This Labelexpo Americas will help define the future of digital printing in the label converting industry. Most of the major ‘conventional’ press manufacturers have now embraced digital solutions – although firmly as a complement to their conventional machines. Mark Andy is showing for the first time its OKI-based toner digital print unit, Gallus is integrating the Heidelberg Linoprint L inkjet press (based on CSAT/Kyocera technology) into its conventional workflows via the Cerm MIS, and the Caslon press is now being marketed by FFEI as a purely digital machine and by Nilpeter in the hybrid flexo variant. Omet showed 4-color digital inkjet integration into an X-Flex frame at Drupa, where Focus introduced its own digital/flexo converting system.
So digital has now moved firmly beyond the specialist suppliers and into the press mainstream – even though some conventional press suppliers may harbor private doubts about the value of digital versus their most modern fast changeover conventional presses.
Most of these systems are inkjet, but we have yet to see inkjet mount a serious challenge to the toner technologies in terms of installation base. This Labelexpo Americas sees the inkjet vendors push the possibilities of their existing technology – ganging up inkjet heads to increase speed and resolution, for example, as well as adding six and seven color ink sets. Durst shows an interesting addition – a UV silver metallic ink. The company has also helped pioneer digital coating following its highly successful integration of the Rotoworx technologies it acquired.
Meanwhile HP Indigo and Xeikon have powered ahead and show a range of additional production possibilities at this show. HP shows inline substrate coating on its WS6600 (and talks about the forthcoming introduction of the ground-breaking 20000 press); Xeikon asks label converters to take a hard look at the possibilities of digital carton converting.
And Labelexpo will also provide an opportunity to assess the state of the art in laser die-cutting. We have seen big strides in the adoption of laser – driven particularly by EFI, which has integrated a laser unit inline on its Jetrion 4900 – but it has yet to make a major impact on the digital label finishing market. At the show visitors can see four leading laser die-cutter manufacturers lining their machines up and cutting the same label designs (plus a free-form label of their own choosing). This will give us an exciting window on the advantages and limitations of state-of-the-art laser systems in a workshop run by an independent moderator.
I will be tweeting from this workshop and from the show as more digital trends reveal themselves.
Andy Thomas, group managing editor, L&L