Böttcher India’s new plant in Faridabad

From offset to flexo and gravure

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Sandeep Saini, country manager of Böttcher India. Photo IPP
Sandeep Saini, country manager of Böttcher India. Photo IPP

The 300-year-old Böttcher has been doing business in India since 2005. Initially a trading company in the country, it imported rollers and blankets from Germany. In 2012, it started a chemistry blending plant for offset fountain solutions. In 2014, as a part of its Make in India initiative, it began rubber roller production locally. A 100% subsidiary of Böttcher Germany, Böttcher India’s factory comprises a trained workforce, with skill sets, engineers and a management team of its own.

“We are OEM suppliers. If one has a new machine coming in from Germany, be it a Heidelberg, a manroland or a KBA, it comes with our rollers. This reflects the bond between Böttcher and various machine manufacturers,” says Sandeep Saini, country manager of Böttcher India. Böttcher also helps various companies including German and Japanese in doing R&D on its machines. It has an expertise in rubber and hence makes special rubber compounds, known as OEM compounds, according to the requirements of the machine manufacturers.

According to Saini, the special advantage with Böttcher is that the company is allowed to release its OEM compounds for secondary sales. Once a machine has completed three years, the rollers need to be replaced. It imports the rubber used in these rollers from Germany, which helps in developing the same OEM compound with unchanged composition that was initially installed in the machine when it was manufactured. “From the end user point of view, he gets the same experience which came with the new rollers during his purchase of the machine,” says Saini.

Böttcher India’s roller servicing programs

As a part of its services, Böttcher India offers an Exchange Roller Program whereby the owner of a machine has the flexibility to return worn out rollers to Böttcher India after replacing them with new ones. This measure is usually taken to avoid the old rollers to remain with the customer and avoid their usage by re-rubberizing. The used rollers that come back to Böttcher India’s unit are usually discarded and sent to scrap.

Under its Recovery Program (which usually is termed as re-rubberization by the Indian roller manufacturers), Böttcher provides end users with the the rubber compound only. The printer uses its own in-house coatings, bearings and all the other accessories with the help of its own engineering team. In other offerings, Böttcher provides two sets of rollers including a spare set.

“If you talk about our vertical for producing rubber blankets, we provide blankets for the packaging industry and conventional printing. While some among these are dedicated for UV printing, others are mixed mold blankets. These are high performance blankets because in packaging we know that the quality of board may not be consistent. The uneven surfaces can actually cause a crash in the printing unit. The blanket must sustain the uneven surface, else it needs to be replaced,” Saini adds.

IPA in pressroom

According to Saini, Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) is used in fountain solutions for offset printing because it has a positive effect on the printing process. Usually, IPA is added to the fountain solution to reduce the surface tension and increase the viscosity resulting in a thinner, more stable dampening solution film. However, IPA has a number of disadvantages including its poisonous fumes that can potentially damage the brain, liver and kidney.

Böttcher has some special formulations and concentrates that reduce the use of IPA, or in some cases can completely eliminate its use. Böttcher is aggressively marketing the product and is educating the market by explaining the benefits that come along with its somewhat higher price.

Credit facility for customers

For its rollers business, Böttcher provides credit based on the company’s experience with its customers. For its chemical business through its leadership network, the company has separate contracts with its dealers through which the dealers appointed by Böttcher finance the end customers.

Böttcher’s business expansion in India

Böttcher India has expanded virtually year-on-year. Its Faridabad unit was earlier its central warehouse with the sales office in Gurugram. However, ever since the company started manufacturing back in 2012, it acquired more space in Faridabad and transformed the unit from a warehouse to manufacturing.

As it grew, there was a need to centralize production and sales in Faridabad. The newly established Faridabad sales unit began its operations in February 2019. With a capacity of manufacturing 50,000 rollers a month, Böttcher India is open to increasing its production capacity in the near future particularly for the fast growing packaging segment.

Solutions for gravure, flexo and offset

In end-2018, Böttcher India made a beginning with impression rollers for gravure presses and also began offering sleeves for the flexo market. With just six months’ experience of these product groups, the company expects huge growth.

In the sheetfed offset segments, the OEMs use mostly rubber rollers. “I can say that German machines always come with rubber. I have seen polyurethane only coming in from Japan. Most of the machines incorporating Japanese technology can accommodate polyurethane better. Predominantly, ink needs to be transferred to the substrate. The ink water balance has to be perfect. The sheetfed industry is always talking about dot gains, specifications of the dot, precision of dot and the substrate used for transfer of ink has to be soft. This comes out in an excellent reproduction from rubber. Polyurethene in my experience goes towards the industrial side with a shore hardness of 80 or 100. Apart from Japan, every other country in the world uses PU for industrial applications, which require high hardness. If I see some PU rollers in a wood laminating machine, it makes sense,” explains Saini.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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