Read later

Adrian Steele: The label converter's perspective

Labelexpo Europe 2011 was a great show with a lot of buzz about the place. To me, the digital hall had the biggest and best buzz of all! The head to head – EFI v HP v Xeikon – digital print workshops were great, a real showcase to watch the latest developments. The best bit was watching Filip Weymans from Xeikon eating the toner to demonstrate its FDA food safe properties for direct food contact! 

If you doubted the trend towards increased digitalization of the narrow web workflow, then this was the show to finally put those doubts to rest. There were new software enhancements announced by Xeikon and HP, and a raft of inkjet machines launched or enhanced. Add to that the various laser die-cutting modules that are becoming increasingly productive, then it looks like we are about to see a big change to what is regarded as a standard labeling workflow. There were a lot of entry level desktop laser machines that also got a lot of interest, and seemed ideal as a first step towards digital label production for a small labeling business, or an in house solution for small label user customers. Xeikon and HP continue to battle for the top spot as industrial digital labeling powerhouses, and although it gets better and better, I think we are still a way from inkjet becoming a serious rival in the premium quality mass market.

This year, flexo didn’t seem to show very many big developments. All the focus was on quick changeovers, with one stand demonstrating 32 second changeovers of a flexo print station. It is very impressive, and combined with the move towards even smaller repeat cylinders with smaller plate costs it is very clear that pure flexo manufacturers are competing now not on quality and max speed, but how efficient they can be when matched against digital – which is getting faster and wider. The middle ground of flexo/digital changeover is getting to be a VERY crowded space.

Twitter was heavily used, and my favorite tweet was, ‘At #labelexpo 2009 digital competed with flexo. This year its all change; flexo is trying to compete with digital’. I’m looking forward to Drupa where there must be some more really exciting new developments!

View the full version of Adrian's blog here.

Adrian Steele
Managing director
Mercian Labels Group