KBA VariJET 106 & The Making of ‘The B1 drupa’

Bob Leahey
May 25, 2016

KBA-Sheetfed Solutions, a division of German press manufacturer KBA, announced recently it will offer a B1 sheet fed inkjet press called KBA VariJET 106 for printing folding cartons. The new press will be built on the platform of KBA Rapida 106, a sheet fed offset press, and on an inkjet print engine and DFE by Xerox Impika. According to KBA, KBA VariJET 106 will print 4,500 sheets per hour in B1 size (750 x 1060mm/29.5 x 41.7 inches) and will be modular in nature, allowing custom configurations to include foiling, coating, offset print and other options as needed. More detail about the new printer will be available in the form of presentations and video at the KBA and Xerox booths at drupa (the press itself will not be on display there); there is no word yet on ink type. “KBA VariJET 106 Powered by Xerox” will be available to customers beginning in 2017.

Ramping Up for Digital Packaging

The news highlights KBA and its partner, Xerox, in the digital packaging market, and it also brings the tally of B1 digital presses for folding cartons to five: In addition to KBA, drupa 2016 will also show B1-sized inkjet presses for folding cartons from Heidelberg, Konica Minolta, Komori, and Landa; there could be one or more others. As to KBA, it is the highly integrated manufacturer of web and sheet offset presses, and a top supplier of sheet fed offset to folding carton converter. In recent years the company has added

KBA VariJET 106 is modular, to allow extra finishing and printing stations

KBA VariJET 106 is modular, to allow extra finishing and printing stations

the KBA RotaJet line of inkjet presses for commercial printing, packaging, and industrial uses. Xerox, KBA’s partner for VariJET 106, is itself one of the giants in digital imaging for commercial printing and has an extensive inkjet technology portfolio, including that of Impika, the French maker of industrial inkjet presses that Xerox bought in 2013. Meanwhile, Xerox will have other inkjet announcements at drupa, in particular around high speed inkjet presses and new inkjet inks for commercial printing.

KBA’s recent history foreshadows the news of KBA VariJET 106 for folding carton printing. In 2015, KBA’s Digital and Web Solutions business publicized its partnership with HP for the development of HP’s 2.8 meter wide T1100S, for pre-printing corrugated liner. That same KBA division announced that its RotaJet 168, relying on Kyocera print heads, would also target pre-printing of corrugated, as well as decorative printing markets. Meanwhile, the wider KBA Group has lots of packaging related placements, among hundreds of global customers: About 70% of KBA Group revenues today are generated from the packaging segment, even including flexible packaging, through the KBA Flexotechnica. As to Xerox, which contributes Impika inkjet to VariJET 106, it has its own packaging history: Since 2010 the company has offered the dry toner, A3-based Xerox iGen, a commercial printing EP press, for use in printing folding cartons; more than 50 are now installed globally to print packaging for drugs and other consumer products.

‘The B1 drupa’

For visitors to the coming Dusseldorf show, KBA adds to the impression that drupa 2016 will be nicknamed for the B1 format, at least in terms of the digital presses there, and certainly in terms of the ones dedicated to folding carton printing. Besides KBA VariJET, there will be Heidelberg PrimeFire 106, Komori Impremia NS40, Konica Minolta KM-C, and Landa S10, all inkjet and all set for commercialization in 2017. Partnerships are key for three of those printers, since Heidelberg, Komori, and Landa all use the Samba heads of Fujifilm; Konica Minolta makes inkjet heads for itself. (While we know of no other B1 entrants at drupa at this point, Fujifilm itself is a possibility.)

Heidelberg PrimeFire 106 is based on Fujifilm Dimatix 'Samba' heads, as are other new B1 digital presses

Heidelberg PrimeFire 106 is based on Fujifilm Dimatix ‘Samba’ heads

At the same time, digital folding carton printing will be a strategic focus for other products at drupa. HP Indigo 30000, a B2 sheet press that launched in 2014, has low tens of installations so far, and will be part of HP’s drupa stand. Xeikon, whose roll-to-sheet Xeikon 3500 can also print B2-sized images, will show that press and a range of finishing, including a new die cutting system (“Xeikon Folding Die Cut Unit”). And there are at least two other B2 and B2+ printers for folding cartons to consider. Konica Minolta KM-1, first sighted at drupa 2012, will get a full launch at drupa 2016; Fujifilm Jet Press 720S, also first seen at the last drupa, has been commercially available for a while, and has at least two placements for folding carton printing.

Our final resolve: Folding carton printing is now attracting the development efforts of multiple vendors, all of them highly experienced suppliers of digital for commercial printing. At drupa 2016, which InfoTrends will report on for its packaging consulting service, the folding carton application will get a surge of new digital print options, at least five of them using B1 format sheet media.

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