Label Expo Preview: What to Look for in Brussels Next Week

Bob Leahey
Sep 23, 2015

Label Expo, the premier tradeshow for the label industry, will take place September 29 to October 2 in Brussels. Now decades old, this is the show that never seems to fade, and also one where the role of digital printing technologies always seems to grow. InfoTrends will attend and make a detailed report about it to clients but for now we offer a quick preview of what we expect to see:

A huge HP booth: The stand’s core equipment will be HP Indigo WS6800 (labels and other applications) and 20000 (a 30” web, for flexible packaging and for labels also), but there will be many other products. Ones particular to HP Indigo presses will include a white ink specifically for shrink sleeves and new yellow and magenta inks with enhanced lightfastness, also software upgrades, including a VDP tool for Adobe Illustrator, within HP SmartStream Designer prepress. Some exhibits will be from partners to HP Indigo (finishing lines, vision systems, media) and some will be from other parts of HP, such as product authentication software (“HP GPAS”) and tabletop label printers based on HP thermal inkjet. Brands will be part of the HP booth, too, as seen on mock retail shelves, and probably also in presentations by or about brands using digital. One will surely be Bud Light, which in August released beer cans in shrink-sleeves, each slightly different, thanks to a proprietary algorithm; called “Mosaic”, it’s part of HP SmartStream and can vary a single design to create huge numbers of unique images.

HP Mosaic for Bud Light: From 31 basic designs, 31 million variations


‘Wild Kingdom’ at the Xeikon booth: a year ago, Xeikon, the #2 supplier of digital presses for labels and packaging, introduced its CX3 label press, nicknaming it “Cheetah”, after the world’s fastest land animal. Since then, Xeikon has placed several of the 98 fpm presses, the fastest in its 3000 Series, and it has also binged on Cheetah-related imagery; besides the CX-3 and other Xeikon label presses, expect to see at the Brussels show at least one Xeikon manager wearing spots. Xeikon’s booth will be smaller than HP’s but it will be loaded in the same way with customers and partners, in particular for finishing, software, and media. Xeikon will also demonstrate the edgier label printing it supports, such as in mold labels and heat transfers, and likely also folding carton printing, the direct package printing application where Xeikon has established a suite of finishing equipment and a growing list of users.

The real Cheetah runs at speeds up to 98 KPH

Inkjet with finishing in-line: Colordyne, Durst, EFI Jetrion, INX, MPrint, SPG Prints and other inkjet contenders will show slitting, die cutting, and laser cutting in-line with digital print, i.e., the kind of all-in-one type printing that inkjet accommodates fairly easily, but that EP rarely does. There will be various success stories, including ones about manufacturers in pharma and elsewhere that have been able to take label production in-house.

Durst Tau 330 with laser cutting in-line

A bunch of hybrid presses: Mark Andy and Gallus, two of the top three flexo press makers, will offer their hybrid solutions, as will FFEI and five or six other companies. The options will include a few inkjet modules to retrofit flexo presses, such as bespoke systems from Industrial Ink Jet, Ltd., the U.K.-based distributor for Konica Minolta inkjet heads.

Gallus DCS 340

An interesting new EP Press entrant: This will be Konica Minolta, with its C71cf press. First sighted as a concept press at the 2013 Label Expo, based on a Konica Minolta BizHub workgroup printer, the C71cf today is polished and ready, and was a focus of the KM booth at this month’s Graph Expo in Chicago. Konica Minolta announced in June that Anderson & Vreeland has signed up to distribute the printer. Basic specs: CMYK colors, up to 44 fpm speed, 13” print width, up to 47” repeat interval, and 1200 x1200 dpi resolution; pricing is unstated, but likely lower or much lower than the entry level presses of HP Indigo and Xeikon. The EP press business at Label Expo has been almost entirely the province of those two vendors; Konica Minolta is an important addition.

Konica Minolta C71cf

A strong and changing tabletop category: Label Expo Americas in Chicago last year gave a hint of this, with a feverish focus by Epson, Kanematsu, Okidata, and others on chemical drum labels, and with the advent of new inkjet technology options from Epson and HP. Regarding chemical drum marking, GHS labeling is the issue, since thousands of manufacturers worldwide are coming into compliance with international standards (“Global Harmonized System”) for labeling dangerous chemicals, and upgrading their printers to do so. About new inkjet technology, Epson “Precision Core” heads and page-wide thermal inkjet from HP were both seen at the Chicago Label Expo last year and will again be on display next week in Brussels.

Epson C7500 prints GHS labels at up to 60 fpm

Direct packaging printing, in lots of places: Tarsus Group, the organizer of Label Expo, will host its now long established packaging workshop, and a new one too, on ‘smart’ packaging. Resolve: Label Expo, again, is partly about going beyond label printing and into new uses and markets. Expect demonstrations of folding carton and flexible packaging printing by digital and analog press vendors. Look also, though, for makers of media and software for augmented reality and other “bleeding edge” technologies, ones that use packaging and labels to link consumers to digital content.

Augmented Reality connects packaging to digital content







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