Inkjet color printing has promised much, but has yet to make any meaningful impact on the digital label printing scene. Of course, the process is already well established in wide format display printing, as well for handling transactional print on high speed rollfed presses. However, its progress in printing PSA labels and packaging is looking brighter with the adoption of the latest drop-on-demand CMYK printheads, backed by UV curable inks and coatings. These were evident at Ipex 2006 and later at Labelexpo in Chicago. Here’s a taste of what we can expect at this year’s show in Brussels.
Much is expected from the Jetrion 4000 Series, now backed by EFI after it bought the company from Flint Group late last year. A new European sales team has been assembled to establish the 4000 Series as a viable digital color printer for labels and packaging. In fact, the first commercial sale was made recently to True Label of Toledo, OH, USA. The 4000 Series can print at up to 100 feet/minute in 4" and 8" standard widths with custom widths available. EFI’s Fiery XF RIP drives the machine, which will be augmented at Labelexpo with the Jetrion 3025 monochrome UV inkjet printer.
Sun Chemical, of Northlake, IL, USA, will shine some much-needed light on its four-color SolarJet. Fully beta tested, it was developed with Imaging Technology International of Boulder, CO, USA, while UK-based Xaar provided the Omnidot grayscale heads. A variety of print widths allows converters to use their existing dies and converting equipment. The company says SolarJet minimizes press setup times and prints at up to 80 linear feet/minute, making it ideal for large volumes of short run label jobs. The machine shown at Labelexpo will operate with the optional XFO system for controlling fine text and bar code requirements. It will also appear nearby at the show on Rotoflex’s booth, operating with compatible inline and offline converting options.
Interestingly, in a recent L&NW article on digital printing, a business development manager for inkjet business at Sun Chemical, said that it was a logical step for the company to enter the inkjet market: “The OEM print head providers, such as the Spectras and the Xaars, have been struggling in this area. The next level up is the integrators who are developing them into presses and the business solution, if you will. Then you have the chemistry providers.”
Nilpeter’s entry into the inkjet world will certainly surprise many visitors. It is introducing an integrated CMYK inkjet module, named Caslon, based on Xaar’s latest grayscale printheads. It can integrate with specific Nilpeter UV flexo and offset presses, or operate as a stand-alone machine when run with unwind/rewind units. The electronic systems controller allows fully variable data printing on the fly or single-copy printing of full-color labels on practically any material. Depending on choice of grayscale levels, the top speed can reach 160 feet per minute.
One of the Holy Grails of digital printing is to combine it with a method of diecutting that is not only affordable, but also complements the entire production process. Allen Datagraph Systems thinks it has the answer with its second-generation technology, included in the IL-600. Described as a “totally digital inline turnkey printing and cutting system”, it combines a VIP Color 2020 inkjet module with lamination, digital diecutting, stripping, slitting, and rewinding. The package also includes a fully functional design station with pre-loaded label design and operating software for handling a mix of short-run labeling work. The line speeds are said to be compatible with the emerging digital print engines: The tangential cutting head operates at up to 150 inches per second on a 13" web width. This is claimed to represent a stable, high-speed alternative to higher priced, laser-based systems.
Another full-color development for labels and packaging follows a collaboration between Panasonic and the French company Impika Jetting Solutions. The PBX600 boasts an advanced printhead with integrated data management giving a 600 x 600 dpi print resolution at a top speed of 492 feet/minute. The maximum web width is just under 19". Printing is from 29 modules organzed in a single one- or two-color array to obtain full color printing.