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Labelexpo Europe review: Cutting-edge converting

AB Graphic showed its Digicon Series 3 with the Jetfx digital embellishment module

Advances in digital converting, laser die-cutting and production efficiencies were in evidence among finishing systems launched at Labelexpo Europe 2019. 

Finishing and converting equipment manufacturers at Labelexpo Europe 2019 were responding to industry trends, such as a growing need for converting digitally produced labels, a push for production efficiencies, the desire for premium value-added label effects, and new innovations in digital decoration.

Digital decoration 
AB Graphic showed its Digicon Series 3 with the Jetfx digital embellishment module, an off-line, fully digital system that allows varnish and foil effects, variable spot tactile, mircotext and cast and cure capabilities. The Labelexpo module featured two Jetfx inkjet bars and an overlamination module. Two of the AB Graphic/JetFX digital embellishment models have been beta-tested in the US, and further models will be sent to Thailand and another in North America.

Kurz launched its DM-Jetliner unit that ran in-line with an HP Indigo 6900 digital press for what Kurz called ‘digital metallization’ of labels. With the DM-Jetliner, narrow web labels are produced with metallization applied before print and then overprinted by the press, achieving a colorful and high brilliance effect and enabling combinations of metallization. 

Digital converting 
Production efficiencies were largely driven by a growth in digitally produced labels. Often short runs, and multiple SKUs, converting these jobs often mean fast changeovers for shorter and faster production. 

Bar Graphic Machinery launched its new digital converting line with the latest Digiflex model, a modular digital converting line equipped with re-register flexo print station, lamination, semi-rotary die-cutting and rapid slit module that automatically sets the blades. Also new, Rapidslit is a fully automatic digital knife box that automates the setting of the slitting blades through the HMI touch screen. BGM also showed several new models, including a semi-automatic turret die-cutting machine and 100 percent inspection slitter rewinder, and new systems from its Eco range.

Daco Solutions’ new Daco DF250SRD is a compact, modular, semi-rotary die-cutter that allows finishing labels from smaller digital presses. Further, the Daco PLD350 rotary die-cutter with a semi-automatic turret rewinder is said to offer all the benefits of turret rewinding but with rapid make-ready times. 

Flexor presented its new xCut Pro II semi-rotary digital finisher. The machine comes with integrated flexo unit and cold foil with a short web path. Flexor also showed a new semi-automatic turret rewinder for faster and more economical role changes in short runs, and the new iSlit automatic knife setting system.

Grafotronic showed four new fully modular digital finishing machines including hot stamping, embossing and flatbed screen. Other new modules were the LasX laser die-cutting system, a multilayer label module and a high-speed non-stop line with ‘Gigafast’ semi-rotary die-cutting at 160m/min. Grafotronic introduced three new inspection slitter rewinders: the HI3 for 100 percent inspection and high speed slitting is the third generation of the HI; the SR3, a new vertical slitter rewinder for a lower budget but fully servo driven; and the Pharma2 200 percent re-inspection machine for pharma and security labels. The company also partnered with Pantec for hot stamping and embossing on the Grafotronic units. 

Labeltech presented its latest generation of slitter rewinder Ortles in two versions: a standard rewinder with E+L Smartscan inspection system and an advanced version with automatic knife positioning Lavaredo and semi-automatic turret rewinder Vajolet. Its new Stelvio330 digital converting machine also was showcased for sleeve flexo varnish, cold foil, full- and semi-rotary die-cutting and UV LED curing.

Lemorau displayed a total of eight machines, including its most recent developments: the MEBR+ modular digital finishing machine; the Digi LC entry-level digital printing, coating and finishing machine; the ICR3 inspection and finishing machine; the EBRM+ rotary and semi-rotary table-top finishing machine; a CRM table-top slitter rewinder; an automatic and manual core cutter CTA and CT, and two ER400 roll lifters in standard and 2000mm sizes. The MEBR+ modular digital finishing machine is fully modular and runs in full rotary and semi-rotary mode. 

MGI and Konica Minolta exhibited five pieces of equipment, including MGI’s Jetvarnish 3D Web Color+ in-line roll-to-roll digital printing and embellishing press for flat and raised UV varnish and hot foil. The company demonstrated its integration options and the flexibility for short and medium production runs, as well as long runs of labels and flexible packaging on a wide range of substrates.

Prati partnered with HP Indigo to build a machine dedicated to finishing mid-web digital label and packaging jobs. The company launched its Digifast20000 converting line designed to process jobs in semi-rotary mode off the HP Indigo 20000 digital press. Prati also launched the new Saturn Digi, designed to provide a flexible system for digitally printed labels and films. 

Rhyguan offered its digital converting line, Top-330-Plus-2, which combines semi-rotary flexo, semi-rotary die-cutting and inspection into one machine that is marketed for both short and medium run digital jobs. The machine is capable of cold foiling of lamination and can run up to 60m/min in semi-rotary mode or 90m/min in full-rotary mode. 

Laser die-cutting 
Laser die-cutting took center stage at many machine manufacturers’ booths. 

AB Graphic showed its latest Digilase laser die-cutter that has a reduced web path, and the decrease in necessary lead in/out material resulting in an 85 percent reduction in waste. The minimum job length is 50 percent shorter, and the software was updated so file downloading takes just milliseconds, allowing a number of jobs to be processed on the machine at the same time.

Anytron’s new laser finisher, the any-Cut II, was on display for the first time. The system showed the integration of digital printing with Bitek’s latest in-line technology, any-Link. The any-Link enables a benchtop label printer to be connected with the any-Cut II for in-line label production. Both any-Link and any-Cut II debuted at Labelexpo. 

Cartes exhibited the GT360 Series and Gemini in different versions, including its laser converting system. The GT360 and Gemini series are capable of converting and finishing high-quality embellished labels. Cartes offers fully-modular production finishing and embellishment lines, designed for silkscreen flat and high raised printing, hot stamping and metallic doming, embossing and debossing outlining, semi-rotary flexo full and spot varnishing, flatbed and semi-rotary die-cutting as well as laser converting processes. 

Grafotronic’s new laser die-cutting system in partnership with LasX, had at least one sale from the floor to US label converter Alros Label. The LasX laser die-cutter integrates into Grafotronic’s fully modular digital converting line.

SEI Laser exhibited its latest enhanced version of the Labelmaster. The third generation digital converting system was shown in two models with web widths of 350mm and 600mm. The Labelmaster is a modular system for roll-to-roll and roll-to-sheet digital die-cutting and finishing with four laser heads that reach a speed of up to 100m/min. The machine features a QR-code/barcode reading system, which allows users to change work on the fly. 

Faster speeds 
One of the key talking points on the show floor was equipment designed to increase production speeds. 

Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM) showed finishing systems featuring advances in automation and high-value applications including multi-layer and hot foil/screen embellished labels. 

The 2019 models feature quicker set-up time with plate loading for the die-cutting station, better ergonomic design for machine operation and online support. 

GM’s DC350 line includes a new series of smart modules: smart turret (auto slit), smart die loading and a new smart stripping module. Also on display was the DC330Mini compact finishing system, DC330Miniflex V4 with GM Automatic Slitting Station, DC330 Modular finishing line shown in-line with inkjet label press, GM Online Production Dashboard, with advanced IoT connectivity, ETV330 roll to sheet guillotine cutter, and PNT160 semi-automatic core cutter.

KTI offered the latest version of its MTR series turret rewinder with increased production speeds, print and apply functionality along other new features. The new MTR series has been developed especially for running pressure-sensitive paper labelstock. 

The machine showed the new automatic core loaders that eliminating the need for an operator, allowing cycle times and shorter rolls to be run at higher line speeds. 

Lemu Group showcased its GTU Glueless turret rewind systems and inspection slitter rewind system that is complemented with its fully automated roll label packaging system designed for high-speed use. These systems allow converters to print, die-cut, turret rewind and immediate sleeve and package finished rolls of labels in one pass. 

Martin Automatic introduced Airnertia rollers to the narrow web market. Originally developed for transporting wide web, low basis weight materials, Airnertia rollers use an ultra-thin carbon fiber shell riding on a cushion of air. The low-inertia roller technology is marketed for low tension and high-speed processes and has found application in narrow web converting, specifically in intermittent motion processes that require the web to stop and start quickly. 

Polar offered die-cutting products including its LabelSystem SC-25 for the industrial production of square-cut labels, and the LabelSystem DC-11 for inline production. Polar LabelSystems can process a broad variety of products, for instance, such as business cards, can labels and more.

Following its rebranding from Werosys to Refine, the manufacturer premiered its software-based converting technologies, including two converting machines from the Compact product line: Compact 1, for finishing digital and conventional printed labels, and Compact 2, with a fully automated flexo station, cold foil and lamination capabilities. Both feature high-speed converting with up to 80m/ min in semi-rotary mode, with low power consumption on the Compact 1.

Starfoil demonstrated its Value Line 1300SXL spooling/slitting machine with a higher speed of 250m/min and larger diameter rolls of up to 350mm. The machine can unwind from 1in, 3in and 6in to master rolls on 1in and 3in cores by means of shear slitting or razor slitting with a maximum unwind roll diameter of 700 mm. As agent for Newfoil Machines, Starfoil also demonstrated a high-speed hot foil stamping Newfoil 2500 Servo machine for labels.

Premium embellishments 
The oft-discussed ‘moment of truth’ for brands was evident at converting manufacturers’ booths showing developments for added-value and high-end embellishment. 

The Digicon Series 3 from AB Graphic was showcased a new fast flatbed screen printing module, Big Foot 50 ton flatbed hot foil unit, and the 25 ton flatbed hot foil unit with a new swivel head that allowed the foil to be fed both along and across the web.

Brotech exhibited its new SDF Plus Smart modular label converting system that can be used for labels as well as small folding cartons. The system also offers a 90-degree pivoting hot stamping unit for high-end embellishment. It can incorporate flatbed hot stamping, screen printing, flatbed die-cutting, semi- and full-rotary flexo and semi- and full-rotary die-cutting. It can also be outfitted for IML, ECL booklet and RFID converting. Brotech sold two DL330 machines to India-based Sonic Labels. 

Pantec showed its decoration and hot foil embellishment machine. The rotary system, Swift, showed how body care products could be embellished with lenses, holograms and metallic hot foils. In addition, the production of high-quality spirits and wine labels was shown on its new flatbed system Rhino E, which is optimized for less complex labels and the refining of digitally printed labels.

Rhyguan debuted three new models including the Plus-330, a fully modular flexible digital finishing line including flatbed silkscreen printing, flatbed hot stamping and semi-rotary die-cutting module. The machine is configured specifically to meet the needs of wine label converters. 

SPGPrints showed its new integrated RSI III rotary screen printing unit, a fast, cost-effective way of applying functional and tactile effects in one pass. The unit ran at speeds of up to 150m/min and offers several safety and ergonomic features for increased productivity and time saving. The unit also features a new long-life web-cleaning scraper that automatically removes ink splashes from the web after stoppages or operation in slow rotation mode. This enables drying of the substrate while minimizing contamination of the rollers. 

RFID converting 
GIC showed a new version of the Dyxee Cut 350 L finishing and embellishment system fitted with a flexo module, cold stamping and die-cutting. Also new was the Taginnov Speed Etiq module for integrating RFID inlays into pre-die-cut labels. 

Melzer launched its latest high-speed and multiple track converting system. The SC-X converting machine features dual rotary and semi-rotary modes, a 330mm web width, easily upgradable multiple track (up to six), speed of up to 60m/min, and a transponder selection in semi-rotary mode. It is suitable for luggage tags, labels, tickets and garments tags.

Mühlbauer exhibited equipment for low-, medium- and high-volume personalization and converting of RFID tags. Its new RFID converting line CL 30000 is marketed for the conversion of dry inlays. It includes reel-to-reel antenna web handling, label lamination, die-cutting, and output testing in a modular system.

Smag Graphique showcased offered new technology in four different configurations: IConcept, IConvert, IConvert Lite, and IControl featuring RFID and identification Label Technology with IConnect.C (inserting and converting) and IConnect.E (encoding and controlling).

Voyantic showed Reelsurance Pro, a multifunctional reel-to-reel machine that covers all RAIN RFID and NFC testing and encoding. Reelsurance Pro has a small footprint so the machine can easily fit into a warehouse environment. It also runs on regular power mains and is equipped with tension control and optional ionizers safeguard inlays and labels.