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Actega Metal Print begins EcoLeaf beta testing

Actega EcoLeaf metallization sample

Actega Metal Print, a German division of the Altana Group, is preparing for commercialization of its new EcoLeaf metallization technology, with the start of beta testing at local converter Kolbe-Coloco.

The innovative metallization method was introduced at drupa 2016 by the Israel-based Landa Labs as Nano Metallography – a process designed to produce zero waste at less than half the cost of foil. In February 2017, Actega Metal Print acquired the technology and rebranded it EcoLeaf. Behind glass, it then previewed beverage label samples at Labelexpo Europe 2019.

Actega Metal Print, founded specifically to accelerate this project, is a start-up style company with an entrepreneurial spirit at its core. It currently employs 25 full time staff with an additional 25 contributing to the project – this also includes Benny Landa, chairman and CEO of Landa Labs. 

The process uses a printed trigger image before passing into the application unit, where a silicone-coated donor roll carries the fine flakes of metal pigment from a reservoir to the concealed image. Only those flakes that are in contact with the trigger image are used, the remainder return to the reservoir for future rotations. The silver metal particles are ultra-thin and, combined with the trigger image, can offer very high-resolution coverage. 

After the metallic effect is applied and cured using a conventional UV lamp, the silver image can be overprinted to create any color or effect required. Potentially, this characteristic opens up new opportunities for metallic effects that have previously not been possible.

‘We can approach markets and applications where it has not previously made sense to apply foils,’ says Jan Franz Allerkamp, managing director of Actega Metal Print. As the foil is nonconductive it is safe to use in microwave ovens, which means that the packaging can be used for in-mold labels and even food packaging.

For the last two years, the company has been testing different methods of laying down the trigger image at its labs, using an Omet X6, Gallus Labelmaster and ABG Digicon Series 3. 

‘The wide range of technologies available to lay down the trigger image opens several options for our customers. Flexo will be best to achieve higher speeds and resolution, screen printing will produce a more tactile effect and inkjet will allow the use of variable data,‘ adds Dario Urbinati, chief sales and marketing officer at Actega Metal Print.

‘Massive step forward’ 
The company is now ready to move forward with its commercialization plan. The first beta site to take part in the project is Kolbe-Coloco, a German converter based in Versmold near Bielefeld.

‘We are frequently asked by our customers about sustainability; therefore, we are very excited to trial the EcoLeaf technology at our plant in Versmold. It is a massive step forward in minimizing waste, but also has enormous potential when it comes to the cost saving aspects of our production,’ says Michael Leon, managing director of Kolbe-Coloco.

‘Our business is focused on print services that create a greater connection between a brand and the consumer, to ultimately aid sales. We do that by employing some of the best print technologies on the market, and EcoLeaf is a perfect example of this.

‘Eradicating foil is a huge and incredibly important milestone in our industry, and this technology looks poised to support that. For this reason, we have no doubt that our customers will embrace EcoLeaf with open arms, but we also know that they will love the opportunity to add cost effective and amazing metallization to their jobs too – this solution has the potential to be a serious game changer.’

‘In Kolbe-Coloco we’ve found a likeminded and very innovationdriven business,’ says Allerkamp. ‘One that operates an automated, clean and very professional environment, but a company that has already proved itself to be a real change-maker. We look forward to working closely with them over the coming weeks and months, and to seeing EcoLeaf’s positive impact on their business.’

Actega Metal Print will now focus on its second stage of research – expanding the technology to different platforms and applications including flexible packaging, film substrates and cartons. It will also test many combinations of material and inks that might be required by the market. 

Piotr Wnuk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Piotr is a part of the global team of editors and comes to the magazine with extensive experience in journalism. He has background in print and digital media spanning different countries and industry sectors. He is based in the London office, reporting on European label market.

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