In the first of a series of articles on trends and new technology launches at Labelexpo Europe 2023, Andy Thomas-Emans looks at the exciting range of new conventional, digital and hybrid press technology.
Labelexpo Europe 2023 is shaping up into a landmark event, unleashing four years of pent-up technology development for visitors to the Brussels Expo. The key themes of the show are automation, sustainability and diversification.
Automation means not only automated setup, but also integration of the press into the wider factory network. This allows features such as end-to-end color management, real-time machine monitoring and reporting production data through the Cloud.
We are also seeing the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence linked to on-press cameras and other sensors.
The Labelexpo Europe 2023 Automation Arena will highlight these trends, demonstrating a full ‘lights out’ production workflow from file creation to digital printing and converting. The participants include CERM, Esko, AVT, Xeikon and Grafotronic.
As well as automated setup and inspection of both printing and converting processes, the CERM MIS will collect real-time information via a Cloud portal which visitors will be able to monitor on their own smart devices. CERM will demonstrate printing of closing labels on each roll on the turret rewind.
The job printed on the Automation Arena will replicate a typical wine label, including a new in-line metalization feature developed by Kurz for the Xeikon press. There will also be a wine label masterclass run by the Label Academy looking at market drivers and the latest technology in materials, press and finishing.
The benefits of automation include waste reduction, increased uptime, and reduced need for manual intervention - increasingly important as the industry’s recruitment difficulties show no signs of easing.
Diversification means the ability to handle a wide range of unsupported materials including primary packaging formats alongside core pressure-sensitive materials.
This year’s show marks a real watershed here, with demonstrations of paper and filmic stand-up pouch production, shrink sleeves and wraparound labels alongside core pressure-sensitive labels.
It is probably already time to start referring to Labelexpo as a package printing show.
Show visitors can follow a Flexible Packaging Trail which takes in both digital and conventional press technologies, flexpack material constructions, coating, laminating, ink and curing requirements, in-line and near-line decoration options, QC and migration testing.
In addition there will be a dedicated Label Academy flexible packaging masterclass, which will include a presentation on the current status of the UVFoodSafe project.
Labelexpo Europe 2023 sees the global launch of two new digital presses intended for flexible packaging production. HP Indigo launches the 200k mid-web press, successor to the hugely successful HP Indigo 20000. HP will also run a ‘digital pouch factory’ ecosystem demonstrating pouch manufacture and finishing of other unsupported films including shrink sleeve labels.
Xeikon marks the global launch of its XT-500 digital press, which uses the company’s Titon toner technology to print on paper pouches without the need for a protective varnish (this will be the press on Automation Arena).
Xeikon also launches its Quality Measurement Module (QMM) which can optionally be fitted on all Cheetah 3.0 CX Series presses and is responsible for monitoring density and registration throughout the print run.
A new wave of water-based inkjet technologies for flexible packaging is launched this year, with Screen showing its Truepress Pac520P press printing on paper pouches for the first time at a Labelexpo show.
Mid-web (670mm/26in) UV flexo presses will also be demonstrating print and converting of both flexible packaging and shrink sleeve labels.
Nilpeter brings its FA-26; Bobst brings a Master M6 featuring onECG technology for extended color gamut printing; and Lombardi brings its 670mm-wide Invicta i1, printing both unsupported film and PS labels.
Lombardi also previews its new Invicta i2 mid-web technology. From the above it should already be clear that flexo is making a major comeback at Labelexpo Europe 2023 following its absence from Labelexpo Americas 2022.
Mark Andy launches its new Pro Series flexo press, fully servo-driven and optimized for efficient pressure-sensitive label conversion. It is a modular system and incorporates Mark Andy’s sMArt link production monitoring system. Interestingly, Mark Andy says the press can be upgraded at any time to a hybrid press using the company’s Digital Pro Max technology.
Omet brings its recently launched KFlex flexo press technology to Labelexpo. KFlex incorporates a new modular converting platform allowing the rapid exchange of print and converting units and an automation package aimed at eliminating the need for semi-skilled operators.
Nilpeter shows a fully automated FA-17 converting a range of supported and unsupported materials, while Etirama launches its entry level flexo press, the servo-driven SPS3 with electronic pre-register.
There are new developments in hybrid flexo/inkjet presses. Nilpeter and Screen launch their third generation hybrid press which combines Screen’s SAI UV-inkjet engine with Nilpeter's FA-Line flexo platform.
The press will showcase expanded gamut printing and white imprinting capabilities. Additionally, Screen introduces an inline digital primer prototype for the Truepress L350UV SAI to address the challenge of poor ink adhesion on some substrates.
Omet brings the latest version of its XJet hybrid press powered by Durst’s Tau digital engine. It will also be an exciting show for standalone digital press technology.
Gallus will give the Labelexpo launch to its Gallus One press, jointly developed with Heidelberg. The 340mm-wide press is built around a Gallus Labelmaster platform and prints at speeds of up to 70 m/min.
HP Indigo brings to the show its V12 press operating at 120m/min in 6-color mode, following a successful global launch at Labelexpo Americas last year.
Durst marks the global launch of its Hawk Eye technology integrated into a Tau w510 RSCi press. Hawk Eye uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to determine which color channels from a full color image need to be adjusted in real time to maintain image quality.
The w510 RSCi will additionally be equipped with Durst’s newly developed double white. The press prints at 100m/min on a 510mm-wide web. Durst promises the launch of a new digital press at the show.
As well as its toner-based AccurioLabel 400 digital press, Konica Minolta demonstrates the entry-level AL 230 configured with a DC 330 Mini finisher with an integrated inkjet module supplied by Industrial Inkjet Ltd (IIJ). This unit can be used for a wide range of applications from white, to security inks and digital varnishes.
A range of digital technology launched last year in Chicago will be seen for the first time in Europe.
Domino shows its N730i UV inkjet press printing at 1200 dpi with Bitstar printhead technology from its parent Brother group. The press is equipped with optional flexo stations before and after the digital print engine.
Dantex Group shows a PicoJet 1200 with upgrades to its interface, print quality and finishing capabilities, while Dilli demonstrates its Neo Picasso UV inkjet press with upgraded tension control for more stable printing.
The list of equipment launches at the show continues to grow, so make sure you continue to check www.labelexpo-europe.com.