Automation is the name of the game at Labelexpo Americas. This show, more than any other, has redefined the label converting industry as finally moving away from a ‘craft’ to an industrialized, quality assured process.
This can be seen in many aspects, but mainly driven by the press manufacturers and their immediate ecosystem.
Nuova Gidue won an Innovation award for its Revo ‘digital flexo’ system, and at the show flexo presses from Nilpeter, Omet and Mark Andy were also shown with fully pre-settable and recallable print parameters.
Another aspect of this is a trend at the show towards 6/7-color process printing. Both Esko and Kodak were demonstrating separation systems to match multiple spot colors and the presses are now well enough automated and controlled during the run to allow – finally – the degree of control achieved long ago by the sheetfed offset industry.
Paul Teachout, Nilpeter’s new US vice-president of sales and marketing, has long been an advocate of ‘print by numbers’ and was thoroughly excited at seeing the concept in action on the Nilpeter booth (see the video on Labels TV).
At the same time, companies like AVT are redefining themselves as ‘quality assurance’ providers. Rather than put a camera on a press to show how much defective material is being printed, the camera system and its surrounding software systems are present during job set-up, ensuring the machine is controlled and in pressure and register to match the parameters present in the master PDF file approved by the customer.
One other trend of note is the move towards wider press widths and machines specifically configured to print flexible packaging. This can be see in the 17in Omet X4 seen at the show as well as wider Nilpeter FA-4*.
On the panel session I chaired among leading label converters, short-run flexible packaging was picked out as an opportunity for narrow web converters moving to wider machines – though the pitfalls were also stressed in needing to understand the requirements of food contact packaging applications. A discussion with Martin Automatic posted another warning note – you need to be sure when you specify a new press that all OEM suppliers are aware it will be configured for film printing. Later retrofits are expensive and disruptive.
A great show though – and plenty more to write about in our forthcoming LL5 review.