With so much uncertainty, one likely inevitably – for businesses in all industries – will be the necessity for transformation and change. Versatility and adaptability will be on full display, which has so often been the case during 2020. Converters have been tasked with meeting overnight demand for surging end-use market segments such as hand sanitizer, hygiene and personal care products.
The need for flexibility will only exacerbate demand for digital and hybrid printers and presses. Converters will increasingly seek out equipment that can deliver fast turnaround times with lower inventory. What follows is a detailed account of what’s new and popular in this burgeoning marketplace. Suppliers appear in alphabetical order.
Afinia Label has launched multiple new products in the digital printing space. The LT5C is an LED toner-based label printer, which allows for printing on specialty substrates such as clear, dark and metallic media.
“A white toner provides the ability to create unique design effects otherwise not achievable in standard CMYK printing,” explains Kevin McHale, marketing manager at Afinia Label. “Customers are loving its ease of operation, white toner design capabilities, and the potential to create waterproof labels.”
Meanwhile, the company has also launched the A200 bottle label applicator. The product was developed based on customer feedback, citing a need in the marketplace. “The A200 Bottle Applicator allows for consistent application of labels to cylindrical containers,” states McHale. “Our customers wanted a solution to fill this common need. This is yet another item in our well-rounded line of labeling solutions, allowing us to cover a wider range of labeling applications.”
Afinia Label’s diverse product line gives customers, specifically those in the beverage industries, the tools for labeling products that need water resistance and stand-apart design touches. Afinia Label offers printers the ability to create printed rolls of flexible packaging on demand, laminated and ready for pouch making in HFFS or VFFS machines, as well. The FP-230 flexible packaging press has been optimized for small-to-medium runs or varying print designs. The press has been built on the L901 Memjet-powered label printer.
“Our range of printing solutions is one of – if not the widest – in the market, giving customers options to choose which works best for their applications and volumes,” adds McHale. “We also work with a wide network of local dealers worldwide, who can provide support and supplies to customers quickly and with a high level of service. Some competitors sell direct, which creates issues such as shipping delays and subpar service.”
Arrow Systems, Inc.
Arrow Systems has recently unveiled a new water-based pigment inkjet printer, which was developed during quarantine. The ArrowJet Aqua 330R utilizes the latest high-speed printing technology from Memjet, as the Duraflex engine uses water-based pigment inks to print labels, flexible packaging, tag stock and more, with enhanced resolution up to 1600 x 1600 dpi. The ArrowJet comes standard with servo motors, an automated web guide, and has the option to put inline finishing, as well as lamination and slitting for flexible packaging production.
“When it comes to a system that does it all, the ArrowJet Aqua 330R provides you with all the tools needed to dominate the space,” notes Shaan Patel, business development manager at Arrow Systems. “Our customers have been extremely pleased with this new technology and the advantages it gives them access to.”
Beyond the ArrowJet Aqua 330R, Arrow Systems has been building upon its previous product range. One such product is the Anyjet II, which utilizes a water-based dye Memjet engine inline with the Anycut II laser finishing system. The largest factor for integrating the Memjet engine with a new laser is the ability to offer a single-pass solution to achieve what used to take several systems to accomplish, adds Patel. The company can also customize the Anycut II with different laser powers up to 150W.
“We are constantly improving our existing technologies to create intuitive new solutions for our customers’ needs,” says Patel. “In addition to our never-ending quest for innovation, we offer some of the best back-end service, support and training in the industry, as well as extensive materials and applications development to help our customers succeed. With over 40 years in equipment manufacturing and distribution, as well as over 70 years of experience in the coatings and material development space, we are able to pre-emptively adjust to where the market is heading instead of reacting to where it is, keeping our customers ahead of their competition.”
Working with Colordyne on new Memjet technology has helped Arrow Systems speed up its new product development. “Through this partnership we have been able to adjust to changing market dynamics, reach a broader customer base, and offer solutions that are on the forefront of digital printing and finishing methods within the industry,” adds Patel. “Working with Colordyne on the ArrowJet Aqua 330R has helped us get to market faster and become more aggressive with new technologies than we would have been able to otherwise.”
AstroNova has optimized its latest product launches with aqueous pigment-based inkjet printing technologies. Most recently, AstroNova unveiled the TrojanLabel T3-OPX. This A3-wide post-print solution enables digital CMYK printing on a wide variety of uncoated substrates like paper bags, bubble mailers, corrugated boxes, folding cartons, wood, etc. Its automatic calibration makes switching between substrates of varying thicknesses simpler.
“Customers are excited to see innovations like this in digital printing as it expands the range of packaging types that are viable to print on, from both technological and economic perspectives,” states Mohit Bhushan, global director of product management. “Many of our customers face the challenge of moving towards more sustainable and environment-friendly packaging. With the T3-OPX, they can easily print on those materials and still display their branding through exciting colors and graphics.”
AstroNova has amassed more than 25 years of experience serving the labels and packaging industry. In that time, the company has developed direct relationships with key print technology partners like Canon, Memjet, HP, Oki Data and more, which are a testimony to the fact that the digital printing specialist can match the right product/technology for its customers’ applications.
“Our core printing technologies remain solid and reliable with aqueous inkjet, electrophotographic (dry toner), and thermal transfer printing solutions in our portfolio,” says Bhushan. “We’re seeing the appetite of brand owners grow with automation and with the integration of our printers into a production environment. This was a trend before the pandemic, but the pandemic’s new reality puts a more significant emphasis on supply chain security. In-plant skills contributed to further strengthening this trend. Customers are increasingly coming to us with their process automation needs extending beyond putting ink on paper regardless of how beautifully we can do it.”
At the beginning of 2020, AstroNova also launched its GetLabels brand. Complementing QuickLabel and TrojanLabel, which have been developed for digital color label printers and specialty presses, GetLabels is a global blank label and thermal transfer ribbon supplier for resellers and brand owners.
“Ever since we ventured into the digital label printing market, we realized it’s critical to ensure that label materials match both the customer needs and the printing technology,” explains Bhushan. “Back in the days when we were still QuickLabel Systems, we always offered a complete solution – hardware, software, inks and ribbons, and label media. However, over the years, we’ve accumulated expertise in evaluating different media types and their suitability to different application requirements. Now that we offer two other hardware product ranges under QuickLabel and TrojanLabel brands, we’ve concluded that our label media offerings need to become agnostic to the printer brands. Therefore, we decided to consolidate our label media offerings under the GetLabels brand so it may be viewed as an independent entity. Our label portfolio is vast and extremely competitive due to the volumes we run in our facilities.”
Bobst recently launched the Master DM5, a hybrid press powered by Mouvent inkjet technology.
“The Master DM5 is our first ever fully digitally integrated hybrid press and represents a new era in the production of self-adhesive labels, with totally new standards of productivity and profitability,” says Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO of Bobst. “Bobst can now offer the full range of digital, hybrid and DigiFlexo solutions, which are perfectly integrated, interchangeable and scalable to all present and future needs.”
The Master DM5 is touted by Bobst as the most convenient digital integration available. Bobst says, “Immediately it looks different, standing out at first glance, with the smallest footprint in the industry, easy and user-friendly access to digital printheads and the automated setup of multi-process operations.”
The digital print engine inside the Master DM5 is made up of Mouvent’s proprietary Cluster Technology – integrating Fujifilm Dimatix Samba printheads – which is the basis of the entire range of digital printing machines developed by Mouvent, Bobst’s digital printing competence center. The Mouvent Cluster heads are super compact and simple to change for easy and accessible maintenance, and have all-in-one fully integrated inking, conditioning and electronic circuits for the highest printhead reliability.
“Two of the greatest benefits of the Master DM5 are its productivity and reliability,” explains Federico D’Annunzio, Bobst program manager, hybrid printing. “It represents a total flexo-digital-converting integration, with non-stop productivity, and the highest press uptime in the industry. It prints at speeds of up to 100 m/m at the highest quality, 1200 x 1200 dpi. Full digital automation means that only one press operator is needed to print high added value label jobs, in short and medium runs. Job changes on-the-fly, without stopping the press, are possible for flexo, digital, diecutting and stripping processes. All analog tools (print cylinders, flexible dies) are changed automatically. Waste stripping is also fully automated. Eliminating traditional analog bottlenecks, Master DM5 is the very first digitized ‘non-stop’ label press.”
Ink-on-Demand (IoD) is an optional extra for DigiFlexo print units, a Bobst product that replaces conventional inking reservoirs with a single rubber pipe that dispenses 30 grams of ink to the print unit. The system eliminates ink trays and chambered doctor blades and performs fully automated washing of the print unit in less than one minute.
It also has a full range of added value capabilities, including coatings, varnishes, tactile effects, 3D effects, hot stamping, cold foil, embossing, diecutting, punching, silk screen, flexo and digital variable data printing (VDP).
Colordyne Technologies has designed a wide range of digital printing products. Its latest digital product launch is the 2800 Series AP – Retrofit. In April 2020, the company launched this entry-level press enhancement using a single Memjet DuraFlex printhead for CMYK production. This retrofit uses aqueous pigment inkjet to produce high-quality images, up to 1600 dpi, with greater durability than other water-based printing technologies, the company says.
The 2800 Series AP – Retrofit can print at speeds up to 150 fpm and has a maximum print width of 12.75" (324 mm). Multiple printheads can be stitched together for applications that require wider print widths, as well.
Colordyne also provides aqueous pigment technology for production volumes, which can run at speeds over 150 fpm, in the form of the 3800 Series AP – Retrofit. This product uses a Memjet DuraLink printhead for each color channel, CMYK + optional spot or extended gamut, to enhance existing flexo presses and web handling systems. According to Katelyn Bohr, director of marketing at Colordyne, the company is preparing to unveil its second-generation UV technology. This will be offered as a retrofit solution that will be launched to the market during the first quarter of 2021.
“Over the past two years, we have transitioned our focus to offering the technologies that best fit the needs of our customers,” says Bohr. “For our water-based solutions, this involved working with Memjet to bring two new solutions to market, the 2800 Series AP – Retrofit and 3800 Series AP – Retrofit. Both retrofits use Memjet’s latest printhead technologies featuring aqueous pigment inkjet to deliver high-quality production with enhanced durability and faster print speeds. For all our systems, including our 3800 Series UV – Retrofit, we listened to our customers’ feedback and made real-time adjustments to the equipment, so it is optimized for their unique needs.”
In 2020, Colordyne, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, also launched a new business division. “Working with strategic integration partners (SIPs), like Arrow Systems, we can bring more products using our new inkjet technologies, the ChromaPlex print engines, to different markets,” notes Bohr. “Colordyne provides SIPs with inkjet print engines that are tailored to the unique markets they serve.
Printing a label to survive the most demanding environments seems like quite a challenge. NeuraLabel, however, has simplified this process with its latest tabletop digital printers. Converters seeking GHS-compliant labels can print on-demand, thus receiving industrial-grade labels in a quick and timely fashion.
The company has leaned on a wide range of mechanical, electrical, software and even chemical engineers on-staff to design purpose-built printers serving a variety of markets – including durable goods labeling.
“With the high speed and durability of our printers, markets needing tough chemical- and UV-resistant labels – such as retail and wholesale chemicals, and full-color GHS-compliant and BS5609 approved labels – are using NeuraLabel printers,” explains Todd Wauhob, chief revenue officer at NeuraLog. “Customers can print the labels they need, when they need them and eliminate the traditional minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirements.
“Desktop-sized digital printers for full-color, short-run labels are perfect for this market, with the ease to produce many thousands of label designs with ever-changing regulations,” he adds.
NeuraLabel printers allow customers to print labels in-house for the precise moment when they are needed. While on-demand digital printing has been utilized in the industry for some time, the technology has surely evolved – with the ability to print durable labels emerging as one such trend.
Most recently, NeuraLabel has launched the Sirius5 white toner LED printer, which offers a host of media options. The speed and durability of the Sirius is complemented by winding and finishing capabilities. The company has also expanded its Print Lab, where it analyzes materials to add to the company’s list of qualified media.
“Printer components have become smaller, print speeds have increased and the latest desktop printers even have white toner options, producing full-color labels at 2400 dpi,” says Wauhob. “Imagine the gains in efficiency and time-to-market when your creative team has a 4- or 5-color label printer within arm’s reach.”
NeuraLabel’s printers help benefit multiple other markets, as well. The trends toward SKU proliferation and customization necessitate digital color printers that can accommodate the flexibility to quickly take advantage of opportunities as they arise. This might include printing prototypes, small batches, alternative label designs, seasonal promotions and more.
Dantex offers the PicoColour and PicoJet UV inkjet label presses to converters looking to penetrate the digital label market. The PicoJet is the next generation of digital presses from Dantex, which has been designed to meet the demands of larger mid-web customers.
“Dantex has most certainly pioneered inter-color pinning technology, which has been much appreciated by our customers,” notes Joseph Sanchez, territory sales manager at Dantex Group. “Our PicoJet has also been developed using only LED light technology, which is allowing us to offer a press with the ability to accept a wide variety of print media.”
Dantex’s Advance Engineering Team has been able to configure high-speed print capability on white, producing an 86% opacity on a single pass. PicoJet has also been developed to incorporate inline finishing based on a modular design, as the 13.75" wide digital label press can be customized to meet specific requirements and can enjoy onsite upgrades as requirements change.
“Customers can choose from an array of inline options such as flexo workstations, cold foil, semi-rotary or full rotary die stations, re-registration printing and complete finishing,” explains Sanchez. “The PicoJet is truly a production press. With a 2.5 picoliter minimum dot size, customers will enjoy superb print detail at speeds of up to 250 fpm.”
According to Sanchez, Dantex’s product line has been optimized to handle a wide range of coated and uncoated substrates. The presses also feature a user-friendly interface, as well as re-register printing and re-register diecutting.
Domino, a global organization that has over 40 years of experience in inkjet technology, has just unleashed its newest product to the digital printing market. On September 30, via a virtual broadcast, Domino announced the launch of the N730i digital UV inkjet label press, which introduces the new Domino Generation 7 inkjet platform.
Philip Easton, director of the Domino Digital Printing Solutions division, comments, “This is the most significant new product we have launched since we started in the digital label press business. It has been a huge collaborative team effort spread over five years involving our colleagues at Brother Industries, supplier partners, our development team, and our customers. Today, we are so proud of what the N730i delivers, as we truly believe it sets new standards in high performance inkjet label printing.”
The N730i incorporates a host of brand-new features, including the revolutionary Brother Bitstar 1200 dpi piezo printhead, the SunLight graphical user interface, and the latest automated Domino i-Tech intelligent Technology features, including i-Tech SetAlign and i-Tech CleanCap2. The N730i is designed to print all jobs, including those with a “silk-screen-like” white, at 230 fpm (70 m/m). The Brother Bitstar 1200 dpi printhead uses a combination of 2.1 picoliter drop sizes and nominal drop sizes of 2.8 picoliter and 3.3 picoliter to provide consistent ink density across the image, producing high quality printing that includes fine fonts, micro-text, sharper edges, and smoother gradients. Patented triple-layer polycrystalline micro-piezo technology minimizes cross talk and delivers precise nozzle control for optimum drop placement accuracy.
Offering label manufacturers maximum flexibility, the N730i is available with optional flexo stations for priming to facilitate consistent quality even on the most challenging media types, and for spot colors or varnishing, increasing the range of jobs that can be achieved, or for reverse white for cost-effective shrink sleeve applications. These flexo stations can be retrofitted, providing customers with greater flexibility as their business needs change.
“As Domino approaches 1,000 installations globally of our Generation 6 inkjet technology platform, we are excited to introduce Generation 7 with the unveiling of the Domino N730i digital UV inkjet label press,” says Bill Myers, marketing manager at Domino. “We offer our customers choice. The N730i is an addition to our product offering, not a replacement. We will continue to manufacture and sell the industry-leading Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press. Customers will be able to choose which press makes the most sense for their business.”
Since releasing 1200 dpi technology at Labelexpo Europe 2017, Durst has over 100 installations of 1200 dpi technology and just recently unveiled its new RSCi platform.
The Durst Tau RSCi is an upgradeable platform providing true image quality, expanded gamut with orange, violet and green color options, at web widths of 13", 16.5" and 20". Plus, the RSCi now provides speeds of up to 328 fpm.
The RSCi is upgradeable so customers can add color and width at a later date. An initial investment in 13" without expanded gamut colors can be converted in the field to a 16.5" or 20" RSCi with additional color options if business and customer needs change.
“The Tau range has constantly evolved over the years as new head technology has become available and new ink options have been developed,” explains Steve Lynn, director and GM of new markets for Durst North America. “As we have listened to converters on what they want for the future we have worked to develop a platform that allows lower initial investment if needed, but also allows wider widths and high speed that allow flexo equipment replacement.”
Durst has also prioritized working with label and packaging converters and finishing equipment partners to better understand the needs of the market, along with the needs of finishing equipment companies that may connect to a Durst printer. Another Durst product feature is its Nozzle Compensation system. Durst’s nozzle compensation will mask nozzle issues to maintain the highest quality possible at all times and extend printhead life.
“At Durst, we have worked to develop the highest quality, highest speed digital option available today,” states Lynn. “We provide the highest speed at up to 328 fpm and the highest quality with proven native 1200 dpi inkjet and the smallest industry inkjet drop size of 2 picoliters. We also provide the largest inkjet color gamut available with orange, violet and green gamut expansion options, allowing pantone coverage of 95% at Delta E<2, and a very high opacity white ink that can print at speeds up to 262 fpm.”
Epson, an established manufacturer across a wide range of industries, has seen its digital printing technology in color labels evolve organically, where the company has been able to leverage technology from other areas – robotics, ink developments, software, sensors – to boost its portfolio.
“Innovation in our sensors, robotics and electronics divisions have played a major contributing role in the creation of the latest SurePress L-6534 UV press,” says Mike Pruitt, senior product manager of industrial markets, Epson America. “Epson has invested decades of commitment to R&D for continuous improvements in speed, image quality, reliability and productivity.”
According to Pruitt, Epson is well-known for its in-house MEMS technology (small electro-mechanical technology), which has led the latest digital press to be largely automated with electronic control. This eliminates mechanical adjustment and allows remote operations and maintenance.
Epson also utilizes its own PrecisionCore technology (printhead, ink, robotic control, software and firmware), which delivers enhanced output quality and durability at high speeds. In terms of accuracy, the SurePress typically achieves the same gamut of the competitors using one less color, which means lowers costs and on press maintenance.
“While steering of the substrate over a drum is the ideal method to ensure accurate registration to 1200 dpi in the feed direction, other companies have attempted but not commercialized because of the complexity and expense,” says Pruitt. “Epson also has chosen a dedicated robotic controller to control the press, resulting in more robust and faster communication within the press.”
For tabletop digital printers, Epson recently launched its new ColorWorks lineup. The ColorWorks C6000A, C6000P, C6500A, and C6500P have been specifically designed as a color upgrade to black-only thermal transfer printers. The new ColorWorks models deliver on-demand, 4" or 8" color labels at a comparable price. The new lineup prints labels at up to 5" per second, allowing industrial and commercial organizations to produce high volume color labels for production use. Featuring up to 1200 dpi resolution, the new models produce crisp images that are comparable to pre-printed labels, the company adds.
By Dieter Finna
Higher prepress costs, in addition to multi-step production processes, often stand in the way of the application of finishing effects. Packaging designers in particular would like to use them more frequently to enhance the appeal of labels and packaging. New digital modules from Gallus are bringing momentum to this gridlocked situation. Integrated inline in the printing process, they implement promotional design effects economically in one operation and thus keep production costs low.
Numerous effects are available for digital finishing of labels and packaging. These include high-gloss surfaces, matte-gloss effects with high contrast, a wide range of tactile design effects and the use of digital metal relief effects with cold foil. The pre-printing of opaque white as a basis for brilliant color effects and the printing of opaque texts on transparent films are also among the digital finishing effects used.
In general, Gallus offers two different modules: The Digital Embellishment Unit (DEU) and the Digital Printbar “White Edition.” The two modules differ in terms of their finishing options and positioning options within a printing system. In a Gallus Labelfire, the module enables embellishment and printing in a single operation in a completely digital workflow and is installed directly behind digital or conventional printing units.
“The DEU implements both matte and glossy spot coatings through to tactile relief effects with a coating volume of up to 100 g / m2. What is extraordinary about the DEU is that it implements three different coating effects in one pass and can thus replace up to three conventional printing stations,” says Thomas Schweizer, head of product management at Gallus Ferd. Rüesch AG, explaining the advantages of the Digital Embellishment Unit.
The maximum applied coating volume determines the achievable printing speed. A coating volume of up to 24 g / m² is possible at full machine speed. The machine speed is reduced with higher coating volumes. Metallic effects can also be achieved in conjunction with a cold foil unit. The coating, which also serves as an adhesive for the cold foil for this application, is applied digitally. If the amount of coating applied is correspondingly high, a metal relief effect is created through which digital metallic doming – as a digital finishing step – is possible. This universal UV-based coating was developed by Actega Schmid Rhyner specifically for use in the Digital Embellishment Unit.
“What is extraordinary about the DEU is that it implements three different coating effects in one pass and can thus replace up to three conventional printing stations,” says Schweizer.
The Digital Printbar “White Edition” was first presented at Labelexpo Europe 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. It is used for the digital insetting of highly opaque UV white with a layer thickness of ≤ 10 µm. “With this ink transfer it is the digital alternative to a conventional screen printing unit. Compared to conventional production, however, it offers greater flexibility as no printing plates are required and can be used up to a printing width of 17" (430 mm),” says Schweizer.
The Digital Printbar can be moved on a rail system above the primary level of a conventional press and can be used for white pre-print and/or white imprinting, before or after the printing units of a conventional press system. In the future, the Digital Printbar will also be available for applying UV coatings for matte/gloss effects and tactile applications.
With all the technical possibilities offered by digital modules, the economic efficiency of their use is dependent on the unit costs of the orders produced on them, or whether an investment in such a system is worthwhile for the user. For calculation purposes, it can be assumed that the investment costs in a printing system with a digital module will increase by approximately 250,000 euros.
The digital modules have been shown to significantly reduce the unit costs of printing and finishing, though. Especially for short runs, designs with inline print finishing can be offered at very attractive prices. The cost per 1,000 units is well below that of production variants with conventional work steps. Depending on the application, this can extend to run lengths that are customary in the market, especially when language, text or design variants come into play.
So, the arguments for much higher prepress costs or multi-stage production processes no longer stand in the way of digital print finishing. Inline production with digital modules has therefore made the implementation of finishing effects amazingly simple.
Gallus recently launched the Labelfire E 340 hybrid press, which features CMYK plus digital white, and aims to provide a different entry point for converters looking to produce low-cost, digital labels in a single pass on a production class platform.
Launched in 2016, the Gallus Labelfire 340 is an 8-color digital production system combining UV inkjet printing with inline embellishment and converting. The inkjet system, co-developed with Heidelberg, features 1200 dpi inkjet heads from Fujifilm. The Gallus Labelfire can be installed with low migration equipment that includes a pinning after each printhead row. This first drying step ensures that the inks do not run into each other, the foundation for very small fonts or fine lines. Migration tests were done on the Gallus Labelfire at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen in Wiesloch, Germany. The low migration compliance was confirmed by the Swiss laboratory service provider SQTS (Swiss Quality Testing Services). Gallus Labelfire E 340 features the same 1200 x 1200 dpi image quality, without orange, violet and green inks. According to Gallus the new model can be custom-configured based on the individual needs of the converter in order to provide the lowest cost of entry when it comes to getting started with digital hybrid label printing. For more on Gallus, see sidebar on page 68.
HP has launched a brand-new portfolio that builds upon what has been a dynamic Indigo platform. In a major step toward extending analog-to-digital conversion, HP has unveiled the HP Indigo V12 digital press, the first HP Indigo built on next-generation HP Indigo LEPX architecture. The first of Indigo’s Series 6 platform, the narrow web label press provides Indigo’s quality and versatility at higher speeds. As a result, the HP Indigo V12 can print as fast as analog with greater production agility, redefining digital label printing, the company says.
The digital printing specialist has also introduced the new narrow web HP Indigo 6K and HP Indigo 8K digital presses for labels and the HP Indigo 25K for flexible packaging and labels, as well as an extensive range of color and workflow automation products, to efficiently deliver diverse, on-demand print orders with low waste.
“Indigo LEP technology has evolved in many aspects over the years, with new inks (silver, white for sleeves, UV visible and many more), new color systems that ensure converters can reach color faster and then keep it, and wider formats, such as the HP Indigo 25K,” explains Eli Mahal, head of HP Indigo Label & Packaging Product marketing and management. “We have also introduced HD resolution (1600 dpi), a PrintOS ecosystem to benefit from an Industry 4.0 environment, and inline digital embellishment with Kurz. And recently, we presented our LEPX, a serial architecture allowing brands and converters to benefit from Indigo print quality and versatility at 120 m/m.”
HP has also engineered end-to-end solutions for converters with the Digital Pouch Factory, which allows them to develop a business targeting short-run pouches with a small footprint. Plus, HP’s Spot Master has enhanced its color system with the ability to reach color in less than five minutes.
Mahal believes that this latest platform unveiling will further convince converters who have not yet invested in digital printing to do just that. “We have unveiled our newest solutions using virtual events and virtual demos,” he adds. “Our existing customers and converters that have not started their digital journey yet, as well as brands, are excited with the opportunities that we’re presenting. HP technology allows them to reimagine a more agile supply chain, sustainable and productive operation with no compromise on quality and application range.”
INX International Ink Co. offers a product portfolio for digital printing, from capital equipment to inks. The company’s INX NW210 delivers a single-pass output up to 80 fpm on any labelstock, while the NW210 press can produce color labels at a printing width of 8.25" (210mm).
INX’s portfolio has evolved to focus more on the specific needs of each customer. “INX is focused on providing inkjet systems that are very customizable for all-in-one applications,” notes Jay Larsen, general manager and director of R&D of digital hardware for INX International Ink Co. “Our latest improvements are higher resolutions and speeds, double-sided printing, sheeting and specialized integrations with customer processes and finishing.”
According to Larsen, more and more customers are creating custom solutions for very specific applications. This has led to the development of the INX JetINX system, which is the inkjet printing subsystem that is used in the company’s standard printing products.
“The INX JetINX system is also offered as a set of inkjet printer building blocks that can be easily integrated to custom machines for printing labels directly onto products, containers and more,” states Larsen. “Each year, INX adds another printhead system to our JetINX product offerings, allowing faster creation of custom-tailored inkjet printing solutions.”
When developing new products, INX has the advantage of serving as a digital ink company and an inkjet hardware company. “The first step in any new inkjet printing project is to find an ink that works well with the customer’s substrate and meets their requirements,” adds Larsen. “INX has numerous digital inks to choose from, including UV, solvent and water-based. Based upon the chosen ink, a JetINX hardware system can be chosen that supports that ink. The advantage is the customer gets a system that meets their specific workflow and production needs.”
Konica Minolta has launched a new optional flexo printing unit, enabling inline production of white and other colors, which can be retrofitted to AccurioLabel 190 and 230 presses. This technology, first unveiled as an overprinting unit at Labelexpo Europe last year, has been developed for label converters who are looking for complete hybrid technology to complement digital printing systems and advance their production capabilities.
Developed with Konica Minolta’s manufacturing partner in Europe, Danish company Grafisk Maskinfabrik, the flexo printing unit can be retrofitted to the Konica Minolta original AccurioLabel 190 or AccurioLabel 230 toner label presses. The press uses standard flexo inks and in combination with an overprint sensor kit, it provides perfectly registered inline overprinting of white or any other color, which will open doors to a wider range of print applications such as printing on clear substrates.
The flexo printing unit comprises an unwinder, web guide, a complete flexo printing station, UV curing system, an output NIP and a touch control panel.
All AccurioLabel presses benefit from AccurioPro Label Impose software providing optimized media usage, avoiding potential waste of label substrates and enabling operators to handle many prepress tasks from one central control station.
“The label printing market is considered as one of the main market segments that will grow in the future. And this year alone, almost half of the narrow web label installations will be digital,” says Edoardo Cotichini, team manager of industrial printing for Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe.
“The introduction of our optional flexo printing unit is a new way of looking at hybrid technology. It’s been driven by market demands, and we are looking forward to further growing our market share in labels, a market we only entered five years ago, but have now sold over 500 label machines. Working closely with our customers in a partnership approach, we will also help them to rethink what’s possible. The march of digital production is unstoppable,” concludes Cotichini.
Mark Andy offers a comprehensive range of hybrid presses. Products include the Digital Pro, Digital Series HD, Digital Plus Screen and the Digital One. Mark Andy’s hybrid portfolio is touted as being “an efficiently designed, end-to-end workflow, offering digital printing with upgradable converting, decoration and finishing options to match the existing – and future – state of your business.”
The Digital Pro runs at 77 fpm (23.4 m/m) production speeds for all applications and low cost to print, allowing businesses priced out of production systems the opportunity to benefit from digital. The production-class Digital Series HD has been engineered to bring greater levels of productivity and profitability to the modern converter. Building off the platform’s successes, Mark Andy says the latest true hybrid offering combines flexibility of inline converting, high-resolution digital printing, and best-in-class production capability. Plus, the Digital One has been specifically designed for micro to short-run prime labels.
For more information about Mark Andy’s digital hybrid presses, see the exclusive Q&A on page 64.
MPS offers the hybrid EF SymJet powered by Domino. The EF SymJet is a symbiotic combination of a flexo press with the fully automated MPS EF platform and an integrated Domino N610i digital UV inkjet label press. Integrated on the EF platform, the MPS EF SymJet powered by Domino can either be installed as a fully integrated inline or standalone off-line digital solution. With the benefits of both flexo with automated pressure settings, including job memory and digital printing, the EF SymJet powered by Domino gives label printers a wide range of new print possibilities.
Combining flexo with the latest digital technologies provides label printers the ability to choose how to run their jobs. For example, they can run all flexo (with the Domino serving as a pass-through), all digital (with the MPS EF accommodating material handling and finishing) or a combination of the two working together in hybrid mode. In hybrid mode, this press provides the best of both worlds – the ability of flexo to add primers, spot colors, UV flexo white, metallics, cold foils, over-varnish, inline finishing and more; coupled with the efficiency benefits of digital such as the ability to run multiple SKUs, versions, and colors while making changes on the fly – all in a single pass. The EF SymJet also has a wide range of inline converting solutions, from automatic quick change diecutting and embossing solutions, to flexible positioning rail unit solutions for lamination, cold foil, hot foil, de-lam/re-lam, and more.
“With this hybrid press, label printers will enjoy improved productivity, increased throughput, excellent quality, and the flexibility of digital combined with the performance of flexo, as well as converting, packaged together in a Lean Manufacturing format,” says MPS. “Customers of this hybrid press can utilize existing tooling and watch their business grow with improved margins on their current business.”
Mouvent offers the LB702-WB, a high net output digital label printer using 100% water-based inks, and LB701-UV, one of the smallest high flexibility, high productivity digital label printers in the world.
Thierry Martin, CEO of Mouvent, says, “The LB702-WB is a really remarkable advancement in digital label production as it uses only water-based inks, while the LB701-UV is extremely compact and ergonomic, and it enables highly flexible label production. These machines are the future of digital label printing.”
LB702-WB uses only 100% water-based, in-house developed Mouvent inks, making it 100% free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and 100% indirect food contact compliant. The machine can run with up to 100 m/m on a broad range of substrates of up to 360 mm wide, from self-adhesive to wet-glue labelstock, especially targeting applications where migration and recyclability could be an issue – washable labels being just one example.
The LB702-WB’s high print quality of 1200 x 1200 dpi leads to excellent results on complex substrates such as textured natural wine label papers and others. And thanks to its all-new coating station applying the proprietary Mouvent Primer, even cheaper and more standard substrates can be used, without compromising print quality. Being configured with six colors, the water-based Mouvent press allows for excellent ECG printing and Pantone matching. Paired with the in-house developed Mouvent DFE, customers benefit from easy file preparation, enhanced color consistency and variable data printing for real-time customization. It all results in a combination of both technical and aesthetic excellence.
The LB701-UV is the smallest label printer within the Mouvent range, matching the letterpress format. The so-called mini label machine has a compact design but according to Mouvent does not compromise on print resolution (1200 x 1200 dpi) nor on productivity (up to 100 m/m and 5,000 sqm/d). Its size and ease of use benefit even the smallest print shops, the company adds.
Digital press manufacturer mprint has announced it has delivered its first mlabel compact four-color hybrid inkjet label printing machine. The installation is at a label converter in Germany. While this particular press will print UV inks, the label printing system – just as with the entire product line – is also available for printing with aqueous inks.
The mlabel compact is a combination of mprint’s previous mlabel 2 generation and the new mlabel Gen3 flagship, and is designed as an entry level digital printing machine, which includes mprint’s latest print engine technology, as well as proven converting modules. At 10" wide, the system uses the Kyocera KJ4A (or B) printheads with a native resolution of 600 x 600 dpi and print speeds of up to 246 fpm (330 fpm for aqueous inks). The standard configuration includes web guide, web cleaner and a corona treater, CMYK print engine with ink reclaiming, laminating, and rotary diecutting. The user interface is the same intuitive HMI that is used for all other products mprint has to offer.
“The small footprint combined with the capabilities of finishing a label in truly one single pass makes this small hybrid press a production powerhouse,” says Olaf Walter, president of mlabel.
The mLabel has variable printing capabilities including 1D/2D barcodes, serialization, and customization data. Print speed can run up to 75 m/m at a max material width of 10" (250 mm). It also features inline lamination and diecutting.
Nilpeter has partnered with Screen to develop and market the Panorama label printing platform, offering converters the advantages of flexibility built into the Panorama system and profit from the synergy between the two companies. The companies have developed the Panorama one-source, go-to-market program that includes market evaluation, utilization analyses, ROI data consulting, plus sales, service and supplies. It taps Nilpeter’s 100-year heritage of service within the packaging industry for narrow web flexo printing, manufacturing and converting solutions, while leveraging Screen’s 150-year history of scanning, prepress workflow, color reproduction and print-on-demand, digital inkjet products.
The Panorama consists of Nilpeter flexo units, Screen digital inkjet print engines and Nilpeter converting units that can be configured to fit customer needs – all inline, all from the Nilpeter and Screen coalition. Panorama can operate as a standalone digital press, as a combined digital press and converting system and as a hybrid that integrates flexo units, the digital press and converting processes.
Both Nilpeter and Screen serve industries in transition from an older world of conventional analog production to next generation, “Clean Hand” manufacturing and production. The two companies have seen the opportunity to combine their expertise and leadership in flexo manufacturing and digital inkjet printing to help customers navigate this transition with best in-class solutions, manufacturing know-how and digital print expertise.
All4Labels, one of Europe’s leading label converters, recently purchased three Panorama hybrid combination presses. All the presses support 5-color inkjet engines in various combinations with flexo processes, hot-foil stamping/embossing, and Quick-Change diecutting.
Torsten Wietholz, corporate director at All4Labels, says, “The three Panorama hybrids will be installed at different All4Labels locations across Europe and follow our strategy to set new industry standards in terms of flexibility, customization, and supply chain excellence.”
Italian press manufacturer Omet recently announced a new model of its hybrid XJet press. The press is the result of a partnership between Omet and Durst, plus exclusive finishing and converting units to obtain the final product in a single pass. This partnership has created a hybrid product that is able to provide a maximum level of productivity, independent from the length of the run.
On the XJet, printers enjoy the benefits of digital technology, such as variable data, personalization and high uptime, along with high performance features such as inline integration of finishing units (cold foil, hot foil, silk screen, varnish) and converting units (multi-layer, diecutting, slitting). Additionally, Omet flexo stations enable primers and special varnish application, Pantone or metalized color printing, compensating for the limitations of today’s digital technology, the company says. Printers can choose the most convenient combination of technologies at every run, adapting the production to changeable market trends like personalization, just-in-time deliveries and final product valorization.
Some of the latest developments implemented on the Omet XJet include faster speeds (80 m/m up to 100 m/m), wider widths (330 – 420 – 510 mm), and the automatic nozzle compensation system, ensuring high quality, the company says. Omet hybrid platforms are now capable of producing shrink label printing and many other special applications along with the printing of every kind of self-adhesive label.
“We are working on further developments aimed at expanding the range of final applications,” says Marco Calcagni, Omet’s marketing director. “To satisfy the demands of our globally respected customers who themselves are pioneers in innovations, the XJet is requested by label companies that see benefits in a total hybrid solution, being able to provide an extended range of new opportunities and widening significantly their product portfolio. We also see significant interest coming from digital printers who want to optimize their production process: printing, finishing and converting inline, with a focus on single pass production, by using only one machine instead of two or three being used currently.”
Primera has recently added the LX910 color label printer to its LX-Series. These printer models are categorized as inkjet printers, capable of adding color customization onto labels by printing ink in liquid form. Smith Corona, a thermal label manufacturer, has detailed the benefits of the printer:
“The LX-910’s color draws attention to important information and enhances the value of labels used across multiple businesses and industries. An upgrade of the now discontinued LX900 printer, the Primera LX910 prints high-quality color labels at high speeds while requiring little maintenance. It combines versatility and simplicity by using a single cartridge that can switch between printing dye-based or pigment-based inks for sharper, more vibrant images and texts.”
The Primera LX910 printer currently sells on Primera’s website for $2,695. The LX910 label printer is able to support both roll and fanfold labels and tags. It requires rolls to have a 3" core and, at max, a 6" outer diameter to properly fit. Labels and tags can be diecut, meaning a shape is already cut into the labels, continuous, where there is no perforation or cut between labels, or containing a black sensor mark in between each label.
“Unlike other desktop printers, which can only sustain paper media, color label printers, like the LX910, are capable of printing on synthetic substrates, such as polypropylene, polyester, and vinyl, as well as labels with high-gloss, semi-gloss or matte finishes,” writes Alaina D’Altorio, content marketing specialist at Smith Corona. “These materials are ideal for labels and tags required for surviving in wet and high-humidity environments, in addition to being tear, scratch and smudge-resistant.”
Plus, the printer can print interchangeably between dye-based and pigment-based inks. It uses a single, high capacity CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) ink cartridge capable of supporting 16.7 million colors in total.
Screen Americas now offeres the new Truepress Jet L350UV SAI inkjet system for label printing. The press features improved color reproduction, as well as enhanced scalability, enabling it to meet a wide variety of market needs. Screen developed the Truepress Jet L350UV in 2013, its first printer designed specifically for labels. Since the initial release, wide ranging, continuous improvements have seen the L350UV series ship a total of more than 150 presses to date. Adoption has also been accelerating in Europe, where short runs are particularly beneficial for language localization, as well as the Americas and Asia.
In recent years, requirements for mixed, short-run printing have also been growing in relation to products for the high price and luxury segments. This has created a need for better print quality than ever before. At the same time, however, there have been growing calls to improve installation costs and other aspects of digital label presses. In response to these industry trends, Screen developed the Truepress Jet L350UV SAI. The system enables richer color expression and is available in a lineup of four models that can be selected according to the production environment.
The system’s name, SAI, represents its design concept and refers to its “Stable” operation, “Accurate” color reproduction and time-tested “Integrated” technologies. “SAI” can also mean both “color” and “high” in the Japanese translation and was chosen to reflect Screen Americas’ continuous pursuit of peak color expression.
The company has equipped the Truepress Jet L350UV SAI with additional slots for mounting inkjet printheads. Along with CMYK it can be loaded with white, orange and blue inks for a total of seven colors. The system also features proprietary color management technologies developed in collaboration with CGS Publishing Technologies International GmbH of Germany. These technologies provide a far wider range of color expression than was previously possible.
The flagship Z model also delivers print speeds of up to 80 m/m, ensuring both excellent quality and productivity. The high-end Z model is joined by an entry-level model with reduced installation costs (E), a standard model (S) and a dedicated model for food labels (LM).
The trend toward shorter run lengths in every segment of the label and packaging markets is accelerating while lead times are shrinking, and Xeikon’s recent product announcements continue to address those marketplace requirements head-on.
Donna Covannon, director of marketing, Xeikon America, says that 2020 was a banner year for Xeikon’s digital label and packaging business. In October, Xeikon announced the launch of the Xeikon PX30000, a 6- and 7-color UV inkjet digital label press and the newest member of the Panther product family. “This new press offers Xeikon customers a cost-effective and fast time-to-market for short- to medium-run flexo jobs, expanding their business opportunities,” says Covannon. “The PX30000 expands the Xeikon product line, which was already the most comprehensive in the market.”
Meanwhile, Xeikon’s CX300 was launched in April. The CX300 is a new toner-based label press operating at 98 fpm with a 13" web width. It’s equipped with five print stations, including CYMK and single-pass white but also can support color gamut expansion, custom or security colors. The press is built on Cheetah 2.0 technology, which enhances the interfaces (machine to/from machine and machine to/from human), quality management systems that continuously monitor and automatically adjust press operation.
To aid digital printers, Xeikon has also revealed its Fusion Embellishment Unit (FEU), which was launched in September, to provide embellishments such as spot varnish, tactile varnish, foiling, 3D textures and holograms across a wide range of substrates. “Xeikon was the first to introduce digital printing to the world more than 30 years ago with the introduction of the Xeikon DCP-1. Our steady growth has been due to our ability to design and build the industry’s most productive presses for the label/packaging and graphic arts markets and, of equal importance, partnering with our customers to help their businesses thrive and grow,” states Covannon. “In 2017, we added another printing technology to our already robust electrophotographic toner line with the Panther Series of digital UV inkjet presses. The new PX30000 is the third press to be announced in the Panther family.”
Xeikon’s line of continuous-feed label presses feature no-frame production, enabling variable print length. The presses use the full width of the web and virtually no constraints on length. Labels of different sizes and shapes can be configured on the web width to maximize substrate use and job batching. Plus, Xeikon’s electrophotographic toners are certified to be food-safe by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
“There is a Xeikon press to handle virtually every application in the label and packaging world,” says Covannon. “The currently-available range of Xeikon label and packaging presses includes the UV inkjet-based Panther series, featuring the Xeikon PX3000; PX2000; and PX30000. The EP toner-based Cheetah Series includes the Xeikon CX300; Xeikon CX500 and Xeikon REX. The REX program offers a range of remanufactured Xeikon presses, providing an attractive and affordable option for printers, especially ones new to digital.”
Spinnaker Coating has continued to ramp up development for its Cascade product line for water-based inkjet printers. Recently introducing several removable adhesive options, the company is now offering Endura Inkjet Durable Paper. This new product provides comparable durability and conformability to a film but at a more economical price point.
This product has been BS5609 Part 2 and Part 3 approved for drum and barrel labeling.
“The demand for digitally printable products continues to grow, particularly on the water-based inkjet side,” comments Joel Ulrich, Roll Division marketing manager at Spinnaker Coating. “At the lower cost of entry for some of the smaller inkjet printers, we are discovering many new opportunities where customers are starting to print their labels in house.”
Finding the right products for each technology is a challenge. In most cases, products are not universal across all printing platforms, and this is where Spinnaker comes into play.
“Each technology requires a little different topcoating for those particular types of ink sets,” says Ulrich. “Spinnaker’s Cascade products have been developed with topcoatings designed to perform well in both dye and pigment water-based inkjet print engines.”
Spinnaker has increased its R&D efforts in the digital arena because of the increased demand the company is seeing from its customers.
“As it has been for the last few years, the excitement around digital printing will continue to increase,” states Ulrich. “The continued growth of the cannabis, craft beer/spirits markets, and various COVID-19 related labels are a few of the driving forces behind this. Increased SKU’s at smaller quantities only make sense to print digitally.”
David Medlar, vice president, Digital Business, Mark Andy, has spent more than 21 years at the company. A mechanical engineer by trade, Medlar has grown within Mark Andy – eventually leading the company’s operations facility. Five years ago, Medlar transitioned to the digital side of Mark Andy’s business, and he sits down with L&NW to discuss the latest digital and hybrid printing trends, in addition to Mark Andy’s response to consumer demand.
Q: How did Mark Andy get into the digital printing market?
When Mark Andy first got into digital, especially with my background in engineering, there was such a desire in the market for a digital product. We felt like we had to transform the business over time to digital. Eventually, even if it’s 30 years from now, some 90% of the presses in these label converting plants will have some sort of digital capability. At the time, there was a willingness for a mature industry to look at a new type of technology and jump right in, and that was an interesting dynamic for us.
For those familiar with Mark Andy’s history, we really got into digital around 2012 with our first inkjet offering. Four years ago, in 2016, we added to our portfolio with our Digital One toner-based machine.
Q: How does Mark Andy perceive the market for digital and hybrid presses?
We really see the market, month over month and year over year, increasing as more people are becoming intrigued by digital. In many ways, they’re more interested in digital hybrid technology – meaning they want the ability to have a productive machine that allows for finished labels. We just see a lot of growth over the next several years, and that’s where much of our R&D and product watch activities are being focused on.
The industry continues to realize that digital printing is really the way to satisfy your customers’ needs. The demand for printed products – in many segments – has gone through the roof. In turn, the demand for digital hybrid needs, which can accommodate so many different markets, is really strong.
Q: How can digital printing serve as a complement to flexo?
They absolutely complement each other, because every label shop has jobs with different run lengths. So, why choose between flexo or digital? The decision-making process comes down to your cost to print or your ROI for that piece of equipment, and one of the key factors is run lengths. Every label shop is going to have long runs with more and more specialization and regionalization of their products. Some of those run lengths, even when producing the same type of label, require the need for shorter runs, and digital helps complement that activity at your business.
Q: What are the newest additions to Mark Andy’s digital printing lineup?
We have several different options here at Mark Andy. We have the Digital Pro product line, which is the second generation of our Digital One product line. Digital One was launched in 2016, and since then we have revamped it and added much more hybrid functionality, with the additional print station before the digital engine with inline capabilities. This provides added converting options, and this has hit the market in the right spot because people see this added flexibility built around the robustness of the toner-engine. This has done well for us over the summer.
The second development has been our Digital Series HD. This was launched about two years ago, and this year we really started to gain a tremendous amount of traction on the inkjet side of the market. This is a machine that can print at up to 240 fpm with full hybrid capability, operating essentially inline with a Performance Series chassis. For people who are looking into this machine, I would tell them, “This press allows you to produce your labels in the most cost-effective manner possible.” This has really turned out to be a great machine for us, with a tremendous amount of demand. As some of the run lengths have come down, this equipment allows more people to think seriously about inkjet and transition more of their business to that technology.
Q: What are the benefits of going with a hybrid printing solution?
It all comes down to your cost to produce the labels and your return on investment for purchasing the machine. When you think about a hybrid, you’re going to have the most cost-effective way to produce your label because the technology is the most productive with the least amount of labor required.
As you run your calculations in a serious ROI model, you’re going to find that this is the right way to invest. As we approach customers and talk dollars and sense with them, they realize this is the most productive way to accomplish their goals.
Q: How has customer feedback driven the way Mark Andy has engineered its presses?
We want to develop presses that customers want to buy, so their feedback has a tremendous impact on our operations. We have very large service, sales and marketing teams, and we talk to these customers and get feedback from each department all the time. Our product management and engineering teams are constantly thinking of ways to take that feedback and improve the machines, allowing customers to continue benefiting from our products.
Our customers always want to be able to run faster – they want more speed. They also want more throughput, and they want a machine that continues to be very robust for them, meaning they don’t want a lot of downtime. Whether it’s our flexo or digital machines, Mark Andy is always looking to improve the little things that add up to productivity gains for our customers.
Q: What do you envision in the future for digital printing?
Digital is always going to be about maintaining color and having color consistency, as well as running as fast as you can while producing quality labels. Mark Andy, in its development cycle, is focused on making a strong piece of equipment that allows our customers to be productive and deliver that quality. We’re continuing to create the least number of steps needed to produce a label – inline – on a hybrid piece of equipment.