New double act has the star quality to capture audience attention in the developing market for short run digital packaging applications, reports Des King
The cast list was announced at drupa. Having spent the past six months rehearsing their lines, Belgium’s leading light in the advancement of digital print technology and Europe’s top of the bill paper mill are now ready to perform to packed houses. One solution from the joint venture between Xeikon and Stora – Stora Enso Digital Solutions – has of course already made its debut: Stora’s Discbox Slider (DBS) for the expanding DVD and CD sector.
As a commercially viable alternative to the industry standard plastics jewel box, the cartonboard equivalent is up to 30 per cent slimmer and 50 per cent lighter to realise significant savings in terms of material, transportation costs and shelf space. In a market increasingly characterized by requirements for shorter runs, the Xeikon 5000’s capability for printing onto reel-fed substrates of up to 350g/m2 was the natural print technology replacement for offset litho.
Running at speeds of 5.4m/min, the Xeikon 5000 can print just under 1,400 DBS packs/hour on Ensogloss 350g/m2 board. In addition to the digital print engine, the full configuration incorporates a DBS Converter, DBS Pac Master and an unwinder at an installation cost of around €850K. The solution is available as an outright sale with a click charge for consumables, or on a combination leasing and click charge agreement.
The first two pilot installations are scheduled to be operational at converting facilities in Belgium and Finland by next month; one with an established supplier within the digital media sector, and the other with a company planning to extend out of commercial print.
According to SEDS business development manager Angelo Baert, the DBS solution is the first of many being planned to meet the demand for an expanding range of digitally driven packaging applications.
“Prior to this agreement, Xeikon hadn’t been specifically looking at the DVD sector, he says. “However, the capability of the 5000 to handle heavier weight substrates is enabling us to look jointly at other digital media applications. We will be developing the most suitable workflow for each of these emerging segments whether it be music, software, catalogues, games, communications material, to achieve the gains through short run, reduced inventory and so forth.
“Within Stora Enso there is a consumer board division, which covers various segments including food, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and luxury products. The joint venture will be looking at each of these segments to determine openings for an integrated solution based upon the digital press. One strong future possibility could be in drinking cups.”
Whilst other digital print engine manufacturers have been more inclined to partner with prepress suppliers, Xeikon is aiming to build market penetration by focusing more on the finishing end.
“The packaging market, like any segment, has its specific needs; it all starts with the substrate,” says Angelo Baert. “Achieving the required result, whatever the application, can only come from a very close degree of co-operation. This joint venture is bringing two specific levels of expertise to the table. Xeikon manufactures its own engine, the toner and the digital front end. The only thing that’s missing from that is the substrate – and that’s what Stora provides to achieve a completely watertight solution.
“From a prepress point of view, Xeikon keeps a very close watch on all new standards and participates very closely in the development work required to bring them to market. With the front end being very open in its architecture, and capable of handling every standard in the print market, we are compatible with all these prepress solutions.”
Interestingly, there is no compulsion on the converter to use Stora substrates post-installation. However, says Baert, a combination of service and cost benefits should ensure continuing usage of the wide range of substrates offered by the new joint venture company.
“We are not talking about digital cardboard here. These are standard offset cartonboard products such as the Ensogloss 350, for example, that can be run on the Xeikon 5000 and for which no special treatment is required. So yes, the customer can use other types of board of course, but that won’t necessarily be to his best advantage.
“We clearly understand that for the customer to keep on using our cartonboard, then the quality has to be good and the price has to be right.”
Outside of the joint venture, Xeikon’s other interests within the packaging print market – notably its label business – will continue to be run through the recently formed PunchGraphics subsidiary of Punch International.
The joint venture will operate out of Punch’s Lier based facility, in Belgium.
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