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Offset option from Dutch flexo press manufacturer
By Barry Hunt
As noted in the January/February issue of L&NW, more label and packaging converters are taking an increasing interest in rollfed UV-cured offset. This demand prompted MPS to approach Drent Goebel as an OEM supplier of offset technology for its new press lines. The Dutch company currently manufactures the EF, EP, EC, and EFP series in widths from 10" to 26" wide using UV flexo and rotary screen units. Formed in 1996, MPS won the Label Industry Global Award for New Innovation in 2005.
“The hybrid printing machine we can now offer will fulfill the required print quality in the shortest possible time and lowest cost price per 1,000 labels,” says Eric Hoendervangers, MPC’s cofounder and managing director. “We are convinced that hybrid technology is the future for label and packaging printing. Not just because of its fantastic flexibility and capability, but the packaging market needs solutions for optimized (brand) color accuracy, brightness and sharp details.”
As an OEM supplier, Drent Goebel once made the offset heads for Nilpeter’s MO-3300 combination presses. It also makes customized narrow and midweb offset presses, as well as the shaftless Vision and VSOP series for labels and packaging. The Nilpeter connection goes back to 1994 and effectively heralded the concept of offset based combination presses designed to serve the top end of the market. Other press manufacturers selling either full rotary or semi-rotary offset presses with conventional or waterless offset print heads include Codimag, Etipol, Iwasaki, Gallus, GiDue, and Sanki.
While mainstream label converting will remain a flexo stronghold in most global markets, several top-end converters in Europe see offset as a serious challenger to UV flexo in certain niche markets despite a narrowing of the quality gap and much higher investment costs. This is partly due to market pressures. Many large-volume buyers demand high quality print with a repeatability aided by proven international standards. Also, offset offers the flexibility of printing most types of paper and film substrates, including those with textured surfaces. This explains why so many wine labels are printed both web and sheetfed offset. Lately, specialized flexible packaging applications, including tube laminates, have opened up new markets for many offset press operators who have benefited from cheaper platemaking costs.
The presence of some heavyweight press makers adds an interesting angle to the reelfed offset scene. Drent Goebel, which acquired Montreal based RDP Marathon and has facilities in Holland and Germany, only seriously entered the label/packaging market after seeing a decline in their core sectors, namely business forms, security printing and direct mailers. Much the same applies to companies like Muller Martini, Edelmann Graphics, Rotatek, and Castiglioni (now linked with GiDue). Their press lines tend to feature the latest in automated controls, nonstop web feeds and servo driven press functions. Variable-size print cassettes and/or sleeve/plate options are other features of these big-ticket machines. More than most, therefore, they are hoping for further consolidation at the top end of this globalized industry.
Esko adds dynamism with a visual angle
Dynamic print visualization sounds like someone has been at the magic mushrooms. In fact, the patented technology is said to give users a realistic rendering of substrates, inks and special finishes for design, packaging and general print applications. Esko, the prepress systems integrator, now includes it in its portfolio after acquiring Stonecube Ltd., located near Bristol in the UK. Esko Visualizer is the first product resulting from a joint development of the 3D based software, which is now shipping. It allows designers, brand owners and packaging producers to evaluate and discuss the impact of the actual substrates, inks and special finishes intended for the final product.
Stonecube has offered software products based on this technology to the general design and print market for several years. Besides packaging and labels, target applications include high value added printed items, including CD covers and greeting cards. PrintDevizor and PrintDevizor Pro allow users to realistically view and experiment with variations of print and finishing options, interactively in 3D environments, and with true lighting conditions. They are available for Apple and Windows platforms.
Artwork sees large drop in prepress revenues
Artwork Systems, the Belgium based prepress group currently undergoing a strategic review, posted a significant drop in sales and profits for the second quarter. Revenues for the three months to March 31 fell 17 percent to €10.3 million (US$13.75 million) from €12.6 million (US$16.82 million) during the same period in 2006. Pre-tax profits dropped 34 percent to €2.8 million (US$3.73 million) from €4.4 million (US$5.87 million). First half revenues were down 12.5 percent and net income dropped 25.32 percent, compared with a year before.
Sales during the first quarter of fiscal 2007 were split between products at 62 percent and services at 38 percent. The percentage of revenues for each regional market remained relatively stable. The share of the Americas decreased from 40 percent to 39 percent, Europe decreased from 53 percent to 52 percent, Asia’s share increased from 5 to 7 percent, and the rest of the world remained stable at 2 percent.
“We had expected the second quarter results to be in line with those of the first quarter,” says chairman Guido Van der Schueren. “This was, however, not the case and Q2 turned out to be weaker than expected on the revenue side in the US, the UK and in France. In general, there was a delay in decision making. However, the picture looks bleaker than it actually is. Order intake in the second quarter clearly indicated that we are on track to achieve the targets we set for the financial year 2007. In the second half of this fiscal year we can expect a much improved business on the Enfocus side given that they have the biggest product launch in their history.”
Spoiling the party for Enfocus is a lawsuit served by arch rival Markzware. Filed in a US district court in California, the suit alleges that PitStop Pro — an Adobe plug-in — and PitStop Server PDF preflight software infringe the US patent of Markzware’s FlightCheck software. Artwork’s CEO, Peter Denoo, said the company respects the intellectual property rights of third parties and is investigating what he describes as unsupportable allegations. “We do not expect this lawsuit to interfere in any way with Enfocus’ ability to continue offering and supporting its popular PDF preflighting products, now or in the future.”
Conductive inkjet system drives down RFID costs
The fortunes of industrial inkjet applications and low cost RFID antennas are inextricably linked. Other applications include flexible circuits and thin-film batteries. Just rolled out is the Metaljet 6000, a fast roll-to-roll digital metal printer, claimed to drive down standard UHF antenna unit costs to less than 1 Euro cent — about 13 US cents — excluding the PET substrate. The system was developed by Conductive Inkjet Technology (CIT) in Cambridge, England, in partnership with Preco Inc., based in Lenexa, KS, USA.
The print engine has Xaar piezo printheads that write directly onto 6" wide nonporous substrates using CIT’s UV curable inkjet ink. The nonconductive ink contains a catalyst, which after curing allows the coating to become conductive within a development processor. A patented web accumulator integrated into the system enables a fast electroless metal deposition process, removing the need for large chemistry baths. Around 50nm to 1µm of copper is deposited where required to provide a lower-cost alternative to etched copper. According to Preco, a manufacturer of laser cutting machines and diecutter systems, the bitmap format makes job changes easy. There are no plates and no cleanup. Process speeds are claimed to be up to 60 feet per minute. The MetalJet 6000 offers the option of including incremental unit numbering or coding, allowing smart labels to be combined with more traditional coding techniques.
Gallus Group relocates screen plates facilities
The Gallus Group has opened new manufacturing facilities for Screeny printing plates used with the company’s Rotascreen system. (Practically all Gallus combination label presses are installed with one or more Rotascreen modules.) Located in Herisau, near the company’s headquarters in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the plant will serve global markets. A sum equal to just under a million US dollars was invested in new machinery and process engineering facilities for electrolytic coating.
Twenty new specialist jobs were created in Herisau. Gallus says the new production site will remain a hub for product innovation and safeguard long term supplies for the screen printing plate business. Screeny plates come in eight grades and are made from a stabilized nickel plated carrier structure bonded to a photopolymer coating and protective film to resemble a precoated flexo or letterpress plate.