Allen Datagraph VP Mark Vanover (second from right) is nearly lost in the crowd of eager attendees at Labelexpo Americas.
The energy among attendees and exhibitors was palpable. Two years ago converters brought themselves to the show, but this year they brought three, four, five or more colleagues to watch demos, talk tech, scout deals, and network. One exhibitor, a newcomer to the label market, realized early on that he didn't bring enough co-workers to handle all the booth traffic. There were a few complaints about attendance, but these were isolated and clearly in the minority.
New products – understood as a requirement for the successful exhibitor – were ubiquitous: new presses, new press capabilities, new printing plates and diecutters, new directions for substrates, and much more. Digital label systems, now well established, attracted a great deal of attention; digital inkjet presses, still jockeying for position in the converters' hearts and minds, were present at several competitive booths.
Overall it was a successful show, clearly a relief to all who participated. "We found what we were looking for," said one converter after it was all over. "We're going to make it final next week and make room for some new equipment."
Another upbeat sign: By the close of the show, 83 percent of the space for Labelexpo Americas 2012 had been booked by exhibitors.
Primera Technology introduced the RX900 Color RFID Printer. The company says the RX900 is the world's first and only full-color RFID on-demand label printer. Labels are printed, encoded, verified and dispensed one at a time, making the printer ideal for applications where one or more labels at a time are required. All popular linear and 2D bar code symbologies are supported. The RX900's print resolution is up to 4800 dpi. Separate cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink make label production economical since only one color at a time is replaced. Also, full-color print speeds of up to 4.5" (114mm) per second make label production fast and convenient.
Using the theme "It's Prime Time!", UPM Raflatac introduced a renewed digital labelstock portfolio that includes products certified for use with HP Indigo's WS6000 digital press, as well as new products for specials applications – including ultra removable labelstocks and products for industrial and chemical applications, tire labeling and security labeling. The company also featured next generation direct mail and charity labeling products, an expanded wine labeling portfolio and RP48AT – a high quality, high performance, all-temperature adhesive. The company also served as a material supplier for the Labelexpo Technology Workshops, which featured four working presses, each using a different printing technology, but striving to produce the same results on identical substrates.
AB Graphic introduced a new module to its popular Digicon converting systems – the carton series, which converts short run carton and boxes using semi-rotary cutting and creasing. "Using semi-rotary technology means that the converter doesn't need to change cylinder sizes," says Al Spendlow, managing director of AB Graphic Inc. The company also demonstrated its flat screen and flat foil system for the first time in North America. It features a repeat up to 12", and speed for foil up to 7,200 impressions per hour, and 3,600 impressions per hour for screen printing. Multiple foil and screen units can be incorporated into the press.
RotoMetrics introduced AccuPrint sleeve cylinders, lightweight cylinders designed for servo driven presses. The cylinder consists of a polycarbonate inner core, aluminum outer casing and locking ring. Each is coated with the company's Hardcase surface technology, which inhibits scratches. The company also unveiled a new rotary diecutting module, a completely customizable unit available in widths from 10" to 34". It can be configured for paperboard, flexible packaging and all other types of materials, with different designs for different substrates. The module includes an integral cooling system, which keeps the substrate stable during high speed runs. It can be configured for use inline or offline. In addition to its wide range of solid and flexible tooling, RotoMetrics also presents its foiling station, built by Pantec in Switzerland and featuring an electrical heating element inside the magnetic cylinder that contains encapsulated oil, offering heat that is more even and better directed, and avoiding the possibility of oil leaks.
The new Toyobo UV flexo plate – water washable photopolymer – was among the many offerings at Labelexpo by Anderson & Vreeland. The plate is suitable for UV flexo inks, can be processed in plain tap water, and features a short process time – press ready in under 30 minutes. Plate processing equipment, materials and software designed for tag and label printers were also on display by A&V, including EskoArtwork digital flexo plate and film imagers, multi-function plate processors, and digital proofing systems.
Erhardt+Leimer introduced several new features on its inspection systems, as well as new web guiding technology, including the presentation of the latest wide band sensor and touch screen easy setup control panels for the next generation of web guides. The intuitive touch screen guides the user through easy set-up menus to select his/her application and necessary features that will fit the need of the application. The Elscan 4 inspection machine featured new dual lens technology with no moving parts and new illumination features.
The Finecut Laser Cutting Systems from Spartanics were operational at the company's booth, as well as at the EFI Jetrion stand. The cutter, which can replace solid and flexible diecutters with cutting by a laser, was performing at speeds up to 300 fpm on basic label shapes. "Waste is nil for setup," says Spartanics' Mike Bacon. "It would use up about five labels. Savings come from the lack of tool costs, as well as from damage to tooling." Bacon says that most damage to rotary tooling comes during the transit from storage to the production area. Software innovations have removed the glitches that plagued laser cutting systems in the past, he adds. "Using a laser cutter is a natural for digital labels, where images on one roll can vary," says Bacon.
At Nilpeter's booth, the new FA-6 press was featured, a 22" wide press for printing of unsupported films. Films as thin as 12 microns in width can be printed on the midweb press, as well as labels. During demonstrations, an eight-color job on the FA-6 press was completed in 4.5 minutes, including change of ink pans. Making its debut in the Americas was the Revolver die station, a module that permits instant exchange of dies using a revolving turret. The operator can set up the dies for the next job when the first one is running, and rotate the new die into place immediately. Aso on exhibit were Nilpeter's popular FB press, as well as the FG press, which features printing sleeves and full servo drives.
Sonic Solutions, a manufacturer of ultrasonic cleaning systems for anilox rolls, reported a high degree of success in sales and prospective customers at Labelexpo Americas. "Several printers in North, Central and South America have seen the value of the equipment we offer and have placed orders for systems," said Joe Walczak, president. "In this economy, people are seeing the real value and benefits to our products. We really make a difference in their operations. Our equipment isn't sexy, it just works." Walczak said that the company is planning to introduce new products in the near future, as early as within the next six months.
Ritrama featured its numberless self adhesive materials based on natural and gloss papers,
polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester. Among the showcased products was the Wine Range, featuring a series of papers and films devoted to labels for hi-quality wines and champagnes, as well the Digital Roll Range for label printers who're already running HP Indigo digital presses. Also on display was the Industrial Range, including polyester-based face materials for hard-wearing, long-lasting applications. In addition, Ritrama's Beverage Range offers a wide choice of PP materials, including low thickness and high clarity adhesives for eye-catching effects, while the Personal Care Range features polyolefin-based face materials for squeezable packaging that combine high transparency and conformability.
LabelExpo 2010 marked the first anniversary of Durst's entry into the label industry after the launch of the Tau 150 and Rotoworx 330 in 2009. Durst marked the occasion by showing four new machine configurations. The Tau 150 is Durst's standard printing press featuring CMYK and white. Based on piezo-electric drop-on-demand grayscale ink jet technology, it utilizes liquid ink technology and is capable of producing high-performance images at an apparent resolution over 1,000 dpi at 157 fpm. The white color is pinned, i.e., partially cured, as the first color to be printed. This provides a uniform film layer on which the remaining colors can be applied in a "wet-on-wet" process before the final cure.
Allen Datagraph Systems Inc. showcased its iTech Axxis SR Digital Label System at Labelexpo, an affordable digital label printer designed for converters who require on-demand proofing and prototyping of labels of any shape. The system is also useful for end users with short run labeling needs. The system enables the printing and digital diecutting of labels – of any shape – in a matter of minutes. It uses an Epson B-500DN inkjet print engine at 720 x 720 dpi. With a wide range of available substrates including paper, polyester and polypropylene, the system can print in widths from 4" to 8.5" in rolls with a maximum outside diameter of 11 inches. The finishing portion of the iTech Axxis SR laminates and digital diecuts, along with scoring the facestock for the easy removal of matrix waste.
BST Pro Mark announced the launch of its Shark LEX 100 percent inspecation system coupled with the company's Lector Work Flow module. The system can be integrated into a rewinder or on a press up to 22" wide. The Shark 100 percent inspection system identifies both random and repeating defects as small as 0.05 square milimeters, including missing print, fill-in, splash, spots, misregister, hickeys, dirty print, web crease, haze, smudges, diecut variations, and other imperfections. The new system also includes PDF inspetion, which compares the actual on-press print against the customer approved PDF, and identifies any variations. Lector Work Flow is a software tool for managing print quality and throughput from printing to shipping across multiple machines. It displays and evaluates process job data to help manage throughput; for example, it catalogs all defects noted by the Shark and references their positions on the roll, so that the operator or quality control manager can determine how the defect should be handled.
GEW, a manufacturer of UV curing equipment, announced the launch of the next generation of its e-Brick power supplies that incorporate new design elements to increase energy efficiency. Users can now select the power level required for the job depending on the properties of the ink, coating or adhesive at the appropriate press speed. Rather than being manufacturer-set, users are now able to select whatever power they need to print a specific job, whilst being assured of the highest level of energy efficiency. The company also introduced Service+, an option that allows GEW users to increase their warranties to three years, subject to using competitively priced lamps and parts from GEW. Free 24-hour worldwide telephone support is included, plus support and advice on UV curing solutions.
Polymag Tek has taken its Four Roll Web Cleaner and made a new Four Roll Web/Sheet Cleaner with patented tape oscillation and compact controls package. The web/sheet widths can range between 2" and 40" and run maximum speeds of 700 fpm. Pneumatic cylinders separate the rolls when the machine stops for easy access to rolls. The Polymag patented oscillation is used to spread slit edge contamination over a 2" line of travel, thereby increasing the life of the tape by at least 16 times. It also assures continual cleaning of the entire CCR face Length surface. The equipment cleans a broad range of materials, including film, foil, carton board, newsprint, recycled paper and more. The machines are designed to remove loose particulate contamination from web and sheet substrates or process rolls.
Linerless labels have the advantage of using no release liner in the printing and application process. They are, however, coated on one side with adhesive, on the top with silicone, and they are limited in range of shapes. Polykote Corporation, however, introduced a new technology – Silgon – which uses no silicone and hides the adhesive until just before the application of the label. In the hand the paper or film exhibits no sign of adhesive. But activate the coating on the back side of the label – using high energy light, radiant heat, hot air, or other source – and the coating becomes an adhesive, ready to apply. "You are litterally able to process a web that does not require a release liner and that isn't sticky. You don't need silicone on top. It's like handling regular paper or film," said John Guzzo of Polykote. He says that the process allows for much more creativity in label shapes, as well.
EskoArtwork demonstrated a variety of technologies, including Suite 10, a major release of its software for packaging prepress, 3D structural design and quality assurance, collaboration and automation, and color management. In addition, the company's HD Flexo 2.0 made its debut at the show. With Suite 10 and the new Automation Engine 10 come new releases of all editor applications: ArtPro 10, PackEdge 10, DeskPack 10, ArtiosCAD 10 and Studio 10. The workstation software is more integrated than ever, with a focus on adding capabilities to the automation of repetitive tasks, and taking more human interaction out of the prepress production process. Among the software features is Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves, a solution for resolving the distortion of shrink sleeves, automating the design and prepress process in Adobe Illustrator. EskoArtwork's HD Flexo technology uses high screen rulings and advanced screening to produce plates that print near-offset quality.
At the Martin Automatic booth, the company discussed the recent use of its machinery at Flexographic Trade Services (FTS) in South Carolina. FTS gave the company high marks for productivity and ease of use of Martin Automatic's MBSC butt splicer and STR turret rewinder combo. "We tested the MBSC/STR automated splicer and rewind system on jobs that we've been running for up to 10 years, so we had solid production numbers to compare to," said Art Fields, president of FTS. "When we ran jobs on a Mark Andy XP-5000 with Martin roll automation on the ends, we were able to increase throughput performance by 60 percent, and that was with students running the press. An experienced operator can easily increase throughput performance by 40 percent."
Squid Ink promoted the advantages of its VDP In-Line printing system at Labelexpo. The system is designed to cost-effectively print variable information in-line on an existing narrow web flexo press. The machine mounts on the web press or rewind station and thus the job does not have to be taken off line for a second pass. With the VDP In-Line, users have the ability to print on non-porous surfaces such as uncoated paper, or on porous surfaces such as films, foils, or coated stocks with Squid Ink's library of compatible inks. The machine's printhead uses piezo technology to print up to 2.1" of sharp text, bar codes, logos or small characters. It uses a single print engine, so no stitching is required. The VDP mounts above the press using Squid Ink's Platform Unit that locks into the pre-existing hole patterns between each printing station.
Asahi Photoproducts, a supplier of photopolymer printing plates, presented its new AWP water wash plates to the industry. The plates have been in development for a decade, according to VP Sales & Marketing Joseph Bauer, and are for use in digital imagers. Asahi aims to challenge the market share of thermal plates in the narrow web industry. "The Asahi water washable plate outperforms the best digital flexo plates, holding smaller dots than those of thermal processed plates – the prevalent technology used by narrow web label printers – with superior stability on press," said Bauer. "Extensive AWP plate trials and live production jobs have proven its ability to print down to 2 or 3 percent dots, using classical round dot screening. With the latest screening technologies, the plate is able to reproduce a vignette fade to zero."
A new digital inkjet press made its debut at Labelexpo, introduced to the market by CSAT. The ITS600 press is a four-color inkjet machine using Kyocera print heads and UV curing using LED lamps, which utilize lower power and produce less heat. According to Natalie Gilbert, managing director of CSAT America, the press can operate at speeds of 130 fpm (40 m/m) using four colors. The roll-to-roll press has a web width ranging from 4" to 8". The ITS600 can run offline or inline, and has a price tag of $350,000. It also features web retracting, causing the stopped web not to lose print on material when restarted.
After several years testing the marketplace and refining its technology, Epson has gone commercial with its digital inkjet press. The SurePress L-4033A Digital Label Press "brings Epson image quality to the label market – that's our value proposition," said Mark Elsbernd, North American region sales manager. At a list price of $285,000, the press "has received a positive response," adds Elsbernd. "A lot of smaller label converters want to get into the digital market." The press utilizes water based inkjet ink, which Elsbernd says is "not the traditional water based product."
Flint Group Flexographic Products announced that it will launch a new, UV exposure technology for flexographic printing plates that offers significant advantages over existing technologies. The new exposure technology, currently in beta testing, will enable digital flexo plates to achieve 1:1 file to plate imaging, improving print image reproduction. The technology creates flat-top dots and high line screen imaging without the use of a lamination step or inert gas technology. Also at Labelexpo, Flint Group announced an expansion of its new "Ultra Thin" plates – those that are just .030" thick. The new line includes nyloflex FAB digital, ACE digital and potentially other materials in the near future.
Graymills showcased Chillter, its new ink cooling system that the company touts as a cost saving product that also improves print quality. A recent EPA study showed that the cost of hot ink could top $56,000 per deck. Chillter provides savings by reducing ink consumption, improves density consistency and viscosity control, and allows for less wasted solvent. In addition, Graymills said, it provides for better dot structure and fewer "donuts." Graymills adds that it's also easy to use: Replace the cover of the Graymills ink filter with the Chillter, hook it up and it's ready to go.
tesa tape showed two recently introduced specialty products with silicone adhesive systems designed for temporary masking applications. Tesa 50650 and 50600 join the company's masking product line that ranges from general-purpose to highly-specialized masking tapes. Constructed of a durable polyester film backing coated with a silicone adhesive, the tapes are designed to perform well in harsh and demanding conditions, including withstanding temperatures of up to 428° F for up to 30 minutes.
MACtac Printing Products launched a new line of durable films, 12 new products that cover a range of applications requiring high-performance labels. The company also showcased its Indie line of certified digital labelstocks. Designed to address the extreme application needs of several markets, including lawn and garden, chemical drums, appliance and nameplate, and wet-cell batteries, MACtac's durable films are tested and recognized by industry standards, such as UL and British Standard 5609.
Visitors to the booth of Meech Static Eliminators were treated to the debut of ShearClean, a non-contact web cleaning system. The non-contact aspect of the system, said Matt Fyffe, VP of Meech USA, makes it ideal for surfaces prone to scratching, special coatings or decorative labels destined or premium consumer goods. ShearClean incorporates two cotton-covered rollers, which are positioned 0.5 to 1.0mm on either side of the web. The rollers spin at high speed – 4,000 rpm and upwards – in the opposite direction to the travel of the web. The air currents generated break up the boundary layer on the surface of the web, allowing ShearClean's vacuum system to remove extremely small particles that would otherwise be trapped in that layer.
Mitsubishi Polyester Film announced a breakthrough for the closed loop sustainable recycling of polyester release liners. Company officials said the new Mitsubishi Reprocess Spent Liner Recovery Program will satisfy the cradle-to-cradle expectations that the labeling industry has been seeking. The company has created a way to blend new and recycled materials into a new product. Using technologies developed over the last three years, the company's proprietary process is being implemented to allow the production of first quality release liners containing significant recycled content. Performance has been verified in value chain field tests, the company says.
Ryeco exhibited its range of systems designed to ensure that converters will never ship bad product to customers. Featured were Ryeco's Edge Marking and Lane Marking Systems. With the Edge Marking System, code and/or defect marks are made