Fast forward to the year 1774, when a Vin Jaune du Jura was being bottled, possibly destined for the cellars of the newly crowned Louis XVI. Fast forward again to May of this year, when three bottles of this same vintage, which clearly never made it to Versailles, went on auction in the Jura region of France.
“They are the oldest bottles of wine in circulation,” said auctioneer Brigitte Fénaux. One at least carried a label, although it looks as if the label is younger than the bottle. In case you are wondering how good it would be to taste a wine which is older than the United States, note that the three bottles in question went under the hammer for between $80,000 and $120,000. With no guarantee that the wine was even drinkable.
The smell of hot lead
Jean-Paul Maury is not a name to be conjured with, except perhaps in France, where this owner-manager of the Maury printing group has opened what is claimed to be Europe’s largest museum for print and printing technology.
Many of the thousand or more exhibits consist of working machinery. Workshops for students and school children will show papermaking, print composition and printing on a variety of machines ancient and (almost) modern.
The museum aims not just to explore the past but also to encourage young people to consider the print industry as a career.
A long time a-coming
Just when we had almost given up waiting comes news that Europe’s first Landa nanographic press will shortly be up and running. It is being assembled in Heidenheim, Germany at the site of one of Europe’s biggest package printers, Edelmann. Oliver Bruns, Edelmann’s CEO, says the new press will be used for short runs and serialized packaging in the health and cosmetics sectors.
This is not the world’s first nanographic press: that honor goes to Graphica Bezalel in Israel. Just in case any readers have forgotten, the Landa press uses electrographic digital offset technology to transfer a very thin film of ink to the substrate, so thin that it requires no curing. The process was first launched at drupa 2012.
Digital direct printing
When it comes to filling, closing and labeling beverages, Krones is certainly among the world’s top three. Based in Germany, Krones has for some time been dipping its toe in the waters of digital printing. Now comes news that it has acquired a 100% holding in the company Till GmbH (it previously held 51%). Till and Krones had jointly developed digital printing equipment for bottles and cans. Now in the new structure, the Krones digital printing division, renamed “Dekron,” will continue to push forward digital direct printing and plans to open a second plant close to the Krones headquarters in Neutraubling, Bavaria.
Bavaria was also the location for the INPRINT show in the fall of 2017. At INPRINT, another equipment manufacturer launched a prototype press for digital direct-to-can printing. Tonejet is a UK-based company that is developing the “Cyclone” press for printing short-run cans. The technology used “electrographic technology using liquid toner” (sound familiar?), and the cost is said to be “comparable to conventional can decoration,” which sounds surprising.
According to Tonejet’s sales manager Marvin Foreman, “Tonejet’s printers allow our customers to manage special or one-off prints and to react quickly to events, parties and social media campaigns. We recently worked with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, to produce custom made cans for a major music festival they sponsored.”
This was in the nature of a beta test, says Foreman, and the Cyclone will not be officially launched until later this year.
In Dublin’s Fair City
The FINAT European Label Forum was held this year in Dublin, and a report on the label award winners revealed at the event appears elsewhere in this issue of L&NW. Readers will not need to be reminded that Ireland has, since 1920, been divided between the North, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the South (of which Dublin is the capital), which as the Republic of Ireland, is decidedly not. In 1998, after decades of near civil war in Northern Ireland between Unionists (pro-UK) and Republicans (pro-unity with the South) in the North, a peace settlement was reached between the conflicting factions.
Known as the Good Friday Agreement, it has brought prosperity to both sides of the border, even though feelings still run high on all parts of the island. Both parts of the island being part of the European Union was a major temperature-lowering factor. Into this explosive mixture comes Brexit, and the possibility, come March 29, 2019, of a “hard” border, i.e. barbed wire and watchtowers, between the two parts of Ireland.
This predicament worries Gavin Killeen not a little. As managing director of label converter Nuprint Technologies and former president of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, he was well placed to brief FINAT delegates on the economic risks of the latest political developments. The city of Londonderry (also known as Derry) is on the North/South border, its center on one side, its expanding suburbs on the other. “Twenty years of peace have made the border pretty much irrelevant for industry and commerce,” he explained. “Agricultural products can cross and recross the border many times – and like nearly all companies in Londonderry, Nuprint supplies labels without let or hindrance to customers anywhere in Ireland.”
Killeen is a label printer with a business to protect; Alaister Campbell is a politician with an axe to grind. A former aide to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, Campbell gave FINAT delegates his considered views on the future of Britain once it is outside the European Union. He does not like what he sees.
“Chaos reigns in Westminster, as the idea starts to germ that what we in Britain will never have a better deal than the one we already have.” Campbell lambasted the UK politicians and the press: “In Britain, we see anger trumping truth, nationalism beating globalization and fake news invading press and social media. I sometimes wonder if Britain is not importing the worst features of another Great Democracy.”
Packs for snacks
With several decades of label industry experience as a journalist, Andy Thomas of Tarsus has “learned a thing or two about the narrow web industry,” as he modestly puts it. At the FINAT ELF in Dublin he looked at flexible packaging as a growth area for label converters.
“Big, powerful wide web converters ensure barriers to entry for label producers,” he warned, “but with a mid-web press, label converters can be successful in flexible packaging if they choose the right niche products.” A narrow or mid-web flexo press is the best option for certain packaging volumes – not too little, not too much, he considered. Many label converters now offer sleeve labels, but the most promising products, according to Thomas, are snacks and pet foods. Both product groups use pouches, which one in five label converters already make.
One of the main obstacles for label converters is that brand owners are unaware of the short and medium-run possibilities that are now on offer.
Product authentication and falsified medicines
Two speakers at the Dublin event examined different aspects of security labeling and packaging. James Bevan, director of Vandagraf Consultancy and author of a study on this subject, gave a broad sweep of anti-counterfeiting devices, from the cheapest (“bar codes are universal, but they only identify, not authenticate the product”) through Near Field Communication (“Good but expensive”) to the most abstruse, including taggants embedded in paper or sprayed on the surface of a label.
Bevan foresees a bright future for all kinds of anti-counterfeit measures as costs come down and brand owners become more aware of the true costs of not combating product piracy. Bevan was followed by Dieter Moessner of packaging giant Edelmann, who explained the Falsified Medicine Directive (FMD), which comes into force in February 2019 and regulates all prescription drugs (plus some OTCs) sold in 32 European countries.
Moessner stressed that the FMD, although piloted by the European Commission, is run by the packaging and pharmaceutical companies themselves. The two essential requirements are a “Unique identifier” (which means that any individual pack can be checked against a data base) and an anti-tampering device.
This second requirement need not be a label, but Moessner’s research shows that labels account for at least one-third of pharmaceutical tamper-proof closures. As to the Unique Identifier, the European Commission, according to Moessner, is digging its heels in and saying that the Identifier cannot be a label but must be printed directly onto the secondary packaging. This would be bad for label converters and would rule out many economical solutions. “But the Commission will come round,” concluded Moessner optimistically.
No reference to the annual FINAT European Label Forum would be complete without a passing mention of the gala evening held at the former Guinness brewery in Dublin, with Irish dancing, a céili band and even a duo rendering of “Molly Malone” by two visiting journalists (modesty forbids to name them). All washed down, of course, by glasses of Ireland’s most famous export.