Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2023 returns to Bangkok

Labelexpo Southeast Asia returned to BITEC in Bangkok in February, for the second edition of the show in a region primed for growth. Andy Thomas-Emans and Chelsea McDougall report

Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2023 returns to Bangkok

Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2023 returns to Bangkok

The three-day Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2023 marked the post-Covid return of the show to the region following the launch event in 2018. Labelexpo Southeast Asia brought together almost 7,500 converters and brand owners from across the ASEAN and wider Asia-Pacific region, mostly from Thailand, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia. The show was supported by the Thai Innovative Printing Trade Association (TINPA) and over 170 suppliers were showcasing their latest technologies. Regional trends The wider APAC region represents the fastest-growing label market in the world.

According to consultancy Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence in September 2022, the Asia Pacific labels market was valued at 15.778 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.34 percent to reach a market size of 25.092 billion USD by 2027. Thailand itself is emerging as a hub for the ASEAN region. The government has undertaken a massive investment program in transit and hotel infrastructure, and a new high-speed train service links Bangkok to Laos, and from there to China. There has also been significant foreign investment in the country, including by international label converting groups and label buyers. In terms of label technology, this region is in many ways reminiscent of China a decade ago.

Multinational brands are moving to the region and an advanced retail infrastructure is emerging, leading to growing requirements for higher quality packaging – including from local brands who need to compete with the global giants. Letterpress, offset and screen printing remain a powerful force, but regional label converters are starting to look at flexo and digital. The key question is, how are they going to invest?

Press technology

The transition between letterpress and flexo was well represented on the Sen Labels Machinery stand. Sen Labels is a Malaysian manufacturer of flexo and letterpress machines. On the stand was an SEN intermittent flexo press equipped with LED-UV along with an LED-UV intermittent letterpress.

Marketing manager Max Goh says intermittent flexo is well suited for short runs without the high tooling costs associated with full rotary flexo. ‘We learned a lot from our intermittent letterpress technology, particularly how to avoid gear marks,’ says Goh. The press speed is 60m/min. Sen Labels is now looking to take its semi-rotary flexo technology to the Middle East and Europe.

Haotian was another company showing intermittent letterpress – there was no full rotary letterpress at the show. Intermittent offset made a strong showing at Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2023, with machines shown by, among others, Zonten, and Nickel with its striking FS350 semi-rotary offset press. Rotary flexo is now part of the show mix with Label Source demonstrating an F4 inline flexo press, which was sold on the show floor to barcode and VIP specialist S.I.N. Information.

Digital had a major presence, with several global players showing their cutting-edge technologies and a growing presence from Chinese suppliers. Seen for the first time at an Asia-Pacific exhibition was Konica Minolta’s new AccurioLabel 400. This is the latest update to the established and highly successful AccurioLabel 230 4-color toner press, which is one of the fastest-selling digital presses in the world. The main upgrade over the AccurioLabel 230 press is the addition of a white toner station, while the maximum speed of the AccurioLabel 400 has been increased to 39.9m/min in CMYK mode - 20m/min CMYK+W. Speed is also affected by the type of media being handled.

The press was demonstrated at the show in overprint mode – the press comes as standard with an overprint sensor kit for registration with pre-printed media. The unwinder and converting modules are built for Konica Minolta in Asia-Pacific by Brotech, with the capacity for rolls of 1,000mm diameter. Brotech CEO Ramon Lee tells L&L the company has developed a new design that fully encloses the printing and converting stations, allowing the press to be airconditioned. Taking down the internal temperature allows a wider latitude to print on films.

Epson brought its full range of digital label printing equipment to the show, including the SurePress L-4533AW aqueous inkjet press, the SurePress L-6534VW LED-UV press and its full range of ColorWorks benchtop printers. Durst showcased its entry-level Tau RSC E 330 5c digital press, with the same 1200 DPI native print resolution as the rest of the Tau RSC range.

Durst marketing director Thomas Mascina says the press is configured to offer ‘an economically attractive entry into Tau RSC technology.’

The press comes equipped with Durst Workflow and Durst Analytics software and optional Durst Smart Shop software, enabling a web-to-print workflow. Flora (Shenzhen Runtianzhi) showcased its J330-S UV inkjet press printing CMYK+W and using the latest Epson S3200 600 DPI printhead. It runs at speeds up to 60m/min and can accommodate media roll sizes up to 1,000mm. Hanglory showed its LabStar 330S UV inkjet press, which uses Kyocera printhead technology to print at 1200 dpi in five colors.

The press was shown for the first time with an upgrade package which includes a flexo module for both spot colors and cold foil application. The ‘S’ version also features fully inline converting with lamination, full/semi-rotary die cutting and matrix rewind. Dilli showed its Neo Picasso press on the stand of local agent Hua Far. The press has a resolution of 600 x 1200 DPI and a speed of 50m/min. It prints CMYK+W.

One of the key emerging markets for benchtop-size digital devices is full-color VIP and industrial labeling, and several suppliers were demonstrating systems.

AstroNova showed its compact T2-C high-capacity tabletop label press, while Oki demonstrated its Pro Label series printers and Pro9000 series graphic arts printers, covering the full range of on-demand label printing applications. KPowerScience launched its Winjet PE4600 Series of pigment-based aqueous inkjet printers. The PE4600 prints at 1600 dpi resolution on a 324 mm print width.

The increasing demand for high-quality packaging noted earlier was fully reflected in the range of advanced finishing and converting equipment at the show. Grafotronic, for example, used the show to support a strong move into the ASEAN region. The company now has an office in Thailand for parts and service and distributors in Vietnam and Malaysia with The Philippines to follow. Grafotronic Thailand forms part of a new global servicing and troubleshooting network, along with centers in Europe and the US, offering 24/7 online and phone support. Mattias Malmqvist, VP of sales and marketing at Grafotronic, says, ‘Now is the right time to exhibit at Labelexpo Southeast Asia because local converters servicing major global brands are now in a position to afford top-line inspection equipment. We are also focused on making smarter machines so that anybody can use them, with all printing, knife and die setting fully automated.’

Grafotronic was demonstrating two converting systems. The Hi3 slitter/ rewinder is capable of reaching 400 m/min and is the first Grafotronic machine under the company’s new Choose Green program.

With a new regenerating brake system, the Hi3 captures the machine’s braking energy and converts it into power, making it approximately 30 percent. more energy efficient. The compact Grafotronic CF2 is a servo-driven finishing unit for digitally printed labels. Brotech focused on shrink sleeve label production, looking to provide an entry-level system for converters moving into this fast-growing sector. The SMS500 shrink sleeve label seaming system is 520mm-wide and operates at speeds up to 400m/min. The machine incorporates a closed loop width sensing system, allowing the seaming width to remain unchanged at any speed. The SMC330 completes the system with a sheeter unit incorporating cross and machine direction perforation.

Also on the stand was a CDF330 multifunctional digital label finishing unit. Press Systems Group, a leading Southeast Asia distributor of printing products covering the flexo, offset and gravure markets, demonstrated the curing performance of Zeller+Gmelin LED-UV inks on a Rhyguan converting machine. The demonstrations also showcased GEW’s latest air-cooled Aeroled LED-UV curing system in combination with UV and LED-UV inks from Zeller & Gmelin.

Yicheen showcased its RDM series of multi-function, modular label finishing systems including both full rotary and semi-rotary die-cutting modules. The RDM series can be customized for functions including slitting, varnishing, laminating, stamping and sheeting. Vinsak launched its USAR 430 modular finishing machine in combination with Tecnocut’s E-Diffsystem. Inspection systems, both for on-press and on slitter-rewinders also took a prominent place at the show. BST demonstrated its entry-level TubeScan 100 percent inspection system. TubeScan can be configured with the QLink workflow to remove defective labels at the rewinder.

Also demonstrated was a PowerScope 5000 digital monitoring system and a compact web guide. Erhardt+Leimer demonstrated its second-generation Smartscan inspection system, which no longer requires an external control cabinet. China’s Luster LighTech International displayed intelligent vision equipment including the LabelHero Series 100 percent label quality inspection system.

Carrie Duan, Luster LighTech international sales manager, says Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam are successful and growing markets for the company. ‘The quality requirements of local brands are now at the point where the better Chinese machines can be sold at a cost that meets the value point of local converters,’ Duan tells L&L.

Given the importance of VIP and industrial labeling through ASEAN for end-use applications including food labels, receipts, bank statements, utility bills and transportation tickets, it was not surprising to see a lot of both global and Chinese suppliers of thermal and direct transfer materials.

Armor-Iimak showcased its inkanto thermal transfer ribbons, which work with the full range of uncoated and coated paper, synthetic, textile and flexible packaging.

Ricoh showcased a variety of direct thermal papers and thermal transfer ribbons suitable for printing on papers, films or textiles, Zheijang King Label showed its thermal transfer ribbons and Schenzen SY Label its direct thermal products.

Zhuoli Imaging Technology showed its PET thermal transfer ribbons, including wax, wax/resin, resin, near-edge ribbon and color ribbons. These products are manufactured in compliance with RoHS and REACH regulations and have ISEGA and UL certifications.

Label materials suppliers from across the globe were well represented including important local player Thai KK, which put a heavy emphasis on sustainability at its booth. The company highlighted its biodegradable laminated paper material which successfully underwent testing in a nearby university laboratory.

Thailand’s warm, humid temperatures make it ideal for this application. Lintec Corporation demonstrated a wide range of PS labelstocks for end-use applications ranging from industrial and freezer grades to glass and plastic beverage containers.

India’s Cosmo Films showcased a wide range of materials including flexible packaging, label, lamination, packaging, synthetic paper and industrial films, along with its newly launched PET-G shrink label films along with new lamination adhesives.

Mega Source Technology showed a coating technology for BOPP, PP and PET films. The company also showed a range of synthetic papers.

Jinya showed a range of self-adhesive papers and films, including materials optimized for inkjet VIP applications along with permanent, removable, frozen-grade and tire adhesives.

Seal King showed a range of premium security labels and tamper-evident tapes, which can be applied to nearly all surfaces including metal, plastic, paper, carton and glass.

Yupo offered its range of synthetic in-mold label materials. Yupo’s synthetic paper is recyclable and both oil and chemical resistant.

Chelsea McDougall

  • Group managing editor

Andy Thomas

  • Strategic director