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Labelexpo: Chicago highlights

Our North American correspondent reports from ‘the windy city’

When the doors of Labelexpo Americas closed in Chicago’s Rosemont Centre on 13 September, most were hailing it a success, despite the fact that the global economy is now well into its fourth year of downturn. The exhibition organiser claims a 12% increase in visitors over the 2010 event, an 8% increase in floorspace booked and, significantly, 94 companies exhibiting for the first time.

In some ways this was a Labelexpo of change, because it showed for the first time how digital technology has now been embraced by the major traditional press manufacturers, each of which gave its own take on the way forward. US-based Mark Andy showed its first involvement with digital technology in the form of a low cost SRL 4.0 CMYK toner-based machine. It has a web width range of 100-320mm and a speed of 9m/min. Seen as a complement to the company’s award winning Performance Series of flexo presses, now available with QCDC (Quick Change Die Cutting), Mark Andy believes it now has all bases covered whatever run length is required, with fast makeready and short changeover times at the core of its technology. The QCDC unit allows the operator to change one die while the other is running.

Swiss manufacturer Gallus showed an integrated print environment, drawing on other elements of Heidelberg Group technology. It uses the inkjet Linoprint L digital press, with its 600 x 600dpi DOD technology for very short runs and variable imaging, with an ECS 340 flexo press for all other work, linked by Prinect and CERM workflow systems. Converting options can be inline or offline, and the company showed its ECS C line running work from both flexo and digital presses at 60m/min. The concept was based on three pillars of production: segmentation of similar job types; a hybrid production environment; and central data management. Estimated to save approximately 20% of time (and therefore money), the system is designed to maximise production capacity in its most cost effective way.

Nilpeter announced two new flexo presses, the FB-3 and FA-4, as well as a new Caslon inkjet unit with white or spot colour capability. The FB-3 is a servodriven press designed for high speed label production, while the automated and compact FA-4 is for labels and flexible packaging. Both promise fast makeready and offer sophisticated control. The heavyduty Caslon unit, developed with British company FFEI, can run as a standalone DOD machine, or be integrated as part of the UV flexo FA platform with conventional converting modules. Web width options are 330 and 410mm, operating at up to 50m/min. The Caslon’s new spot colour unit for ink or varnish adds to its versatility.

Italy’s Nuova Gidue exhibited its pioneering Digital Flexo 3.0 line with fully automated print pressure and lateral and cross register, which the company believes offers a new level of control to converters looking to produce labels and packaging. The show press was an 8-colour Combat M5 with a 430mm web width, fitted with three die stations. Expo demonstrations were designed to show speed of job change, using different formats, and low waste levels of 12-15m.

Omet exhibited the latest version of its X-Flex X6. With the new 530mm web width and one-pass multi-process capability, the press is claimed to break new ground in the production of top quality packaging at high speed, from labels to flexible packaging and folding cartons. The press featured quick changeovers with glass fibre or aluminium sleeves, a short web path to reduce waste, a high level of control via Vision-2, and Omet’s Mono Twin Cut unit. Static displays featured the gravure unit available for the company’s VaryFlex F2 line, and an offset unit for integration in the X-Flex series. Omet sees inline process combination as the key to growth in new markets sectors where multi substrate capability (12-600 micron) is important.

Elsewhere on the conventional press front, Codimag showed a 7-colour Viva340 Aniflo offset line using Esko Equinox prepress to print jobs with an expanded gamut 7-colour process (CMYKOGB). Four different jobs were run, with the company claiming to match 116 PMS special colours from its 7-colour process. At MPS, the highlight was a joint display with Kodak and Reproflex 3 in which an 8-colour EF- 410 press showed how to reduce the use of spot colours with Kodak’s Flexcel NX plates and Spotless flexo solution. The whole job was controlled from an iPad which made use of the machine’s automation with presettings that reduced makeready time.

Liquid toner, dry toner, or inkjet?
On the digital front, HP introduced the new Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM) on its WS6600 line, which is also available with Inline Priming (ILP) to expand the capabilities of the press. According to HP, 12 of the top 15 label converters worldwide now use its technology, extending the breakeven point with run lengths beyond 10,000m. EPM is claimed to give throughput a 33% hike by raising 4-colour production to 40m/min, and in turn makes longer runs more commercially viable. ILP, which is fitted to 70% of all WS6600 models installed, allows converters to run standard non-treated substrates, as used on conventional presses, which saves time and money, and adds last-minute job capability.

To extend this capability, a new primer, developed by Michelman, brings a bigger range of paper and synthetic substrates into play and, usefully, the ILP technology is compatible with the older WS6000 machines. Following announcements made at Drupa 2012 that the company will launch flexible packaging and folding carton models next year, HP identified two Beta sites in the USA and one in Europe, at Ultimate Packaging in the UK.

Xeikon took part in the Laser Diecutting Workshop with its Vectorizer – an automatic diecut generator that communicates with laser diecutting machines. Designed to increase functionality and improve productivity, it was also demonstrated on the Xeikon stand in a ‘Web2LabelProduction’ solution, which produced a variety of short run labels, and provides a web-based facility for label production without human involvement. The company’s new Durable Clear Toner also attracted those looking to diversify into short run carton work. Acting as a spot varnish, it is printed digitally and cured outside the press, and offers the flexibility to keep glue strips and areas for code marking free of varnish for subsequent printing.

EFI’s new Jetrion 4900M brings modular upgradeability and a larger print area to the inkjet market with its new 330mm web width and expanded range of applications. Both new features have been developed in response to customer demand, and the company predicts its market share will increase as more converters recognise the greater scope available to them, and the system’s inherent ability to respond to changes in market requirements. Scheduled to commence delivery in early 2013, the wider web 4900M-330 is also available as an upgrade from the standard 210mm machine.

EFI believes its ability to produce finished product in one pass is tipping the balance in favour of digital systems with inline finishing. The 4900ML model offers laser diecutting, with zero die cost, and laminating and varnishing options. The new Radius ERP software platform allows converters to manage all phases of production from initial order to delivery of finished product.

One interesting development is the new LED/UV curing technology on offer from a co-operative partnership between Flint Group, Phoseon Technology, and Mark Andy. Compact, energy efficient, and virtually maintenance-free, the new system uses medium wavelength rays to avoid ozone and heat generation. Designed for both OEM specification and retrofit options, the developers believe it will open new markets for existing UV users with its deeper, faster curing, and offer waterbased presses the opportunity to extend their capability with combi drying/curing. Special inks and varnishes are required, but payback within 12 months is promised.

Prepress workflow is the key
Esko
was seemingly everywhere at Labelexpo. In addition to having its own stand, it was involved with the Digital Printing Master Class, and shared the Package Printing Zone with Xeikon. It also took part in the Laser Diecutting Workshop, in which it provided workflow support for the four participants: Sei Spa, Spartanics, ABG, and Delta.

Esko’s major product showing was the Suite 12 software of its Automation Engine, launched at Drupa in May. Suite 12 offers prepress workflow for a wider range of printed packaging options, with packaging and colour management tools. Intended to “reduce the cost of quality”, it moves away from manual intervention on combi presses that use different print processes and breaks each job down by the inks used.

In the finishing and converting sector, Davis-Standard was promoting its pressurised gravure head technology for use with protective and optical films. The company’s modular designed Series 4000 cartridge coaters have a floor mounted docking station with independent coater units. Each is capable of a different process set-up but can be identically programmed to facilitate swapping and cleaning.

Rotoflex showed its streamlined product range, down from 10 models to four since 2008, and claimed that ‘Vision’ is the fastest growing part of its business. Promising a significant new product launch in 2013 that will include the latest diecutting technology, the company will focus on building its share of the European market, and take advantage of its new showroom and demonstration facility in the UK. The Chicago show highlighted the latest VSI entry level model, which now has an embedded controller for user-friendly operation, and the top of the range VLI model, for labels and unsupported films. It has a new web path, faster running speed with new drive system and sophisticated control for 100% inspection. The DSI is an inspection and diecutting machine for those who do not have full inline diecutting.

Delta Industrial showed a Spectrum II system finishing digitally printed labels. It has over and under-laminating capability, rotary and semi-rotary diecutting, and inline perforating and sheeting. As one of the four manufacturers that took part in the Laser Diecutting Workshop, the company showed its Delta Edge Laser Technology for precise tool-less cutting of multiple depths in one pass. Delta also previewed its new high capacity Delta Mod-Tech converting line for wider web applications.

Martin Automatic exhibited the latest versions of its MBS butt splice and LRD rewind technology, both updated for 2012. Ultrasonic sidelay sensors and spiral grooved rollers for unwinding clear films are both new, while the MBS now has a touchscreen monitor for easier operation and extended diagnostics, similar to the LRD. The LRD rewinds 800mm rolls as standard with an option for larger diameters, and enhancements to the slitter package make it easier and quicker to set up. The rewinder discharges finished rolls automatically, either to the doffing ramp, or to a new articulated arm device, if special handling is required.

Spartanics was another manufacturer taking part in the Laser Diecutting Workshop, with its L350 system. This has a proprietary XY registration, and a single source 400W laser capable of 100m/min. The company also had an X140 laser station working with an NW140 UV inkjet printer on the INX stand, and an L120 narrow web laser cutting system with barcode reading capability for instant job changeover.

Vetaphone displayed its compact VE1A corona treating station, fitted with a Quick Change electrode system in a specially designed and easily removable cartridge. Capable of handling up to 6kW/m treatment, the company claims the VE1A series is suitable for treating virtually any substrate. Key to its success is its size, which makes for easy fitment on narrow web presses where space is limited.

Tools & Production (T&P) introduced its “economically priced, compact” E-Z Change diecutter. It can diecut rolls up to 280mm wide and deliver rewound or sheeted product. The E-Z Change, which runs at 30m/min, plugs into a standard 220V electrical socket. Air supply is required for the airshafts and clutch. Each machine is custom built, so can include unwind, one diecut station, matrix rewind, material rewind or unwind, laminate, two diecut stations, matrix rewind, and sheeter. Magnetic cylinders, stackers, print-to die-cut registration, 3-tier tension control for higher accuracy can all be added, with wider web width capabilities.

Looking at substrates, ExxonMobil launched a range of Label-Lyte products. Label-Lyte 52LLC210 is a new polyolefin film for pressure-sensitive labels that reduces wrinkling and darting characteristics. Applications include health and beauty products, beverages, household and automotive products, where appearance is important no matter how often the container is squeezed. Label-Lyte 65LT500 is a new thermal transfer film with a matt white finish for use in demanding situations where a range of printing and adhesive performance is essential. These include consumer durables, household chemicals, and industrial applications.

Two new OPP lines are also available. Label-Lyte 50ML580 is a surface printable OPP film with a metallic appearance. The top-coated metal print surface makes it ideal for situations where metal adhesion and protection are imperative. It will work with UV flexo, screen and offset technology as well as water-based and solvent inks. Label-Lyte 40LL539 is two-side-coated OPP for those wishing to downgauge and offer the no-label look. It has a broad range of applications from pharmaceuticals and food/beverages, to pet food.

Dow Corning launched a range of silicone release coatings including the flat-release Syl-Off Advantage series of solventless coatings (SL 181 and SL 581), as well as the new Syl-Off emulsion coatings for films (EM7934 and EM7935). The company remarked on the increasingly global nature of its business, with sustainability now a key issue for end users.

Appleton, one of North America’s largest producers of direct thermal media, announced the addition of Resiste 185-3.3 to its range of label facestocks. Designed specifically for retail weighscale applications, its main features are darker images and barcodes, and improved scan rates. It is claimed to improve cash register throughput and has better readability and enhanced scuff resistance to help labels stay legible and scannable when in contact with PVC wrap, packaging films and bags containing plasticisers, or where labelled items are stacked in cold cabinets. The company says the new product is ideal for grocery stores, butchers and delicatessens and, like all of its products, it contains no BPA for consumer safety reasons.

Reaping the rewards
As is customary at a Labelexpo, the industry gathered to acknowledge the accomplishments of those who have given exceptional service or pioneered new technology. This year’s winners included: Stork Prints (Continuous Innovation), AVT (New Innovation), and Baumgarten (Sustainability/Environmental Responsibility). But the biggest cheer was saved for Steve Lee of RotoMetrics, who received the Lifetime Achievement award for his service to the industry


Gallus ECS 340 demonstration Gallus-ECS-340-demonstration-thumb.jpg Mark Andy SRL4 Martin Automatic LRD rewinder T&P E-Z Change