The sun was shining, the Mediterranean was as blue as the sky, but the clouds of economic downturn hung over the conference as Nick Korenowski of Avery Dennison/Jac gave the opening address. His theme was cost-cutting and productivity, as practiced by the newly-merged Avery/Fasson/Jac Group worldwide.
Michael Chamberlain, of the UK-based research institute PIRA, followed with an overview of digital printing systems as applied to the label sector, explained the prevalent technologies, including toner-based, inkjet and thermal. Although thermal has by far the largest installed base, it is digital inkjet which is set to grow fastest in the narrow web sector, according to Chamberlain.
Other subjects on the first day of the seminar included waste management (Jacques van Leeuwen, FINAT), the recycling of “sticky” waste papers (Erwin Krauthauf, INGEDE), European Union health and safety legislation (Paul Verspoor, Sitmae consulting), UV curable pressure sensitive laminates (Andreas Dobmann, Collano), the latest in diecutting and UV curing technologies (Michen Tacacs, Kocher + Beck, and Joachim Hildebrandt, IST Metz), and UV curable inkjet inks (John Tatum, Xaar).
Ferdinand Rüesch Jr., of Gallus, opened the second day’s proceedings with a presentation on productivity gains through the use of servomotors, which might revolutionize top-of-the-range narrow web presses over the coming years.
There followed several papers on subjects relating to the chemistry of adhesives and silicones. Costantino Creton of the University of Paris presented a new and more accurate video tack test for measuring the adhesive properties of label substrates. Jacques Lechat of ExxonMobil Chemicals looked at the rheology of adhesives and its effect on the diecuttability of pressure-sensitive laminates.
The final session of the conference was designed as a forum for the end user. Steve Pemberton is a consultant working closely with the purchasing function of Wal-Mart/Asda in the UK. This group buys labels worth over $30 million in UK alone (and maybe five times that amount worldwide). Pemberton stressed the importance of the Internet as a means of organizing the purchasing function, and also insisted that major retailers like Wal-Mart/ Asda are not aiming to force down label prices but rather to create a long-term partnership with their label suppliers from which both parties will benefit. This declaration was greeted with surprise by some of the label converters present at the seminar.
Most delegates viewed this FINAT technical conference as a success, and as a good opportunity to network with other experts from both within and outside the industry. Few label converters took part, but FINAT has traditionally been a supplier based association, and much of the program was too far “upstream” to be of immediate interest to the converter. One of the suggestions floated for future FINAT technical seminars was to organize say, every two years, a technical conference specifically aimed at the label converter. This may succeed in luring