Kirk Group automates flexo plate production with Catena+

Over the five decades since its inception in 1972 when Graeme Kirk first set up his business to produce gravure cylinders, Kirk Group has grown to leading plate maker in Australia. The company is today the largest supplier of artwork services and image carrier solutions across Australia and New Zealand, counting global brands and major printing companies as its customers.

Headquartered in Minto, in Sydney, Kirk Group also has manufacturing sites in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Auckland, with a total of 120 staff, along with sales offices in Christchurch, and more recently in Mumbai, India. As Managing Director, Graeme is still very much involved in the business. General Manager John Kapiniaris joined in 2015, bringing with him a strong background in packaging and an entrepreneurial drive to innovate. He says, “We work with leading brands and printers across ANZ and into Asia, offering a proven systematic approach to print management. We launched the Flite On-demand e-commerce platform to automate daily tasks, boost productivity and help our customers win the race to shelf.”

Left to right: Robert Selvaggio (Kirk Group) & Yves Vanryckeghem (XSYS).

To support this type of innovation, Kirk Group decided to implement a fully automatic platemaking line from XSYS, consisting of a ThermoFlexX imager combined with a Catena-E LED exposure unit, a Catena-WDLS washer, dryer and light-finisher and a Catena-R for rotating the plates between the exposure and wash-out units. This modular system, known as Catena+, is an end-to-end automated solution that removes operator intervention and greatly reduces waste. It became commercially available in October 2020 and Kirk Group is among the first companies to leverage the benefits.

The purchase was partly carried out through the XSYS partnership with local distributor GMS Pacific, which facilitated the ThermoFlexX component of the system. This highly automated imager is completely plate agnostic and excels by the excellence of its optical system. When integrated with the Catena modules, platemaking is fully automated, with each part fully enclosed creating its own controlled environment. At the start, the plate is simply placed on the tray of the ThermoFlexX unit and will then automatically travel through imaging, exposure, washing, drying and final light exposure, before being stacked ready at the end.

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