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HP's end-to-end solution for labels, flexible packaging and shrink sleeves

Introduced at Labelexpo Americas in September, HP Indigo’s new ws4050 industrial digital press makes its European debut at Salon de l’Emballage, in Paris, this month. But paper merchant Fedrigoni hosted a special preview demonstration of the new system at its UK site, near Northampton. After Emballage, the new press will be shown next in packaging configuration at Labelexpo Europe, in September.

In this development of its established ws4000 press, HP Indigo has added automated workflow solutions and finishing options from leading manufacturer ‘partners’ to offer an “all-digital, end-to-end solution for the label market”. Claimed to be ideal for short-to-medium print runs, and delivering full colour variable data print on demand, it is designed to enable converters to compete for high value shrink sleeve and flexible packaging jobs, as well as labels.

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The ws4050 gives label converters and packaging printers the ability to digitally print on a wider range of substrates, including conductive materials and shrink sleeve films. Other value added features include a new ink-set for finer imaging, a re-insertion capability that enables duplex imaging for two-sided prime labels, and essential GMP and FDA compliant validation for pharmaceutical labels.

At Labelexpo the new press was demonstrated in operation with a variety of products from HP partners. The line-up in action at Fedrigoni combined it with streamlined workflow and finishing options from Esko-Graphics and AB Graphic International.

AB’s Omega Digicon system provides a complete finishing solution for the digital press. Suitable for in-line or off-line operation, it can apply primers to web, hotfoil stamp, over-varnish, apply spot colours (flexo head), cold foil, super varnish, over laminate, wet laminate, die cut, slit and rewind, and sheet/through die cut. A patented feature also allows use of flexible tooling from existing conventional presses. Latest development is the Sabre Extreme laser die cutting system, which will be available early in 2005.

Tim Carter, sales manager of HP’s Industrial Division EMEA, claims the ws4050 will “dispel myths” that a digital machine is not productive enough and consumer costs are too high. “It offers a viable alternative to conventional production methods,” he argues, “bringing new profit and revenue opportunities. The ws4050 addresses flexible packaging and shrink sleeve applications for the first time, as well as labels. Currently over 35 per cent of label production is under 2,000 linear metres. This represents a very strong opportunity for the new machine, for ROI.”

Current installed base for the ws4000/4050 series is just under 60 machines. “We aim to double that by this time next year,” he reveals. “The market is increasingly more competitive and there is growing awareness of digital benefits amongst end users. Digital is a viable alternative, giving converters the opportunity to innovate and differentiate in their products and services. It’s not a replacement, but a complementary technology that allows better utilization of existing processes.”

HP offers to visit companies and discuss how they can benefit from switching to digital. To help them decide, it has produced a ‘Label and Packaging Calculator ROI’ that compares jobs printed digitally with a conventional process. A spreadsheet will then show all the savings possible from introducing digital into a factory, with a full ROI and cashflow forecast. As an example, based on real data from a UK flexo label printer, is claimed to show 5,000 labels costing £157 by digital print, against £556 for the conventional process.

As demonstrated at Fedrigoni, the average breakeven over six jobs was 38,000 labels – 1,467 linear metres – showing a £280 average saving per job, a 67min average time saving, and £211 total waste saving. The entire demonstration was said to have taken less time than one conventional makeready. For jobs below 2,000 linear metres, HP says one digital press will offer an overall 10 per cent reduction in set-up time – releasing 412 hours’ capacity per month on conventional presses.

An un-named Dutch company bought the first ws4050 at Labelexpo Americas. The machine demonstrated at Fedrigoni is going to Paragon Labels, of Spalding – the first UK installation.

At Emballage (November 22-26), the ws4050 will be demonstrated with fully compatible end-to-end digital workflow options from HP partners that allow finishing processes to be performed on a single integrated line.


HP Indigo
Tel: +31 43 356 5656
AB Graphic
Tel: +44 (0)1262 671138

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AB Graphic
HP Indigo