K-1 Packaging Group of City of Industry, CA, is taking business to the next level with the installation of an Esko Kongsberg XL22 digital finishing table and Studio Visualizer software. This latest implementation joins an impressive suite of Esko packaging technology, including the CDI Spark XT, DeskPack software, Nexus workflow, and ArtiosCAD structural design software. K-1 Packaging Group continually looks to Esko for solutions in the packaging arena, because it "is the only supplier in the world that offers true comprehensive integration to packaging design and prepress," says Mike Tsai, President and co-owner, K-1 Packaging Group.
A second-generation family-owned company, K-1 Packaging Group was established in 1993 as a duplicator shop with a single used A.B. Dick one color press. This was the shop's mainstay of production through 1997, when the company's original founders decided to move the business into packaging, following tremors that the Internet was spearheading a migration to a paperless society. While that dire prediction has not yet fully materialized, the shift for K-1 was fortuitous; from its humble beginnings as a small duplicator shop, the company has grown into a successful packaging converting specialist with 88 employees and an annual turnover of $25 million, serving clients in the processed food, cosmetics, nutritional and dietary supplements, and personal care products industries.
Running Mark Andy and Nilpeter flexo presses, two KBA Rapida 105 presses, and an HP Indigo WS6000 digital press, K-1 produces folding and litho laminated cartons, rigid set-up boxes, flexible packaging, and pressure-sensitive labels. It also possesses a complete spectrum of finishing capabilities, including foil stamping, UV coating, embossing, die-cutting, and folding/gluing.
Until 2003, all of K-1's printing presses were purchased second-hand. That year, K-1 purchased its first brand-spanking new KBA Rapida 105. "It was a historical moment for us," says Tsai. "When it was being installed, my father and uncle, K-1's original founders, were quite emotional about it. The press cost over $2 million and years before, they had wondered whether they would see the day before their retirement that the company could afford a new printing press. And there it was, happening in front of their eyes."
From there on in, K-1 has continued to make use of the most advanced technology, particularly from Esko. A CDI flexo plate imager, installed in 2004, gave K-1 chemical-free thermal plate processing, a 50% reduction in total imaging and processing time, and the ability to image finer and more consistent dots, improving the overall print quality of the image as well as press productivity.
"We were one of the first flexographers to move into direct-to-plate," says Tsai. "We wanted the better image quality and improved productivity it offered. Our offset department had already been using CtP for three years, so we were well aware of its benefits in terms of productivity, cost savings and quality improvements. When Esko launched the CDI series it was a no-brainer; it was really just a matter of deciding which size to get."
K-1's involvement with Esko expanded again in 2007, when the packaging specialist installed ArtiosCAD structural design software, replacing the original general purpose CAD software. There is a significant difference, notes Tsai. "ArtiosCAD is developed specifically for packaging; our older software had to rely on packaging plug-ins," explains Tsai. "Now, all the material thickness allowances are considered automatically when a design is being created." Parametric design capabilities within ArtiosCAD also allows K-1's structural designers to quickly re-size and fine tune designs that have been standardized.