News item: FFEI receives second Queen’s Award for innovation Thu 21st April 2011
Innovative manufacturing sees company take market lead in CTP for emerging markets
April 21st 2011 – FFEI announces that it has received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category for the development of an internal drum Computer-to-plate (CTP) solution specifically targeted at the requirements of commercial printing in emerging markets.
“We are delighted to receive the Queen’s Award for this British innovation which has achieved success in price-sensitive markets against stiff international and domestic competition,” says Andy Cook, FFEI managing director. “The number of CTP units now selling into emerging markets far exceeds our initial expectations. For example, our technology has been market leader in India for the last eighteen months with over 150 FFEI CTP installations. We are very proud of our achievements and, of course, this latest Award that recognises them.
To be a success in emerging markets, FFEI needed a CTP solution which had all the attributes of its longstanding product range - high image quality, fast plate production, simple and automated operation - but lower investment cost. The barrier to the latter was the production technique used for the heart of the of the CTP engine, the internal drum.
Traditionally drums were made of aluminium, which needed casting, ageing and machining. With the price of raw materials soaring, it was difficult to see how this key part of the system could be cost reduced enough to make a dramatic impact on product cost.
Investing around £1 million in research, ongoing development and tooling, FFEI now moulds its internal drums using a Zanite polymer composite. This is a specially formulated, high strength epoxy resin mixed with selected ceramic additives to give accuracy and ease of use when casting intricate structures. It
has excellent thermal and mechanical stability along with a dramatically lower carbon footprint.
“Zanite castings are manufactured to extremely tight tolerances and the resulting parts outperform those made using traditional materials such as steel and aluminium,” comments Bob Wilson, director of innovation at FFEI. “We started making just the smaller drums in Zanite but quickly extended this to other castings for our new range of CTP engines for emerging markets. In fact, the project was so successful that we not only improved the value proposition of FFEI CTP for the target markets but now use Zanite extensively in our other products.”
Zanite technology is just one of the many ways that FFEI is responding to market needs for higher-value products across all of its markets, including labels, decorative printing, CTP, workflow and life sciences. “Our company culture is built on innovation,” claims Cook. “But our innovation is directed just as much at our internal processes as delivering game-changing technologies. This philosophy has definitely contributed to our ten percent growth record year on year, even against the backdrop of a World recession.”
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