InPrint 2015 – demonstrating that print is much more than ink on paper

Ralf Schlozer
Dec 21, 2015

November 2015 saw the second instalment of InPrint, the industrial print show and conference. A total of 3,400 visitors from 68 countries came to the Munich Trade Fair Centre. Compared to the previous event in Hannover, the numbers of exhibitors, attendees and foot print increased by a third.

InPrint focussed on three fields of application: functional, decorative and packaging printing. Unlike traditional printing shows, InPrint has a different attendee profile: Typical visitors to InPrint are companies such as system integrators, materials developers, and manufacturers interested in providing solutions for the industrial/decorative print market. But even if you do not intend on integrating a custom press, the show is a good opportunity to get informed on where printing technology is being used beyond document printing. Print service providers, who visit InPrint, have been able to expand their horizon while visiting vendor booths as well as attending the conference with its extensive program.

A major theme at InPrint was direct-to-shape printers using UV inkjet. One exhibitor, new to digital direct-to-shape printing, was Hinterkopf. The German press manufacturer focussed so far on specialty offset presses for printing on containers. Recently the D 240 has been launched as the company’s first inkjet model. The machine was on display at InPrint and is slated to ship to the packaging company Ritter after the show. Another vendor of direct-to-shape presenting at InPrint was Martinenghi. The Italy-based manufacturer launched the Michelangelo KX-48P about a year ago and has two installations already. The device uses Xaar heads and Agfa inks. Yet another press manufacturer that has been flexing its digital muscles since 2013 in the field of direct-to-shape printing is the French manufacturer Machines Dubuit. With the 9150 and 9250 G the company offers two models for direct to shape printing, again based on UV inkjet technology. Dubuit Inks is supplying the inks for the printer. Wifag-Polytype presented their DigiCup and DigiRound printers at InPrint. The latter can print on not perfectly round objects as well. With several other vendors like INX, Till, Krones and KHS, who earlier this year revealed a massive project with Martens Beer brewery, already catering for the direct-to-shape printing, the market is already becoming crowded as it is set to take off.

Hinterkopf D-240 direct-to-shape Printer

hinterkopf

Heidelberg presented their take at direct-to-shape printing at InPrint as well. The Jetmaster Dimension announced a year ago got an overhaul and was shown printing in four colours – on footballs (or soccer balls in some regions of the world). At the time of InPrint Heidelberg had two machines in the field printing on footballs and just added a user who bought a Jetmaster to print customised muesli cups in a store in Heidelberg. The ultimate goal of Heidelberg is somewhat more ambitions however. By having their inkjet array mounted on a robotic arm with several degrees of movement Heidelberg plans to expand direct-to-shape printing onto any irregular surface, far beyond the rotationally symmetric containers most other devices are confined to. This eventually would allow direct-to-shape printing to address a much wider range of applications, although the robotics would need to become far more complex compared to what the Jetmaster can handle today.

Most major inkjet head manufacturers were at the show – not with complete presses, but with the heads to be acquired by inkjet integrators or companies in need for inkjet heads. Not only are head manufacturers with own printers trying to sell heads to other companies, each vendor is aiming to enlarge the application range for their heads as well. Certainly there is a move in the market towards larger drops and heads suitable for industrial applications, which can require large or abrasive pigment particles. Kyocera and Toshiba presented new heads for that market. Additionally print head vendors are moving into MEMS manufacturing, which can lower the cost of head manufacturing substantially and allows for an easier scaling of heads. Konica Minolta presented the ME130H and MC160. The first one is aimed at high quality with 1,200 dpi native resolution and 3 pl drop size, while the latter can have 600 dpi with 6 pl heads or two colours at 300 dpi. Both have additionally the 8 levels of drop sizes. The heads are expected to become available in spring next year. At InPrint Ricoh had the first global presentation of the new ‘Thin Film’ series MEMS print head. The TH5240 printhead features a 300 dpi resolution and droplet sizes of 2.5 to 21 pl. Both aqueous and solvent inks are possible. The heads will not become available before summer 2016 however.

3-D printing was not as prominent at InPrint as expected, although some exhibits were present. Durst presented a twist on creating three-dimensional surfaces more in tune with applications produced in the printing industry: dimensional print. Dimensional print is not entirely new, but so far was confined to small format digital print (NexPress) or off-line finishing (e.g. MGI, Scodix), with some format limitations as well. Durst presented dimensional print on a UV large format flatbed inkjet printer, which would allow printing the image and texture in one go. Plenty of applications would be possible, like wood panels, however the max thickness of 30 µm is not sufficient for braille. Canon previewed a similar approach with dimensional print on a UV large format printer at Canon Expo, but the Durst solution is about to become available now.

Next InPrint will be held in Milan, Italy in 2016, particularly catering to the Northern Italian specialty printing equipment manufacturers. This avoids a possible clash with 2016 heavy-weight show drupa, which is set to expand into decorative and functional print as well. InPrint 2017 is already on the radar and will be located in Germany again.

Industrial printing is a large market and the opportunities are abound for the development of new devices that can promote automation, production efficiency, and cost reduction as well improving printing’s environmental impact. The growth in all segments is driven by consumer consumption and demand for durable and non-durable products from packaging, textiles, and the housing market. Inkjet printing is the dominant enabler of this transition and InPrint is becoming the premier platform for knowledge and education in this space.

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