Digital on display at Xeikon Cafe

By Greg Hrinya | April 16, 2015

Education and machinery demonstrations were highlights of the digital press manufacturer's annual event.

Xeikon Café Packaging Innovations 2015 took place from March 10-12 in Lier, Belgium, and visitors had the option of attending multiple technical and business conferences designed to showcase the advantages of digital printing. The event allowed industry professionals to get first-hand information, live demonstrations and networking opportunities.

Although the marketplace continues to be dominant in the traditional workflow, digital is making strides. Xeikon displayed its host of digital presses, including the new Cheetah and 3000 series. The Cheetah launched at Labelexpo 2014 in Chicago, IL, USA, and offers 1200 x 3600 dpi and substrate widths up to 330 mm, or 13".

The Cheetah, now the fastest press in the Xeikon portfolio, runs at 98 fpm (30 m/min). Additional benefits include full rotary printing, toners that meet FDA regulations for food contact, no VOC emissions, and the ability to integrate third party workflow software and converting/finishing solutions.

“The Cheetah is a new platform that, from our point of view, cannot be upgraded,” said Filip Weymans, Xeikon’s director of segment marketing, Labels and Packaging. “It’s one of the things that we feel the market has responded very nicely to. The Xeikon Cheetah is the fastest digital label press in the quality league. Maybe there are some that are running faster, but certainly not at the quality that we are.”

The 2015 edition of the Xeikon Café saw a 35% increase in visitors from the previous year, with more than 700 attendees.

The Cheetah is Xeikon’s newest digital press and runs at 98 fpm.
“We are also very pleased to see an increased diversity in the type of print professionals that attended the event,” said Wim Maes, Xeikon CEO. “Not only printers and converters appreciated the Xeikon Café as a platform to get more insights in optimizing their digital print production. Also, brand owners gained a better understanding of how digital print is the answer to their needs in terms of shorter runs and greater product variety to name just some. For marketers that attended the event, I can say the Xeikon Café 2015 certainly was an eye-opener as they discovered how digital print technology creates new creative opportunities.”

At least 33 Aura Partners exhibited their integrated products and industry expertise through more than 15 different applications, ranging from folding carton to self-adhesive, heat transfer and in-mold labels. Xeikon Café Packaging Innovations displayed the Folding Carton Suite, the Self-Adhesive Label Suite, the Heat Transfer Label Suite and the In-Mold Label Suite, which featured live job preparation, production and finishing of real-life and purpose-built applications.

“Today’s brand owner requirements have evolved,” added Weymans. “With our Folding Carton Suite, we can help them achieve quicker time-to-market and more intensive test marketing. This enables them to be more responsive to change – whether that is the result of legislation, marketing or design requirements.”

Folding carton diecutting was one of many live demos at the event.
The 3300 on display is what the company calls its “flagship narrow-web label press of the Xeikon 3000 series.” Its web width is 13" (330 mm) and the press operates at speeds of 380 sqm/hr. There are five printing stations that operate at 1,200 dpi.

Xeikon used four applications to illustrate the potential of folding cartons. The 3000 series presses created producys in security, personalized pastry boxes, chocolates boxes and coffee packages.

The 3500, along with QA-I and SuperBlack toners, printed on a Stora Enso substrate with a food-safe, water-based Acetga varnish. The product was finished with Highcon’s digital converting unit for cutting and creasing folding cartons.

The coffee box was also Actega-varnished on a Metsä board substrate. Zünd’s cutting table was used to finish the box.

Xeikon’s technical conferences highlighted its machines’ capabilities when put into action. The first three conferences touched upon extended content labels, wine labels and general labels. More than 100 sessions were held.

“One of our objectives with the Xeikon Café is to provide an informal knowledge exchange platform,” added Maes. “Also, for the 2015 edition, we certainly reached this goal with a large number of high quality presentations, all providing outstanding industry related information. Leading market trends and their influence on brands and print buyers were just some of the most interesting topics.”

Danny Mertens, director of segment marketing, document printing, discussed the various applications for extended content labels. According to a drupa study, production efficiency and additional capacity are two factors currently driving the label industry.
Extended content labels can be broken down into several categories, including booklet labels, foldout labels, dry release labels, and peel and reveal labels.

Many of these processes were conducted on the Xeikon 3030, 3030plus and 3300, the company’s narrow web label presses. Extended content labels were produced on a Xeikon 9800 digital press. Booklets featured coated papers while leaflets used uncoated paper.

Finishing options available to converters were also on display. The MBO Group showcased its unwinder UW500, capable of inline and offline finishing. In addition to the unwinder, a SVC525C sheeter and KL112.1 folding machine – with the 177 Vertical Stacking Delivery – were showcased in producing 16-page pharmaceutical leaflets on 40gsm uncoated rollstock.

As part of the event, a host of experts delivered lectures on the label and packaging industry as part of the event’s business conference program. Bob Leahey, associate director of InfoTrends, and Corey Reardon, president and CEO of AWA Alexander Watson Associates, headlined discussions regarding digital printing and the global label market.

Leahey, in his “Brands and Packaging in Europe: The Digital Print Advantage” seminar, explored where digital printing fits into a market dominated by traditional printing methods.

“Brand owners want to print short runs and test new products; they want supply chains to be lean and to order frequently at smaller amounts,” said Leahey.

Due to the shifting economy, many markets are in flux. The label and packaging industry, however, continues to experience growth. “Most printing applications are actually in decline, but magazines, forms, books, office documents, almost anything you can think of that is printed, the actual physical volume is starting to be displaced by electronic media,” added Leahey. “There’s one huge exception to that, and that’s the market that we’re in. Packaging and labels tend to grow in consumption with human population.”

Reardon, in a presentation entitled “Global Labeling and Product Decoration Market,” analyzed the trends and data relevant to the label industry. He focused on pressure sensitive, glue-applied, IML and shrink labels.

“We start seeing where the real growth driver for labeling and decorating is, and it’s the Asia Pacific region growing at two-to-three times that of the rest of the world,” said Reardon. “What’s important to note is that this Asia Pacific growth continues but at a decelerating rate. It will continue to be the growth driver, but in terms of it maintaining a 6% growth rate, that’s slowing down.”

Pressure sensitive labels account for the majority of the labels printed at 39%, with glue-applied labels sitting at 37%. Although not at the top, sleeve technology is the fastest grower at just over 5%. The food and beverage market remains the leader for end use segments.

Reardon also stated that digital printing has grown in all regions. Material science, especially in regards to substrate and resin production, has also helped businesses regulate their costs.

He noted that mergers and acquisitions have played a large role in the industry’s growth. Rather than organically building a company, there is a lot of movement with consolidation and fragmentation throughout the value chain. 

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