A healthy 50:1 visitor-to-exhibitor ratio

Labelexpo Brussels Review Part 1 – Features and trends

Federico d’Annunzio, head of Bobst narrow and mid-web, explains the features of the new narrow-web hybrid press M6 at Labelexpo Brussels. Photo IPP

Labelexpo has been perfectly in sync with developments in the industry, where, increasingly, commercial printers are entering the label and packaging business, label printers are turning to flexible packaging, and packaging converters are investing in multiple technology platforms.

Most of the major trade shows in Europe and North America have been compelled to adjust their sales strategies and expand their product portfolios in order to counter the past decade’s shrinking attendance numbers. By contrast, Labelexpo Europe has not only been able to maintain a healthy 50:1 visitor-toexhibitor ratio, but has been growing steadily as a result of several factors inherent to the label industry itself. Narrow-web technologies, initially developed for label manufacturing, have found their way into folding carton and flexible packaging production, extending their range into wider webs and hybrid print systems. At Labelexpo, narrow-web label and packaging printers and converters are increasingly being joined by their colleagues from the film extrusion, CI press and large and mid-web converting segment, for whom there is no such dedicated trade show. For the latter, drupa, interpack and K are the shows where they may find some of their equipment and materials, but in a more scattered way between packaging segments that are not specifically theirs.

At this year’s Labelexpo, converting equipment and materials for pressure-sensitive label stock were there, but also linerless, wrap-around, pouches, shrink sleeves and flexible packaging determined the exhibition floor perhaps more than the printing presses. Both narrow- and mid-web converters have been able to find an entire range of ancillary equipment and consumables required in these segments, including multiple mounting, ink mixing, cooling, cleaning, slitting, rewinding, diecutting, laminating, inspection, color management and automation systems. Consequently, Labelexpo has been perfectly in sync with developments in the industry, where, increasingly, commercial printers are entering the label and packaging business, label printers turning to flexible packaging, and packaging converters are investing in multiple technology platforms.

Printing presses at Labelexpo

Narrow-web presses are typically and ideally converting lines, often comprising coating, foiling, lamination, embossing, diecutting, delamination and/or rewinding functions in addition to the printing units. Next to dedicated flexo or offset or digital presses, the majority of press manufacturers have presses on offer with hybrid print technologies including silk screen and gravure as well as several converting utilities and integrated inspection systems. Most of the major narrow-web manufacturers had such presses running at the show. While digital printing is gaining ground both in label production and the narrow-web segment, specific applications for rotary screen, rotogravure and offset are also on the rise in what used to be a flexo domain, with flexo itself encroaching on gravure territory and increasingly being used in coating applications and other areas.

Bobst showcased its narrow-web hybrid press M6, available in widths between 430 mm and 670 mm, with ten or more units for flexo, offset, gravure, screen and inkjet as well as cold and hot foil, die cutting, triple de- and relamination and rewinding facilities, and speeds of up to 250 meters a minute. At Labelexpo, the company unveiled its new 870 mm and 1070 mm wide M8 line, based on ten or more units for flexo, gravure, screen and inkjet, with optional cold foil and die cutting facilities, at speeds of up to 400 meters a minute. A new plate mounting system, the Smart DigiMount, and Bobst’s bestselling M1 and M5X flexo presses in the 180 to 200 meters a minute range completed the stand. Mouvent, a joint-venture between Bobst and Radex, presented and demonstrated three 100 meters a minute inkjet label presses with a native resolution of 1200 x 1200 and optical resolution of 2000 dpi at the show as promised at the company’s launch in July. The three presses were the compact LB701-UV mini label press, the LB702-UV label press, and the LB702-WB label press. The LB702- WB, which uses 100% water-based inks developed by the company, is a bit longer machine because of the drying and coating units built into the press.

Gallus pulled off quite a show with its recent Labelmaster development in three versions, from Basic and Plus to Advanced, each made up of expandable twin-unit modules based on flexo printing and optional facilities for rotary screen, hot and cold foil, diecutting and embossing, and lamination. With speeds of up to 200 meters a minute, Gallus claims this platform to be the fastest it has ever produced. The company’s other focus was on its Labelfire 340, the narrow-web version of Heidelberg’s digital Prime-, Versaand Omnifire series. Latest Labelfire developments include an inline digital enhancement varnishing module and units for rotary screen printing and in-line diecutting.

Mark Andy’s line-up consisted of three presses—a Performance series P7, the Digital Series full production hybrid inkjet press and the Digital One, a compact entrylevel 4-color toner-based digital press. Demonstrations on the P7, a 250 mm to 558 mm wide flexo press with rotary screen and Rotoflex converting units at speeds of up to 305 meters a minute, included digital white and solventless lamination applications. A Performance Series P5 was sold to Sai Paks from Chinchwad near Pune with multiple P5 sales in South Asia around the show including one to a Sri Lankan customer. The Digital Series was shown producing short run labels with versioning, multiple languages as well as variable data, flexo printed gold spot color and die-cutting. The 330 mm wide Digital One press was shown in a 1200 dpi 4-color hybrid configuration with flexo units for spot varnishing and converting units at speeds of up to 18 meters a minute.

MPS in collaboration with Domino showcased its 430 wide EF SymJet, a fully automated hybrid version of the MPS EF press integrating flexo and UV inkjet units with automated pressure setting and register control and multiple converting units. MPS and Domino each presented several new workflow and ink management systems as well.

Multitec from Faridabad presented its recently developed S2 available in widths of 370 mm and 450 mm and speeds of up to 150 m/ min. The 8-color S2 configuration shown at Labelexpo was sold to Russian converter Atoll. A second S2 press order was also signed at the show.

Nilpeter premiered a new press in its FA series, the 350 mm wide FA Panorama Hybrid, an 8-color modular flexo and digital press with hot foil, embossing and diecutting units with speeds of up to 60 m/min. A 450 wide FA was also showcased with new features for multi-substrate printing and multi-operator handling, and with speeds driven to 200 meters a minute.

Omet came to Labelexpo with three upgraded presses—the XFlex X6.0, the iFlex, and the XFlex X6 Offset. The XFlex X6.0 was introduced with automatic pressure adjustment and register control features, including Multivision microcameras on each printing unit. The iFlex was upgraded with chill drums for substrate cooling, a stripping unit and a sheeting station. The 430 mm wide XFlex X6 Offset was shown with offset, flexo, rotary screen, hot foil and diecutting units. XFlex X6 units were also shown at the Durst stand, where they were integrated with a Durst Tau 330 industrial inkjet press.

Edale in collaboration with FFEI showcased its 430 mm wide FL3 Graphium Hybrid press with up to 10 flexo and 6 digital colors at speeds at up to 150 m/min in flexo mode and 45 m/min in hybrid mode. DCM and ETI, albeit press manufacturers, put more emphasis on their converting machinery for embellishing, coating, lamination, diecutting, delamination and slitting. Soma and Uteco had stands without running presses, representing their respective central impression flexo technologies. Soma’s Optima and Uteco’s Onyx are available in widths ranging between 650 and 1050 mm and speeds of up to 300 m/min. Uteco did however showcase its new 400 mm wide 7-color inkjet press Gaia, developed in a collaboration with Inx and ebeam, running at speeds of up to 25m/min. 

Rotatek had its Brava 450 press and Digitalis finishing solutions on show, introducing a new inkjet module, chilled rollers module and LED drying. Other narrow-web offset presses were showcased by Codimag, Contiweb, LinkLabel and Miyakoshi. Labelmen had an information stand but for the first time no running presses at the show. Sakurai presented itself with a range of rotary screen printing presses in widths between 300 mm and 600 mm. Marketed by Bobst, spgprints showcased its rotary screen module RSI Compact for raised ink deposits, varnishing, adhesives, and opaque, metallic and fluorescent inks as well as various other applications, which can be integrated into narrow-web presses.

HP gave a party to celebrate the establishment of the Indigo lab 40 years ago, and on one of Labelexpo’s largest exhibition areas introduced several printing and converting add-ons to its WS6800 and 20000 presses, in addition to production configurations with the Indigo 8000 narrow-web press and the new SI-1300 desktop labeling print engine. Demonstrated inline with the WS6800, the Indigo GEM was presented as an embellishing press with foil, screen, tactile, varnish and other facilities. The other innovations included Pack Ready and Inline Priming for the production of highperformance, high-resistance labels, and a new HP Indigo ElectroInk Silver for metallic effects, still in beta customer testing.

Xeikon introduced three new label presses—the Cheetah CX500 dry-toner press and two UV inkjet presses, the entry-level Panther PX2000 and the high-end PX3000. The 520 mm wide CX500, at print speeds of up to 30 meters a minute, has been developed for larger sized labels, labels requiring an opaque white or an extended color gamut, and is to complement the Cheetah CX3 introduced at Labelexpo two years ago and present again this time. The 220 mm wide PX2000 and the 330 mm wide PX3000, both available in 4- and 5-color configurations, can achieve print speeds of up to 50 meters a minute.

Kodak came to Labelexpo with its FlexCel CtP solutions and the announcement that the company was opening a new Flexo Packaging Technology Center in Brussels, to be known as the Kodak Flexo Hub. In this context, Kodak also confirmed its continued investment in Ultrastream inkjet technology and hybrid configurations for the Kodak Prosper 6000S press. Konica Minolta introduced a toner-based press developed with GM (Grafisk Maskinfabrik), the AccurioLabel 190, and a UV-inkjet embellishment press developed with MGI, the JETvarnish 3Dweb for labels and flexible packaging with inline spot UV coating and foil applications. Monotech from Chennai showcased its proven Colornovo UV inkjet module for flexo presses, which can handle widths of up to 330 mm and speeds of up to 70 meters a minute.

Converting equipment 

Visitors were licking their fingers over the panoply of prepress, converting and ancillary equipment on show at Labelexpo. A majority of exhibitors showcased equipment for slitting, rewinding, laminating, label counting, inspection, sleeve glueing and cutting, doctoring, plate and anilox roller cleaning, solvent recovery, and the like.

Prati came to the show with 12 finishing systems, including the Digifast One for S/R printing, diecutting and inspection at speeds of up to 90 meters a minute, and the Futura finishing system integrated into its Saturn Omnia and Jupiter 670 platforms. The company also announced a collaboration with Screen for the development of a Digifast interface with Screen’s Truepress Jet L350UV series of digital label presses. Lombardi showcased inline units for flat screen printing, foiling, booklet making, sheeting, de- and relamination, diecutting and embellishing in addition to some of its modular narrow web flexo presses. DCM also focused on its finishing equipment, including lamination, sleeve forming and sleeve cutting equipment, and several slitters and rewinders. 

Kocher+Beck showcased its range of magnetic diecutting technology, as well as engraved cutting cylinders, adjustable anvil and pressure measurement systems, splicers, and printing and hot-stamping cylinders. Daetwyler and Schober focused their presentations on diecutting technologies, particularly for the IML segment. SMAG had a large range of finishing equipment on show with modules for screen printing, foiling, laminating, diecutting and fan folding. Enprom introduced a unique technology for shrink sleeve glueing, replacing needle-glueing by a dip-roller system enabling more accurate glueing and reduced overlapping flags. Cartes presented systems for hot stamping, screen printing, embossing, varnishing, cold foil, diecutting and laser converting.

Martin Automatic and KTI had several web-feeding, rewinding, doctoring and splicing systems at Labelexpo. Anilox technology were the domain of Apex, Cheshire and a few others mainly from China. Plate and anilox roller cleaning systems were shown by Alphasonics, Apex, Cheshire, Dantex, FlexoWash, Harper, Jet, Polymount, Ultrachem and others. Ciemmi showcased its solvent recovery system, while IST Metz was one of the few presenting curing and drying systems. CtP and flexo plate systems at this show were the domain of Amsky, Asahi, Cron, Dantex, Dupont, Esko, Flint-Xeikon, Fujifilm, Glunz & Jensen, Heidelberg, Jet, Kodak, Lead Laser, Lucky, MacDermid, Toray and Toyobo. Rossini, which dominates the leading flexo and gravure press OEM market for rubber rollers and sleeves, was also present. 

QuadTech conducted demonstrations on its inline color management and defect detection systems ColorTrack, DeltaCam and SpectralCam. Simplifying printing and converting workflows, these systems enable pre- and post-laminate color analysis, ink strength and ink mixing correction, spot color tone value calculation to ISO 20654, enhanced color measurement through strip scanning, and simplified ink quantity tracking. Other inspection systems were shown by BST and AVT, while packaging and label design as well as project, asset and colour management software and measurement tools were presented by Esko, Dalim, Global Graphics, Hybrid, Techkon, and X-Rite. The MIS landscape was reduced to three providers, as EFI’s acquisitions have made it the absolute market leader in management information systems for commercial, label and packaging printing, leaving little space for the two other companies present at the show, Labeltraxx and Cerm.

IGT Testing Systems was again at Labelexpo demonstrating its latest instruments for offset, flexo and gravure inks testing and matching on substrates including paper and board, metals and plastics. The IGT Orange Proofer can be used in converter’s ink kitchens to make sample color prints to check the quality and color of the ink on the substrate before going to press. It can check color, penetration, drying, density, set-off and other properties. The IGT C1 range of printability testers in various optional widths and accessories are used in ink labs to produce reproducible color strips that indicate color and transparency, ink transfer in grams per square inch, density, covering power, wear resistance, scratch resistance, flexibility, adhesion, gloss, light fastness, resistance to chemicals, set off, mottle, strike through and print quality.

Consumables formed another important part of Labelexpo, particularly in the areas of substrates, liners, coatings and inks. Flexible substrates were the domain of Cosmo, Innovia, Jindal and Taghleef, with Avery Dennison, Lintec, Pulse, SMI and UPM Raflatac at the forefront of pressure sensitive label stocks, and Actega, Flint, Inx, Michelman, Siegwerk and Sun Chemicals for the inks and coatings. Other important products included flexo plate mounting tape from Tesa and mounting sleeves at the stands of Dantex, Dupont, Felix Böttcher, MacDermid, Polymount and others, and lamination adhesives from Bostik and Henkel. HB Fuller showed its water-based, hot melt and solventbased adhesives for permanent beverage labels that can be cleanly removed during the warm alkali bottle wash process. With its strong presence in India and its latest peel and reseal label adhesives, there is no reason that leading pressure sensitive labelstock suppliers in the country cannot match the washable, removable or repositionable label solutions demanded by global consumers.

Of the 685 exhibitors in Brussels, around 17% represented Asian companies, including 60 from China, 20 from India, 15 from Japan, 10 from Taiwan, and 5 from South Korea. The next Labelexpo Europe will take place in Brussels from 24-27 September 2019. In the meantime, replication events will be held in Shanghai (5-8 December 2017), Bangkok (10-12 May 2018), and at Greater Noida’s India Expo Center (22-25 November 2018).

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