Labelexpo 2017: Quick Takes From Brussels Show

Bob Leahey
Oct 4, 2017

Labelexpo, the biannual tradeshow of the label industry, took place September 25 to 28 in Brussels and, thirty years after its start, it retains its momentum and “giant” status, with over 650 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors, most from Europe but many from Asia, the USA, and Latin America. Digital printing was at the core of the show, in big booths of all the top EP and inkjet printer vendors (HP Indigo, Xeikon, Domino, Durst, Screen, and others) and at the stands of many others, including a few entrants that are both new and significant. Before producing a detailed report for consulting clients, the InfoTrends division of Keypoint Intelligence offers the following conclusions from the 2017 Labelexpo:

In-line digital embellishment is hot. The two EP leaders, HP Indigo and Xeikon, are both developing proprietary, in-line jetting modules to add white, spot varnish, tactile effects and even metallic decoration to their toner-based label print webs. Meanwhile, other vendors contribute their own products to the trend, such as printer suppliers Domino, Gallus, and Konica Minolta, and head supplier Xaar.

HP Indigo GEM Embellishment Example

EP is still vital and growing. While inkjet is growing and has many more vendors, electrophotographic technology showed dynamic additions in high production systems, such as Xeikon CX500 (new at the show) and HP Indigo 8000 (2016). At that same time, Konica Minolta announced its 100th global placement of KM C71cf after less than two years of availability, and then announced a successor to it, Accurio 190.

Accurio 190 Replacement for Konica Minolta C71cf

Hybrid printing is a focus for key suppliers. The top three vendors of narrow web label presses—Gallus, Mark Andy, and Nilpeter—all market hybrid flexo/inkjet systems as key parts of their product lines. Meanwhile multiple other vendors also contribute, such as Colordyne, IPT, MPS, Omet, and Prototype and Production Systems. We note especially the focus on hybrids by Gallus, Mark Andy, and Nilpeter, each of which has hundreds of established press customers worldwide.

Gallus Labelfire 340, Based on Flexo Plus Fujifilm Samba Inkjet

UV inkjet is adding low migration options. UV inkjet, which powers most inkjet label printers, is handicapped by concern about possible migration of uncured photoinitiators. In food packaging. “Low migration” UV inks designed to address these concern were evident at multiple booths (printer vendors Durst, EFI Jetrion, Epson, and ink makers Siegwerk and Sun Chemical) at Labelexpo 2017. New, or nearly so: the use of a “nitrogen purge”, to enhance polymerization of toxic monomers, as seen at Screen and Durst booths.

Aqueous inkjet is gaining momentum. Production digital label webs using aqueous inks have been limited to the Epson Surepress, plus Colordyne and a few others based on Memjet. A key merit of aqueous inks have been their safety for food labels, but the main options have limitions, Epson SurePress print speed (15 fpm), and Memjet dye-based inks, CMYK only. From Labelexpo 2017, though: Epson and the Memjet OEMs are have had good success; Mouvent’s aqueous future printer could be influential; miniature production printers from Afinia, Trojan, and New Solution all use aqueous inks; last, Memjet will upgrade to pigmented inks in 2018; Kodak will add aqueous CIJ printing via Uteco Sapphire.

Mouvent Label Printer Example

Label converting is now “cyber” oriented. The label industry likes the idea that manufacturing will be automated and driven by data exchange, through The Cloud and the “Industrial Internet of Things,” and Labelexpo had lots of evidence to that effect, notably Labelexpo’s first “Automation Arena” in Hall 11. There a collaboration by AVT, Cerm, Esko, Kocher + Beck Matho, MPS, Rotocontrol, Wasberger, and Xeikon,  yielded two automated press lines, one for digital and one for conventional label production, with automation of everything from job creation through prepress, printing, finishing and invoicing.

Package printing is strategic at Labelexpo. Digital printing for folding cartons and flexible packaging has been a side focus of Labelexpo since at least the 2011 show; in 2017, both applications are well established, whether for printing unsupported film on webs or 18 point folding carton board, on both roll-to-sheet and sheet fed systems. HP Indigo and Xeikon have both spurred folding carton printing; in flexible packaging, HP Indigo is alone so far as an established solutions provider. At Labelexpo, others showed they will join that drive, with Uteco & partners INX and Kodak, as examples.

Xeikon Carton Print Example

A summary conclusion to all of the above: The world’s label industry is now full of digital technologies, for printing and for all its ancillary processes and needs; the 2017 Labelexpo showed the growth of those technologies, and the strong prospect for more in years to come.

Receive a weekly summary of recent blogs and other exclusive content.

InfoTrends Resources

New InfoTrends Studies

More blogs from

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux