sheet size of 920 x 640mm, this is a good press for a commercial printer looking to learn more about packaging.

Less than five months after the installation of the new press, the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. Nair says that in his opinion, the good literate people of Kerala, with the most comprehensive public health system in the country, have simply overreacted to the Covid-19 protocols. Of course, the sudden containment was out of the hands of the citizens but when it happened there were no more directories and functions, no more magazines and bookstores had to close. This prompted him to consolidate the packaging business more quickly and take advantage of the production of the new press by looking to add automated converting equipment.

The Chinese-made cutter installed at Sterling Print House incorporates several automation functions designed by Robus Engineers.  Sterling photo printing house
The Chinese-built die cutter installed at Sterling Print House incorporates several automation functions designed by Robus Engineers. Sterling photo printing house

Nair received a visit from Prem Vishwanathan from Robus Engineers who explained at length the MHC 1060 automatic cutter and Advance folder-gluer which are both produced in China but with automation functions designed by Robus. At first, Nair wanted to see the machines in action, but after several hours of explanation and discussion, he decided at the first meeting himself to purchase the 7,000-sheet-per-hour cutter with a maximum size of 1050 x 750 mm and the Advance-glue folder. Both were installed during the first half of January 2021 and, according to Nair, are working as expected. Impressed with the performance of these machines, he ordered and installed a Robus 3-ply corrugator and laminator for laminated boards. Apparently, the converting equipment worked well and transformed the company into a productive and competitive carton printer in the region.

We asked Nair about Sterling’s packaging transformation learning curve, and how the company got hold of the new equipment so quickly. He says that due to the pandemic while some employees have returned to their towns and villages, on the other hand, many skilled packing resources have been repatriated from the Middle East to Kerala. “We quickly realized that commercial printing and packaging had nothing in common,” he says. But we were very successful because we recruited the right, highly skilled people and available return people for our automatic platen cutter, folder gluer and laminator.

The folder-gluer installed at Sterling Print House
The folder-gluer installed at Sterling Print House

Some of us are dazzled by the intricacies of the keyhole bottoms, window patches, and the brand’s colors, while others clearly aren’t. Venugopal finds rectangular boxes boring and they are (other major carton makers have also confessed to the lack of challenging designs) and there is a need for more interesting cartons and shapes. There is also a need for more attractive packaging buyers – perhaps those who want to push the boundaries of sustainability or active or connected packaging – and who are more excited about their product and its transformative outcome than just delivery. containers on time.

Clearly, commercial printers who moved into packaging before the pandemic are in a much better position than those who have seen their life’s work suddenly come to a halt in lockdowns and the protracted pandemic. Those who saw the writing on the wall earlier and started committing resources and setting up certain parts like a larger multi-color press with a coater or automated converting equipment have a head start and can now be more decisive in their investments.

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