Digital Flexible Packaging: ePac Orders 24 More HP Indigo 20000s

Bob Leahey
 Nov 14, 2019

HP Indigo, the Israeli maker of production-level EP printers for flexible packaging, recently announced an order for 24 units of the HP Indigo 20000, the company’s 30” EP web for that application. The deal is the biggest to date for the 20000 and, same as last year, the buyer is the Israeli company’s best customer for the printer, ePac Flexible Packaging (Middleton, WI); ePac set the previous record by ordering 20 units in 2018. ePac currently operates 28 of the 20000s at 12 locations and expects to operate 52 at 20 locations after all the latest batch are installed next year. In money terms, the deal is also big: Pricing for one HP Indigo 20000 is unpublished but, even assuming a discount for buying 24, this latest purchase will likely total well over $20 million just for hardware; spending over time for toner, parts, and service will add substantially to that. Read more »

Memjet Announces Third Generation Inkjet Technology: ‘DuraFlex’

Bob Leahey
 Sep 12, 2019

Inkjet technology supplier Memjet recently announced a new category of inkjet heads, inks and supporting print modules called ‘DuraFlex.’ The news marks a major addition to the offerings of the San Diego company, which now supplies thermal inkjet heads and dye-based inks to about 40 makers of systems that print labels, mail, office documents, corrugated, and other applications. DuraFlex will differ from the longstanding ‘VersaPass’ technology inside most current Memjet-based printers because of two main features: the heads are long-lasting and the inks are pigmented, yielding durable print; DuraFlex shares these two features and the “Dura” prefix of Memjet DuraLink, the head technology announced last year for use in industrial print applications. DuraFlex thus is a third generation of Memjet technology, one that will occupy a space between VersaPass (mostly for benchtops, starting in 2010) and DuraLink (industrial printers, just now commercially available), and it will be marketed to OEMs accordingly.

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Digital Displacing Flexo: HP Indigo 8000 Update

Bob Leahey
 Jun 12, 2019

HP Indigo recently made public six new US installations of the HP Indigo 8000: Innovative Labeling Solutions (ILS), Dion Label Printing, Nosco, Info Label, Quality Tape and Label, as well as Natural State Label. If you’re not familiar with HP Indigo 8000, it is essentially a double version of the company’s flagship label web, HP Indigo 6900. Following a single in-line priming unit and driven by a single digital front end (DFE), the 8000 joins two HP Indigo 6900s in sequence; the first prints images 1 and 3, the second prints 2 and 4. This allows the HP Indigo 8000 to reach 80 Read more »

Ramping Up, in Packaging: Durst + Koenig & Bauer

Bob Leahey
 Apr 17, 2019

Companies focused on digital printing for packaging got a reminder recently that two important suppliers, Durst Phototechnik and Koenig & Bauer, are joining forces, with the goal of making production-level digital printers for both folding carton and corrugated applications. Durst (Italy) and Koenig & Bauer (Germany) signed a 50/50 joint venture agreement on April 10 in Munich, to establish “Koenig & Bauer Durst GmbH.” First revealed in December 2018, the new venture will be registered in Wurzburg, Germany, where Koenig & Bauer is headquartered, but will be a separate entity with its own managing director, and it will cooperate closely with both parent companies. The companies expect that regulatory approvals will be granted within a few weeks, and that business operations will begin in late May.

Durst SPC 130 Single Pass Corrugated Printer

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MTEX Solutions: A Key Iberian Manufacturer, Sprouting New Industrial Printers

Bob Leahey
 Nov 6, 2018

MTEX Solutions, the Portuguese manufacturer of digital printers for textile and label applications, recently held its debut summit for customers and prospects in Porto, Portugal’s beautiful port city. Sporting the tagline “Back, Better than Ever,” the summit drew participants from as far away as Russia and the U.S. These attendees came to learn about a key industrial inkjet printer vendor, one lately transformed and growing internationally, and its new products. Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends (InfoTrends) attended the event and offers here what it captured about the company and its newest hardware.

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Velox IDS 250: A Spike In the Chart For ‘DTS’ Printing

Bob Leahey
 Jun 13, 2018

Israeli technology developer Velox, Ltd. announced recently its first installation of a production-level direct to shape (DTS) printer at a major packaging manufacturer in Israel. The news marks the first commercial installation of Velox IDS 250 printer, a UV inkjet-based system that Velox says will print plastic and aluminum tubes at up to 250 containers per minute with seamless, photorealistic images, and offer other embellishments such as tactile effects. Most importantly, Velox says the new system’s capabilities and costs will allow it to replace analog decoration systems even for the printing runs of many thousands of cans or tubes.

Velox, based in Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel, has placed this first IDS 250 at another Israeli company, Lageen Tubes, a packaging supplier to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals companies worldwide. Velox and Lageen note that the IDS 250 is now in operation printing full runs of tubes that will soon be on retail shelves globally.

Velox IDS 250 Digital Decorator

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HP T-Series for Corrugated: Up to 6 Colors & 1,000 FPM Speed Options

Bob Leahey
 Jun 5, 2018

In the crush of news from last month’s FESPA in Berlin is one corrugated story that merits extra attention: HP’s PageWide Industrial division, which pioneered the high-speed CMYK pre-printing of corrugated liner media with HP PageWideT400S and 1100S in 2014, announced at the show the introduction of two new versions of the 110”/2.8m wide press, the HP PageWide T1170 and T1190. Each prints six colors (CMYK plus Orange and Violet), extending the color gamut to meet brand colors, and also feature HP ColorBoost technology. The presses feature HP A30 water-based inks do not use UV-reactive chemistry, so the products printed are food safe. The T1190 also offers a big increase in productivity to 1000 fpm/305 mpm, up from the 600 fpm/183 fpm of HP T1100S. Both the T1170 and T1190 presses are suitable for both coated and uncoated media, from 80 gsm to 350 gsm. They are available now, either as new installations or as on-site upgrades to the twelve T1100S installations that exist today worldwide.

 

HP PageWide T-Series

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Xeikon: Inkjet, EP Both Strong, Get Equal Focus

Bob Leahey
 May 24, 2018

Xeikon, a big presence at Labelexpo and many other tradeshows, is also one of the rare vendors that in effect hosts its own tradeshows, namely the Xeikon “Cafés” that occur yearly in Belgium and the U.S. The latest Xeikon Café occurred last week near the company’s North American headquarters in Itasca, IL and hosted over 200 guess and 30 exhibiting partners. Xeikon, the main focus, showed all its printers at the company’s nearby demonstration center and hosted a big conference program, with presentations by Xeikon managers, customers, and industry analysts.

Quick Impressions:

  • Xeikon, an electrophotographic (EP) pioneer, now is equally focused on inkjet
  • Xeikon inkjet at first will be for labels, but soon it will be for finishing and, next, for corrugated
  • Xeikon’s EP core had strong growth in the last twelve months, especially in label and packaging
  • Flint, maker of analog print supplies and Xeikon’s owner, is a helpful and ambitious partner

Xeikon’s recent inkjet history is fairly well known. In early 2017 this EP printer vendor surprised the market by announcing its plan to offer its first production-level UV inkjet label printer, the PX3000 (“Panther”). Then in November 2017, Xeikon announced that it was taking over service and support duties from EFI for the EFI Jetrion installed base, over 200 UV inkjet label webs, mainly in North America and Europe. PX3000 is just now having its first placements, but, all things considered, 2017 and 2018 have been years when Xeikon, an EP stalwart, jump started an industrial inkjet printer business.

Xeikon Panther PX3000

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EFI Lands Another Customer for ‘Nozomi’ Digital Corrugated Printer

Bob Leahey
 Feb 14, 2018

Companies watching for installations of high speed, single pass printers for corrugated learned of another customer for EFI Nozomi this month. EFI announced on February 12 that Corrugated Synergies International (CSI), based in Renton, Washington, has purchased not only Nozomi, EFI’s 246 fpm color inkjet printer for corrugated board, but also EFI’s Corrugated Packaging Suite, a comprehensive management execution system (MES) software tool set. The news marks the fourth deal to place Nozomi, which already has two installations in Europe and one in the U.S., and the first to include the EFI Corrugated Packaging Suite. Given that EFI Nozomi is driven by the EFI Fiery digital front end, CSI in effect is purchasing EFI’s full digital ecosystem for corrugated.

EFI Nozomi Placements, So Far

Company Location EFI Nozomi Installation
Hinojosa Packaging Valencia Spain 2017
McGowans Print Dublin, Ireland 2017
Complete Design & Packaging Concord, NC 2017
CSI Renton, WA 2018

 

CSI, which established “TenCorr” in 1982, was the first North American sheet feeder to manufacture corrugated sheets for sale to box manufacturers. Since then CSI has developed and now operates 12 sheet feeder operations and 3 full-line box plants, employing a total of 15 corrugators. It uses all the main pre-print and post-print analog technologies to print board stock, with a strong emphasis on high color graphics printing. CSI managers visited the first Nozomi installation (2017) at Hinojosa in Spain and say they were “blown away” by the quality of the printing they observed, and by Nozomi’s productivity.

From Feeder to Stacker, EFI Nozomi Is Over 100 Feet Long

For readers who are not familiar with the printer, “Nozomi” is named for a Japanese bullet train and, like its namesake, it’s built for speed. Based on Seiko piezo inkjet heads, Nozomi prints a bed of media up to 71”/1.8 meters wide at up to 246 pfm/ 75 m/min; measured in sheets (1.8 m x 3 m), that top speed is equal to 7,224 square meters per hour. Other specs:

Media ranges from 14pt folding carton board (about 0.4mm) to all corrugated grades, including triple wall.

  • Nozomi’s inks, which are manufactured by EFI, are LED curing formulations, with CMYK as standard and orange, violet, and white as options.
  • An in-line priming station improves control of ink droplets and allows printing of both coated and uncoated top sheet media.
  • The printhead has ink recirculation and prints four-levels of greyscale, in maximum resolution of 360x720dpi.
  • 100% inspection is also in-line, to manage jetting alignment uniformity of print.

Of all the EFI industrial printers, Nozomi appears to be the one that has benefited most from a team effort by the different EFI businesses. That development is proprietary, but it’s easy to imagine the contributions of individual EFI companies, from media handling and transport (VUTEk wide format, Cretaprint ceramic printing), to ink manufacturing (EFI Jetrion), to software (Fiery DFE, Radius workflow tools). There was likely help from outside EFI, with primer fluids and in-line inspection probably being the work of partners. Whatever the sequence, the resulting printer is highly automated in terms of feeding, monitoring, and off-loading, and the biggest and fastest ever from an EFI company.

CSI Operates 15 Corrugators Company-Wide

CSI will use the Nozomi to help it shift towards digital printing as an important complement to its analog print operations. The Corrugated Packaging Suite “MES” workflow will enable integration of digital production plant-wide, for a full business and production framework to handle all CSI’s digital, flexo, litho-lamination, and litho label operations. In its statements about Nozomi, CSI managers say they expect the Nozomi to expand the geographic range of customers that the company can serve, because the higher value of digital print jobs will make longer transport economic. They point also to the fit with “big box” retailing by major brands. Outlets such as Costco, Best Buy, and Walmark now often require tests of new products and new packaging in small amounts before committing shelf space. For consumer electronics, household goods, and many other products, that trend and many others spur the short run graphics printing jobs for corrugated that inkjet handles well.

Single Pass Just Starting

This story matters because the corrugated industry is just starting to have an influx of costly but highly productive color digital printers from several vendors, inkjet printers like Nozomi that print a wide bed of corrugated in a single pass and are a research focus for Keypoint Intelligence. EFI, which is dedicated to industrial uses of digital printing, is a top competitor; other participants and aspirants include Barberán, CorrStream, Durst, Handway, and HP, and there are at least one or two more in China. Total placements for all these vendors are now likely no more than 20 units worldwide, but that total could double within a year or two. All the printers, like Nozomi, are ones that will be used for two or three shifts, and each will likely print many millions of square meters of corrugated per year, dwarfing the output of even the most automated multi-pass inkjet flatbed printers. For corrugated converters, and for brands they serve, the collective effect will be huge, the arrival of new, timely, and profitable means to print short runs of corrugated digitally, and rapidly, with fine color graphics.

 

 

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.

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

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