Labelexpo Americas 2022 - finishing and converting

At Labelexpo Americas 2022, added speeds and ease of use were trends seen across the converting equipment featured on the show floor, while digital embellishment took the forefront of finishing innovation. 
Added speed and ease of use were trends seen across converting equipment

The state of the label and packaging industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. Struggles to find skilled operators, the continued difficulties in acquiring raw materials, and a strong push from consumers and brand owners alike for more sustainable options are a few of the obstacles label converters are facing.

When looking at the converting and finishing equipment exhibitors at Labelexpo Americas 2022 featured on the show floor, advancements made on the ease of use of the equipment to a host of digital embellishment technologies now offered by manufacturers look to address and amend these issues.

Digital embellishment takes a stand

Highlighted throughout the show, digital embellishment is a relatively new technology that has seemingly taken the world of labels and packaging by storm with equipment vendors showcasing technology that looks to change the way converters approach finishing. Sponsors of the Digital Embellishment Trail at the show were: Cartes, Epson, Grafotronic, Konica Minolta, Kurz, Mark Andy, Prati and Xeikon.

At the Cartes booth, the company showcased its Jet D-Screen digital embellishment system along with the laser die-cutting system. The digital unit can produce many effects including tactile, raised effects along with foil and metallics with little to no material waste and with no tooling required.

‘What we are doing here is adding embellishment that can only be achieved by digital silk screen or metallic doming being applied and finished by a laser,’ says Viriglio Micale, director of sales at Cartes, adding that these processes require absolutely no tooling.

Additionally, the equipment features an automated system that would allow operators to produce, access, and save jobs, making changeover much more simplistic, according to Natalia Tsamorina, export sales manager at Cartes.

‘There are smart storage options within the software itself that let the operators save all parameters of a certain job,’ says Tsamorina. ‘You can access a list of jobs and see the specific temperatures, pressures, and everything that has been changed or adjusted throughout the job. It can help operators save about 40 percent more of their set up time.’

Epson showcased a couple of its presses, mainly the SurePress L-6534VW UV with digital varnish or orange ink. 

Epson’s digital varnish offers spot varnish, simulated foiling, and embossing all in-line with the label production, which Mike Pruitt, senior product manager of industrial markets at Epson, says are technologies that have generally been regarded as expensive that typically necessitate longer runs, but with Epson’s digital finishing, these run times can be relatively short with the capability of having every label look different.

Grafotronic brought its modular DCL2 Haptic digital finishing equipment that, according to the company, is designed to be completely future-safe due to a retrofit design. The machine enables converters to break into the high-end wine and cosmetics markets that were typically reserved for the more conventional printing processes.

A silk-screen printing module can be added to the press, giving converters access to flatbed silk-screen to braille applications.

Along with the US unveiling of the AccurioLabel 300 five-color press, Konica Minolta showcased its AccurioLabel 230 digital press with Grafisk Maskinfabrik’s DC330 Mini paired up with it. The DC330 Mini is touted as an ‘all-in-one compact label finishing machine’ allowing converters to add varnishes, laminated, super-gloss, and cold foiling.  

Dino Pagliarello, senior vice president, product management and planning at Konica Minolta, spoke of bringing the knowledge of digital embellishment to converters, hoping to show that the lack of plates, dies, and other tooling, which Pagliarello says, ‘adds productivity, versatility, VDP capabilities, and it allows for the owner of the device to do things more efficiently when it comes to short runs.’

The highlight at the Kurz booth was the DM-Uniliner 2D. Able to print on various substrates, the DM-Uniliner 2D is a standalone metallization unit that’s capable of overprinting metallized designs with a multitude of iridescent colors and effects.

Matthias Mierderer, product manager for digital embellishment solutions business area machines and applications at Kurz, says: ‘We print the design we want to be metalized on the backside of the foil before it’s in contact with the substrate, so this gives us the chance directly after printing to cure the ink so it’s not fluid anymore and more sticky, giving converters the opportunity to apply without having it being pulled away.’

Like the other machines, the DM-Uniliner 2D also is touted as a more flexible option that eliminates the majority of waste that is typically associated with finishing equipment.

Mark Andy is moving with the times,’ according to Phil Baldwin, European sales manager at Mark Andy, highlighting the fact that at Labelexpo Americas 2022, digital seemed to take over the show floor.  Bringing its Digital Series HD press to the show, the press featured many in-line embellishment and finishing options like silver metalized foil with textured varnish or clear foil with a matte varnish.

Prati’s DigifastOne digital finishing line was the highlight of its booth. The DigifastOne looks to compete in the high-end label finishing market like wine and spirits by featuring die-cutting units with a wide range of finishing technologies such as tactile effects and varnishing all directly in-line on a variety of materials between 12 to 350 microns, according to Matteo Bertoni, area manager and Digifast20000 product leader at Prati.

Xeikon brought various presses to the show, highlighting its commitment to its customers in a wide range of industries that are now wanting the shelf appeal that wine and spirits tend to have.

‘If you look to the digital printing market, Xeikon has been there as a supplier for more than 25 years,’ says Filip Weymans, vice president marketing at Xeikon. ‘The full-color digital printing has really taken a large part of the market, but now it’s time to expand into other markets. Think about wine and spirits and food labels, those areas want that additional factor that’s where digital embellishment will come into play, opening new application capabilities for the customers beyond just full-color printing.’

Other companies exhibiting digital embellishment technology included JetFx that featured its DigiJet print bar that allows for digital finishing in just a single pass using UV inkjet technology and inkheads firing at 30,000 droplets per second. Next door to JetFx was AB Graphic International’s booth which featured the Digicon Series 3 that includes two DigiJet inkjet heads to allow for spot varnishing, digital foiling, and tactile finishing on any size of print run in a single pass.

Orthotec spoke about its newly-introduced digital screen varnish of digital embellishment module for the SRFD3030 Screen Printing and Hot-stamp machine.

‘The new modular model allows us to apply digital screen varnishing digitally in just a single pass or multiple passes,’ says Jason Huang, manager, Orthotec. ‘The machine can produce a very high relief varnishing which is typically difficult to achieve with screen printing.’

Huang adds that the machine can create multi-layer screen varnish effect digitally by inkjet head, such as braille printing or silkfoil or metallic doming in a thick and very high varnish result. 

LemuGroup brought it’s MA-350 digital finishing and embellishment system with an incorporated robotic roll packaging. The system is capable of spot varnishing, hot stamping and screen printing with GTU glueless turret rewinder and robotic boxing system.

Easing and speeding converting

The converting process can sometimes be more complex than the printing process, so it can lead to production bottlenecks. Suppliers at Labelexpo Americas 2022 showcased its latest innovations that look to change that.

AB Graphic International (ABG) has said that it brought more equipment than ever to Labelexpo Americas 2022, showcasing various converting systems like its nonstop converting line for the first time featuring the NSU 670mm converter and Vectra turret rewinder, which the company says it can essentially run non-stop.

‘Our nonstop converting line is designed to run essentially nonstop when a converter is doing something like a one-to-two color or blank label,’ says Jim Kehring, west coast regional sales manager at AB Graphic International, adding that the demonstration shown at the booth was much slower than what the converting system is capable of.

ABG’s booth also featured the Ecoleaf unit from Actega Metal Print, which ABG manages direct sales, marketing and customer service for the Ecoleaf technology.

Paulo Grasso, sales director for Ecoleaf at Actega, described Ecoleaf as a ‘technology to substitute many traditional metalized substrates.’ Grasso also added that the Ecoleaf doesn’t use plastics to process its foils but rather processes metal flakes on sleeves to be transferred to the substrates, recycling whatever is left over to be used on the next pass. 

AzTech Converting Systems showed its 13in semi-rotary press which is capable of 250 ft/min depending on the size of the label being cut. The dual rewind, servo-driven machine is said to be able to control die-cutting to minute degrees. The machine can be controlled through a single HMI, that is designed and programmed in-house.

According to Jared Bochat, technical service, AzTech Converting, changeover on the system is roughly 10 minutes with the capability to change from semi-rotary to full rotary with just a click of a button.

Bar Graphic Machinery demonstrated its BGM elite machines, including its BGM Elite iSR label inspection slitter rewinder, showcasing speeds of up to 984 ft/min. The company also brought the BGM Elite eDSR Easy Load die-cut slitter rewinder and the BGM Elite Comflex digital finishing system, compact, cost-effective systems designed for ease of use and high speeds compared to its market competitors.

The Berhalter spoke about its Swiss Die-Cutter B6 at its booth, which is touted as the fastest machine of its kind on the market with the capability to deliver 500 strokes/min.

Berhalter touted the Industrial Internet of Things connected capabilities of its machine as well. Allowing operators or shop managers to quickly check the machine to ensure it’s running at full capacity and remotely run diagnostics.

‘You can see the running value, blade sharpness, OEE, and even receive alerts for when the machine is due for maintenance,’ says Reto Frei, senior sales manager, Berhalter.

Delta Modtech brought its newly updated Crusader Converter featuring Edge Laser technology, which according to Mike Wagner, business development at Delta Modtech ‘allows the machine to run very accurately at higher speeds than just about any other laser cutter in the industry.’

Wagner added that the laser can change patterns on the fly, making a roll of labels with multiple patterns much more quickly, with speeds running up to 300 ft/min depending on the pattern 

of the cut.

Featuring six machines in its booth, Grafisk Maskinfabrik highlighted its DC350Flex high-speed label finisher. Fitted onto the machine was a multi-web module that could produce multilayer labels.

Lykke Trusbak, director of labels segment at Grafisk Maskinfabrik, says that many of the machines featured at the show are fully modular, which allows new converting equipment to be fit onto the line depending on what the customer needs. This equipment can also be controlled by a singular HMI with software developed in-house by Grafisk Maskinfabrik, which makes operating easier and, ‘makes us standout because when you look at our competitors, they have extra screens depending on the number of passes, but ours is fully integrated onto one screen no matter how much you add to it,’ says Trusbak.

At the show, the company also announced a strategic partnership with Cerm on the integration of the Cerm system with Grafisk Maskinfabrik’s machines. On the topic of partnership, CEO of Grafisk Maskinfabrik, Uffe Nielsen, says: ‘Interfacing Cerm software with the GM automation platform gives print shop owners instant in-depth production overview. At the same time cost is saved as external “data collection” boxes are no longer needed.’

KTI presented it MTR series of turret rewinders in web widths up to 22in, roll diameters up to 16in and speeds up to 750 ft/min. In addition, the machine has four spindles, an integrated dancer for superior web control and PLC touchscreen controls, which Derek Wheeler, vice president of sales at KTI, says allows for a much more user-friendly experience.

At its booth, Lemorau featured the Smart-L digital finishing machine. The press can be fitted with a linerless lamination station, semi-rotary or full rotary die-cutting, six circular knives for slitting, and a rewinder. The company highlighted the software included with the machine that allows operators to easily import and export job and production data, giving more insight into daily operations with the opportunity to improve OEE.

Martin Automatic completed a sale of an LRD rewinder it was showcasing to LMI Packaging on the show floor. CEO of LMI packaging, JP Moran, said the decision to go with the machine was based on the experience it had with another Martin Automatic machine.

The company also showcased its MBS unwind butt splicer which is said to be able to work nonstop on labels, flexible packaging, and shrink sleeves. Based on the sale of its rewinder, the company spoke about the ease of use of its machines, ‘Our goal is to always make the operator’s job easier, so hearing what JP had to say is just music to our ears. Increasing productivity, improving downtime, and just making people’s lives easier is what we’re always striving for,’ says Gavin Rittmeyer, vice president of sales and marketing at Martin Automatic.

Luis Rodriguez, North America editor of Labels & Labeling

Luis Rodriguez

  • North America editor