Last summer, Seiko Instruments decided to relocate its demo center and laboratory from France to Germany. After the forced break due to the Covid-19 restrictions, Seiko Instruments could finally open its new demo centre and laboratory in Neu-Isenburg, Germany at the end of July 2021. In Neu-Isenburg, near Frankfurt am Main, the company now has the optimal premises and equipment to be able to comprehensively demonstrate the diversity of its industrial inkjet solutions.
Competent partners from the areas of ink development, drying and printing and integrators were selected to demonstrate a wide range of applications, to set up machine configurations that give visitors an insight into the extensive potential of industrial inkjet printing based on the high-performance Seiko Instruments printheads.
The company invited visitors to its Open Week at the new demo center, where, together with its partners, it extensively discussed the facets and possibilities of industrial inkjet printing. Many holistic solutions were presented together with the challenge of interlocking the relevant components for perfectly customized industrial inkjet applications.
Seiko’s printheads serve a wide variety of purposes, including ceramic tiles, heavy textiles, home textiles, apparel, wood, glass, corrugated, high-speed marking and coding, labelling, coating, signage, and additive manufacturing (3D). Recognized as robust and highly accurate, they enable the most flexible printing directions – downwards, vertical and horizontal.
During the Open Week, 12 different printing stations for packaging, textiles, ceramics, wood, coding and marking were on display, printing with oil, UV and water-based inks, depending on the application, as well as UV and water-based varnish printing. The configurations shown were only meant to be a creative push to show what is possible. Seiko was also keen to take the opportunity to talk to end-users
Only by talking openly about future strategic directions and possible new applications is it possible to bring competent partners on board. The most diverse applications and uses are conceivable on the basis of Seiko’s inkjet printheads and, together with competent industry partners, the opportunity was offered to jointly find out which properties, for example, a special ink must have for a specific application.
The many discussions on site impressively showed that personal contact is indispensable. Therefore, Seiko was also pleased about the positive response to the Open Week, whose invitation was accepted by around 150 people from over 60 companies and 12 different countries.
Traditionally, Seiko Instruments has been particularly successful in the fields of ceramics and coding and marking. In ceramic printing, Seiko has been present for many years with the RC1536 recirculation printhead series and has a market share of 35 to 40%. It is assumed that this market is almost saturated, as there are hardly any machines left in this segment that do not produce digitally. However, many old machines are being replaced by new, more powerful lines, so that there is a noticeable increase in investment in this area currently.
Seiko naturally wants to be the supplier of choice here, and with its innovative inkjet printhead technology, which is now even more robust and industrial. Well placed to ensure that customers will also prefer its technology for their re-investments the company says that new customers can also be won in this area.
The first market segment Seiko Instruments entered in Europe was the coding and marking segment. In this segment, Seiko has the only inkjet printhead that can print horizontally at a distance of 2 to 3 cm. Because the ink drops are ejected with appropriate pressure they have the mass and stability to generates clearly outlined, precise dots, a unique selling point.
Seiko competes in this market on the one hand with systems based on thermal inkjet technology and on the other hand with classic label machines. For users who have relied on thermal inkjet technology to date, even smaller print heads have now been developed that are perfectly suited to these fields of application. To replace labels, direct printing on brown cardboard requires an appropriate amount of ink so that the black remains black and is not simply absorbed. Alternatively, UV-based inks are used and a white layer is printed first so that the black ink can be printed on top.
Another important market for Seiko is corrugated digital single pass printing. Seiko has a very high market share in this segment, as its customers were the first to bring such applications to the market. While several other manufacturers have announced solutions for this segment that are not based on Seiko printheads, the company is convinced that it will continue to play a leading role in this market. Its printhead technology offers numerous advantages for printing on cardboard since cardboard boxes are very wavy and very light – needing to be handled accordingly on the conveyor belt.
In addition, the production environment in this market is usually very dusty, challenges that the powerful and insensitive RC1536 easily masters due to its robust design. This versatile printhead covers a wide range of inks and fluids. The constant ink flow within the circulation structure removes air bubbles and contaminants and prevents sedimentation of inks with large pigments. The high flow rate within the circulation structure ensures that the ink is constantly moving at high speed immediately behind the nozzles. This automatically regenerates the nozzles and prevents deposits, eliminating the need for routine nozzle cleaning during operation and significantly reducing ink consumption. Ink is constantly circulating, eliminating the need for pre-filling or flushing before printing.
The exceptional technology of the printheads will also be made available in other market segments. The next step is certainly the coatings segment, where the application of an even layer on a large surface can be realised relatively easily with Seiko printbars.
In the label market, it is possible to equip an analogue press with an additional printbar in order to be able to apply finishes. Coatings are also an important topic in the textile market. Think, for example, of breathable sportswear or the criterion of low flammability of fabrics. In order to achieve this, despite all the expertise surrounding the formulation, it is ultimately also a matter of applying a liquid for coating – and Seiko’s print heads in the coating sector do exactly that.
The biggest challenge is to find the appropriate ink formulation for the requirements of different industries. Special applications in inkjet printing require the seamless interlocking of all relevant components and parameters – i.e. the ink, the printhead, the drying device, the electronics and the ink system – like the gears of a clock. But once this is realised, the system delivers efficient and flexible printing results at the highest level. Whether a customer is already an experienced user or a complete newcomer, the requirement is always to be able to fall back on the necessary industry-specific technical know-how so that digital printing can be optimally adapted to the respective area of application. The best printing results are achieved when problems and solutions are considered holistically – objectively and purposefully, based on trust and cooperation. And to ensure that this is exactly the case, Seiko created the ideal platform in Neu-Isenburg with its demo centre, and more so with the first Open Week held there in July.