An estimated 24,000 professionals from the label industry — converters as well as exhibiting suppliers, packed the five exposition halls of Labelexpo Europe 2007 in late September, which opened Wednesday in Brussels. Tarsus, the show organizer, said that more than 500 exhibitors presented their products and services to the industry, a record number. A growing contingent of Asian companies were among the newcomers as well: Two years ago 14 Asian companies exhibited at Labelexpo. This year there were 30. Among Asian attendees, more than 250 were label printers from all parts of the globe.
In the opening presentation, Mike Fairley, one of the show’s founders, gave an overview of the label markets in Europe and elsewhere. “Pressure sensitive use has risen 86 percent over the past 10 years,” he said. In addition, non-paper labelstock use has gone up nearly 30 percent per year. Label industry growth in Europe, Fairley said, “is set to outpace North America within a year.”
Among the highlights of the show were an abundance of narrow web offset presses, some from manufacturers who have specialized in flexo machines. Attendees also noted an increase in the number of inkjet processes, ranging from single-color press add-ons to large, full-color presses whose finished products rival those of traditional print processes.
Following is a selection of companies that exhibited at Labelexpo Europe 2007.
Sonic Solutions, a first-time exhibitor at Labelexpo Europe, reported that sales of its ultrasonic cleaning systems at the show exceeded those of any Labelexpo Americas at which the company has exhibited. In the first three days of the show the company had orders for 13 cleaning systems. Sonic Solutions presented three of its most popular cleaning systems: the SS-2800, which cleans rolls up to 10" (250mm); the SS-6500, for rolls up to 18" (450mm); and the SS-6530, for rolls up to 30" (750mm).
Stork Prints showcased its new digital RotaPlate imaging system with the launch of the new tabletop rotaLEX 6610 Direct Laser Exposer. The rotaLEX, Stork says, is a low-cost, small CtP device that is suitable for digital high quality RotaPlate applications in tag and label printing. The new system provides a simplified one-step digital workflow by eliminating the need for conventional film, ablative film, or even ablative plate processing. The rotaLEX system is compatible with all available RotaPlate specifications, from fine text screens up to tactile screens.
RotoMetrics introduced a new hot stamp system in addition to promoting its RD200 machine finished dies. The dies, according to the company, are the first to serve the market for thin film liners and extensible films. The RD200’s optional Yellow Jacket surface treatment offers a life span twice that of conventional rotary dies. The hot stamp system features a mandrel design with encapsulated oil, which heats the brass or magnetic cylinder for the hot stamping. RotoMetrics also demonstrated its web site, MyRoto.com, which offers online ordering and tracking.
Among new products introduced by XSYS Print Solutions at Labelexpo were dense black and white UV inks named Ebony and Ivory; a matte metallic UV flexo scratch-off coating, described as a company exclusive in the industry; a new white ink for shrink film applications; and Digital Braille, a UV varnish that creates dots up to 400 microns high using a special applicator with nine nozzles.
A new Fasson self-adhesive product called Lean Film was introduced by Avery Dennison. The thinner gauge labelstock range is a machine-direction-oriented film said by the company to “challenge current conceptions of the cost of quality self-adhesive film labeling for bulk products in the personal and home care markets.” Lean Film is available only in Europe.
The Comco C2 press, unveiled last year in Chicago, made its European debut at Mark Andy’s booth. The press, available in narrow and midweb widths, is capable of printing labels, flexible packaging and folding cartons. It features the I-Drive (Intelligent Drive System) that combines controllability with simplified operation. The servo driven press also includes plug-and-play print and converting units and sleeve technology for quick handling of job changeovers.
SolarJet, a digital four-color inkjet press from Sun Chemical, made its debut in Brussels. Built in partnership with Imaging Technology International, SolarJet offers a variety of print widths to meet the application requirements of converters and utilize their existing inventory of dies and converting equipment. Virtually no press setup time, combined with print speeds of up to 80 linear feet per minute, makes short work of most digital job requirements.
Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group featured an integrated suite of Kodak products. The new Kodak Flexcel NX Digital Flexographic System was shown for the first time in Europe. The Kodak Prinergy Powerpack Workflow System delivers specialized packaging prepress tools. The Kodak Approval NX Digital Color Imaging System can accurately simulate all production processes, generating millions of spot, specialty, corporate, and brand colors.
Boise exhibited the AvantEdge AA (Auto Applying) Label Release, featuring effective light transmission and engineered for label-applying speed. The label liners also provide effective diecutting for a range of facestocks, including film. AvantEdge AA Label Release runs efficiently in the most demanding operations, enduring high speeds with few breaks.
Gallus introduced two new presses at Labelexpo: the RCS 430 and the EM 340S. The first is a wider version of its high-end RCS 330, and the second is an extension of its popular EM S line. The new RCS features five offset cassettes, flexo, screen printing, and foil stamping. The press can utilize any printing process anywhere in the press, including UV gravure. The EM 340S flexo press features a new hybrid screen/flexo unit. Also new from Gallus is the Screeny S range of screens, which offer higher print speed and more prints per screen.
Quick returns from fast color changes and press turnaround were promoted by Graymills for those using its new peristaltic ink pumps. Also available from Graymills are two quick change pump heads powered by a single motor, allowing pumping of the same or different inks to two decks, or supplying and pumping back from the same deck.
Tailored Solutions, developer of Label Traxx print business management software for flexo converters, has announced new stock product features in Label Traxx version 5.1. The new software version can track the age of finished goods inventory; make individual cost and margin calculations for every stock product ticket; use unlimited number of locations for each stock product; calculate weight for each product ticket, and more.
Short run digital color was championed by EFI/Jetrion, which gave European converters their first look at the company’s 4000 inkjet series. Described as cost effective for short to medium runs, the 4000 series comes in a 4" (102mm) wide version, with an 8" (203mm) model to come next year. It prints using up to six colors at speeds ranging from 50 to 100 feet per minute.
Small and mid-size converters in Europe are the target market of Aquaflex, which introduced its ELS Servo press at the show. Produced as an affordable press with servo power, the press made its North American debut last year. The ELS can print at speeds up to 750 feet per minute. It features “Intuitive Register Control” which the company says eliminates waste during speed changes.
Placing environmental issues high on its agenda, UPM Raflatac announced that it is developing initiatives to recycle its process residues into decking products made from a wood-plastic composite. Called UPM ProFi, the new product uses self-adhesive waste as raw material. The company also said it is nearing completion of its largest ever investment program, which added eight coating lines and upgrades to its slitting and finishing operations worldwide.
Omet introduced its X-Flex flexo press, designed for ease of use across a variety of jobs from simple film labels to complex multi-web applications, and from 12-micron unsupported film to 250-micron carton board. Its automated Vision System integrates pre-register and control during production to reduce waste in job changeovers. The servo driven X-Flex uses printing sleeve technology to eliminate vibration and reduce maintenance, as well as provide stability for high precision printing.
Martin Automatic announced that two European label converters have incorporated Martin equipment into Gallus production lines. Berson, a French converter, invested in two MBSF automatic non-stop unwinds and an automatic non-stop LRD rewind for Gallus EM 410 and Gallus RCS 330 presses. At Permapack in Germany, a new 10-color Gallus RCS 330 was ordered with Martin Automatic MBSF butt splice and LRD transfer rewind units.
The next generation of waterless offset printing from Codimag made its debut in Brussels. The Viva 420 is wider than its predecessor, the 340, and eliminates the standard multi-roller ink train common to offset printing machines. The Viva 420 utilizes an Aniflo inking unit, containing only five cylinders: A sleeve anilox roll with temperature regulation to receive the ink via a doctor blade, a form roller with a rubber blanket, the plate cylinder, the blanket cylinder, and the impression cylinder.
Dow Corning introduced a new Syl-Off Advantage emulsion release coating system, which extends the cost-saving benefits of the Advantage series to water based coatings. The new system consists of an emulsion coating and a concentrated platinum catalyst that deliver lower cost in use than previously available technologies, according to the company.
A four-color inkjet printing unit called Caslon was introduced by Nilpeter. The unit can print from 25 to 50 feet per minute, and can be used as a stand-alone device or incorporated into a flexo or offset press. The company also introduced its MO-4 offset press, which features an Easy-Load sleeve system that allows for changeover of print process within a station — from offset to flexo, for example. Nilpeter also unveiled its first FA-6 UV flexo press, a 22" servo press designed specifically for unsupported film printing.
GEW announced the development of SEEcure, an online monitoring system that measures output within the UV lamphead. It runs with the latest generation of the company’s e-Brick controls and allows continuous monitoring of all lamps in a system simultaneously. The company also launched QuantiCure, a chemical test kit that gives quantitative and reliable UV cure measurements of the substrate that are simple to calibrate and operate on the press.
Hewlett-Packard announced strategic alliances with long-term partners EskoArtwork and AB Graphic International. AB Graphic becomes HP’s preferred provider in the area of label converting with its Digicon and Digicoater. Shown for the first time at Labelexpo is EskoArtwork’s new Digital Front-end variable data printing option for the HP Indigo press ws4500. The tool works in Adobe Illustrator environments and is focused on industrial VDP needs such as bar codes, sequential numbering and graphical codes.
In addition to its line of flexible dies and magnetic cylinders, Gerhardt International introduced its new male/female flexible dies for creasing and cutting cartons and small boxes. Attendees were able to see the company’s new adjustable anvil system that can be manufactured to fit in any diecut station on any machine. The company’s “Shock Air System” and a range of hot foil stamping systems and embossing systems were also on display.
Advanced Vision Technology (AVT) has achieved a high degree of success with its Print Vision/Helios 100 percent web inspection system, so much so that the system was in use at 14 different booths this year. The company also announced that it has passed the 400 mark for installations of the system since 2004. The Helios system can detect defects that include color variations, misregistration and misprints as soon as they occur.
GIDUE’s Xpannd offset/flexo integrated press made its debut at Labelexpo Europe. It is a 12" wide, nine-color machine with six offset and three flexo stations. “We knew that offset would become more important in this industry,” said Federico d’Annunzio, managing director. “For the next four to six years we will see offset becoming more dominant in our industry.” The company also exhibited its Athena press and the I-Combat, both servo driven UV flexo presses.
AB Graphic International has announced the development of Braillemaker One, a dedicated digital printing machine for Braille. The machine is aimed primarily at the production of pharmaceutical labels, leaflets and booklets and can also be used for any packaging markets where Braille marking is required. The compact web path ensures that no booklets will be dispensed during operation and is controlled by a servo motor and a constant tension vacuum plate.
Among the systems for web guiding and video web inspection at BST International’s booth was the Shark realtime 100 percent print defect detection system. The system features the new POWERLink, tailored for applications on narrow web label printers and rewinders. The ekr 500 controller, specially devised for standard applications, was on display, as was the Premius digital LEX (Label Edition X-web), a digital print management system with digital 3Chip technology and integrated defect detection.
MPS joined the growing group of press manufacturers who are providing offset presses with the launch of its EO (Effective Offset) machine. Offered in two widths — 330mm (13") and 430mm (17") — the press utilizes offset technology from Drent Goebel. The company also exhibited its new EF hybrid press, which allows for the use of blanket sleeves as well as printing sleeves as a carrier for the flexo plates.
Wausau Paper introduced a new release liner platform tailored to specific customer needs. Typical applications include film labels, prime labels, casting base, laser labels, feminine hygiene, graphic arts, medical products, and tapes. The company produces high-performance technical papers that meet the demands of a variety of packaging, industrial and consumer product markets.
Müller Martini showcased its Alprinta-V web offset press. The company has developed a laminating station for the press, which is located on the equally new flexo unit. In order to maintain the Alprinta-V’s productivity at maximum speeds of 365 m/min when producing self-adhesive labels, the company has developed a new matrix removal station for the press.
Menzel Vision Systems showed its integrated 100 percent print inspection rewinder, its newly developed solution for final inspection and receiving inspection. Akku-Proof is a scanner based image comparison solution; Akku-Print is a line scan, camera based inspection system specifically developed for printing presses; Akku-Check is a matrix camera based inspection system designed for real-time comparison between a master label and all running labels; and Akku-Track is a matrix based image recognition system that controls the position of the web in the machine.
Mühlbauer Technology Group introduced the RFID Smart Label Insertion Line — IL 15000 for the insertion of wet RFID inlays into existing standard labels. The insertion line together with the Converting Line CL 15000, which converts dry RFID inlays into RFID Smart Labels, and the new Test Line TL 15000, which provides 100 percent electrical and optical testing of RFID labels, completes Mühlbauer’s portfolio for the converting industry.
Polymag Tek showcased machines to remove particulate contamination from web or sheet substrates or process rolls, such as slitting dust, converting debris and other byproducts. Polymag Web and Sheet Cleaners were developed around the contact cleaning roll (CCR), also known as a tacky roll or particle transfer roll.
Rotoflex International displayed its technology-driven solutions for today’s challenging web materials and complex converting processes. Advancements in web transport, motion control, inspection, pharma-security, digital web finishing, and productivity improvements were all shown.
EskoArtwork and the Films Division of ExxonMobil Chemical have teamed up to develop a system for ensuring color accurate digital label printing — a bundle based on PacVantage software and technology. ExxonMobil Chemical is a global supplier of oriented polypropylene (OPP) films.
Tools & Production displayed samples of its rotary punching products, including parking tickets, tea tags, tea envelopes, metro cards, and medical and security wristbands. An alternative to diecutting, rotary punching is “perfect for long runs and difficult substrates,” said Peter Tupman, director of sales and marketing.
Edale launched an offline Lambda coating machine for a wide range of coating applications. Extended drying and curing solutions for any type of adhesives were available. The fully servo driven Lambda Coater incorporates a web tension and handling system to enable coating of a wide range of delicate substrates, including metallic foil, holograms, tapes, and films.
Unilux, a manufacturer of portable and mountable strobe lamps, exhibited a range of products that include smaller and more powerful models that incorporate lighter and more robust housings. The company also displayed its UV inspection unit, a strobe light equipped with a special UV lens and lamp that excites phosphorus in invisible security inks.
Epson put in its first appearance at Labelexpo with a prototype of a digital inkjet printer with a 13" web and capable of printing CMYK using high density pigments in an aqueous solution. The unit, still about a year away from commercial launch, features 17 print heads and prints a frame on the web that is 13" by 36" in area. The effective web speed is about 33' (10m) per minute.
Xaar, whose inkjet print heads are found in many industrial printing devices, announced the development of a new print head. The new version creates an acoustic wave that ejects drops and is self-priming and self-recovering. In addition, the new head can control ink temperature and viscosity more closely, which permits longer retention of suspended solids in inks such as whites and metallics.
With its new release liner group of five European and two American plants, Mondi Packaging presented itself as a strong supplier of silicone-coated release liners. The company showcased release liners coated with tinted silicones or fluoric silicones, functional backside lacquers, embossed papers and films, and special substrates such as coated crepe paper and nonwovens.
Bielomatik unveiled a new process for composition of an RFID label or tag by use of a chip module with a new form of application. The RF-LoopTag module from NXP Semiconductors enables converters to manufacture UHF inlays or smart labels without the need for exact chip positioning as with strap-attached chips. The RF-LoopTag has the silicon chip placed onto a minuscule broadband UHF antenna which can be applied within millimeters of the main antenna, instead of within microns as required by the strap versions. The larger antenna is made of simple aluminum foil.
Xeikon exhibited the Xeikon 330 label press. It offers a resolution of 600 dpi and is able to produce pin-sharp photographic images and smoother shades that outmatch the possibilities of screen and flexo printing, according to the company. The Xeikon 330 uses enhanced dry toner to produce clean and solid colors. Its fifth color station ships as white to allow for easy printing on transparent surfaces.
Scantech Automation exhibited its Printrack flexible format rewinders. Printrack design features include improved accuracy of slitter setup, slitter setup time, job changeover time, and data collection/reporting access and information. The products reduce job changeover setup waste, the possibility of operator repetitive strain injury and total floor space required for finishing operations.
Vetaphone had its CC-Plus Corona Cleaner on display. The CC-Plus is for web cleaning, corona surface treatment and static neutralization. The combination reduces space requirement and increases functionality. Vetaphone offers the new TOU4 corona treater, featuring the company’s Quick Change solution for easy maintenance of the complete treater station.
Henkel presented its latest developments in pressure sensitive adhesives and UV coatings for hotmelt coaters and label printers. The focus was on single-source, mutually adapted systems solutions and premium products for label converting.
Domino Printing Sciences unveiled its latest serialized and variable data inkjet printers. The company demonstrated the A-Series continuous inkjet printer and the Windows-based Editor GT, its in-line data management controller. The K-Series can be installed to complement existing offset or flexo presses for overprinting of numbers, graphics, bar codes, and addresses.
The concept of the narrow web rotary press from the range EVO-Print V-48 Label from Edelmann Graphics is aimed at the manufacture of all label applications and narrow web packaging. The machine provides an ideal combination for the high-tech features of the Color-Print and the EVO-Print V-48, which are required for the printing and processing of the sensitive materials used in the label and packaging industries. The EVO-Print V-48 is suitable for practically everything that can be produced from a reel, whether it is self-adhesive labels, wet glue labels, in-mold labels, flexible packaging, or folded cartons.
Concentrating on specialist presses for the packaging and labeling markets, KPG has introduced models with eight colors on a single temperature controlled central impression drum. The Euro 400 Super shown at Labelexpo is an example of a specialist press design, utilizing four different print processes: screen, flexo, letterpress, and cold foiling.
Labelmate displayed its PM-300, which when combined with a commercially available printhead, becomes a fast economical reel-to-reel label printer ideal for printing or over-printing labels, especially with variable data that may change from job to job. When not used as a printer, the PM-300 can be used as an accurate digital reel-to-reel counter-rewinder.
Polyart offered a range of synthetic paper designed for durable tags and labels. Its high performance film is resistant to water, grease, many chemicals, tearing, and repeated handling. Its products are suitable for direct contact with non-acidic foods and toy applications. Polyart’s new products are Polyart 285 g/m2, which is thicker than previous products; Polyart HS 220 g/m2, which is cost effective; and Polyart LLD 195 g/m2, which is more tear resistant.