Commentary & Analysis
The Wrap: Label and Packaging Production Solutions at Graph Expo/CPP 2014 (Part 3)
Post-processing equipment and software solutions for labels and packaging were well represented at Graph Expo/CPP, which has come into its own as a showcase for these applications.
By Patrick Henry
Published: October 21, 2014
We conclude this series of reports by mining our show notebooks for items of interest about post-processing equipment and software solutions for labels and packaging. With the co-location of the Converting and Package Printing Expo, Graph Expo has come into its own as an authoritative showcase for the latest developments in packaging and label production. We hope we can look forward to more of the same when Graph Expo 2015 opens for business in Chicago next September.
The best place to see equipment from MBO America is at its new headquarters in Marlton, NJ, where the company hosted a large open-house event during the summer. This presentation included some packaging-related postpress equipment that MBO promoted at Graph Expo, most notably the BSR 550 servo rotary diecutter.
Folding boxes and labels are among the products that can be processed on this machine, which can punch, cut, kiss cut, perforate, score, and deboss. When equipped with the 091.1 plow folder-gluer from MBO subsidiary Herzog + Heymann (H + H), the BSR 550 becomes an inline carton producing system that can be tended by one operator. To support pharmaceutical packaging, MBO offers the H+ H M8.40 18-pocket folder, designed to accommodate the growing number of insert and outsert sizes now being specified by pharmaceutical producers.
This video from Highcon Systems Ltd. depicts the traditional diemaking process for folding cartons along with the Highcon solution designed to replace it in short runs: Euclid, a digital cutting and creasing machine that the Israeli company introduced at drupa 2012. Highcon used Graph Expo 2014 as its backdrop for launching a second-generation Euclid device in live operation with the output from a Xeikon digital press.
According to Highcon, Euclid is the short-run packaging alternative to sending out for costly mechanical dies, which can be time-consuming to produce and cumbersome to handle and store. Euclid technology lets producers bring the entire diemaking, creasing, and diecutting sequence in-house by combining all three functions in one machine that replaces the mechanical actions with digitally driven processes.
Guided by a DXF input file that defines the carton’s outlines, the Euclid first forms crease lines by drawing them with liquid photopolymer on a carrier foil and UV-curing them to hardness. Passing printed sheets between the drum-mounted foil and a counter substrate impresses the crease lines into the sheets. The sheets then are cut by an array of lasers directed by an optical scanning system. Waste can be removed with a stripping unit that is optional on the Euclid II and standard on the Euclid II+, the machine shown at Graph Expo 2014.
Euclid can process sheets as large as 30" x 42" at speeds up to 1,500 sheets per hour, says Highcon, which designed the solution for runs under 10,000 sheets. Euclid can handle conventionally and digitally printed sheets, and machine setup is said to take 15 minutes.
At the show, the Euclid II+ in the Highcon booth cut and creased folding cartons printed on a Xeikon 3500 digital press at that vendor’s stand. The five-color, variable-width (9.8" - 20.3") web press is primarily for label production, but it can also print paperboard stocks up to 350 gsm.
A new partnership between Konica Minolta and iSys Label adds the IntoPrint Eclipse LF3 digital cutter for short-run, on demand label production to the Konica Minolta portfolio. This unit combines lamination, digital cutting, waste matrix removal, slitting, and rewind in a compact footprint with simplified loading and unloading. It supports cut widths from 1.96" to 8.66" in printed and unprinted media and is capable of repeat lengths up to 12". Accuracy is assured by single-point registration and contour cutting for complex label shapes.
The JetConverter L350, an all-in-one unit for label post processing, was shown by Screen USA at an off-site customer event held during Graph Expo. The unit can unwind a web of printed media up to 13.7" wide and send it through a series of integrated stations for flexo varnishing, laminating and cold foiling, UV curing, diecutting, back scoring, waste matrix stripping, scissor slitting, and rewind at speeds up to 210 feet per minute. The machine is about 17' long and features touch screen HMI (human/machine interface) control. According to the manufacturer, combining the JetConverter L350 with Screen’s Truepress Jet L350 UV inkjet press creates a complete solution for short-run and on demand label production.
“Concept to consumer” is how Kodak describes the scope of its product and service offerings for packaging. Solutions include flexo CTP platemaking, short-run color printing, consumables, and, as highlighted at Graph Expo 2014, an extensive library of workflow software for design, prepress quality control, and asset and brand management.
Within Kodak’s Prinergy v6.1 workflow architecture are what the company calls its Unified Workflow Solutions for packaging: modules that support functions such as color management, PDF editing, trapping, screening, soft proofing, preflight and step-and-repeat. Advertising agencies, service bureaus, converters, and other providers of services for branded packaging use these tools at all points of the packaging development cycle to monitor quality, secure approvals, and coordinate production.
Aided by Prinergy’s rules-based automation toolkit, users can adapt and streamline the various functions to their requirements with brand-specific themes and customized production routines. The core of the unified solution for packaging is InSite, consisting of the InSite Creative Workflow for design; InSite Asset Library for content management; and the InSite Prepress Portal for automated production, accessible by browser or by mobile app. Additional tools include Packaging Layout Automation software for imposition, Pandora for step-and-repeat, and ColorFlow for color management.
EFI addressed packaging at Graph Expo with its VUTEk HS100 Pro UV inkjet press for corrugated board and its EFI H1625 LED inkjet press, a hybrid flatbed / roll-to-roll device that can handle flexible and rigid substrates up to 2" thick. Production on these machines can be driven by EFI’s widely used Radius MIS/ERP software for packaging and converting.
Radius aims at creating an ecosystem for acquiring, managing, preparing, and producing jobs in an item-based workflow that can accommodate individual variations within repeat frameworks. A “Business Intelligence” feature analyzes packaging operations and presents scenarios for process improvement. Its functions include estimating, job management and planning, scheduling, data collection, shipping and fulfillment, costing and billing, and CRM.
Chili Publish makes Chili Publisher, an online document editor that also supports packaging production workflows: for example, Esko’s Suite 14 collection of software for packaging design and prepress. At Graph Expo 2014, the company announced a partnership with XMPie that will bundle Chili Publisher with XMPie’s uStore solution for online storefronts. Both providers also can sell a Chili Publisher-to-XMPie connector to current customers. The integration creates a complete Web-to-print solution for creating, editing, and managing branded materials such as packaging, Chili Publish says.
Those running packaging jobs or any other types or work on web inkjet presses from HP can get instant, real-time virtual tech support for the equipment with HP Visual Remote Guidance, introduced by the company at Graph Expo 2014. When difficulties arise, Visual Remote Guidance connects a press operator using Google Glass or another wearable camera with a technician who then can see what the operator sees as both work to resolve the problem.
This adds “eyes” to the concept of remote diagnostic intervention for press equipment, which typically revolves around voice-only telephone connections and machine-to-machine data exchange. Also introduced was HP Predictive Press Care, a remote support service that issues early-warning alerts of anticipated problems and assists with repair and maintenance scheduling.