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Magic touch at Labelexpo Europe

This year’s Labelexpo Europe showcases leading edge developments in the label and package print industry as key global suppliers and a record numbers of visitors congregate in Brussels.

Labelexpo Europe 2013 is set to be the largest event in the show’s 33-year history as it returns to Belgium on 24-27 September.

The show now occupies seven halls at Brussels Expo and is on course to cover 31,500 sq m.

Historically, the Europe edition of the global Labelexpo series has always generated great excitement and spurred real growth and innovation, and this year’s show is no exception. As Tarsus Labels Group managing director Lisa Milburn puts it: ‘Labelexpo continues to experience strong growth year on year which is a firm indicator of how buoyant the label and package printing industry is and how much innovation is going on in the marketplace. The number of new working machines, especially in the digital area, is higher than ever before. This gives our visitors the opportunity to see the full scope of the industry, something that they would not be able to experience anywhere else.’

Key highlights

• Advances in toner technologies, including the first showing of HP Indigo’s dedicated B2 package printing presses, the 20000 for labels and flexible packaging and 30000 for cartons, both with new in-line finishing systems from ABG/Edale and Tresu respectively; on the Xeikon stand look out for the new ICE toner technology which allows the presses for the first time to print on heat-sensitive substrates.

• Inkjet technologies on show run the full gamut from UV, UV-LED, water-based and dye-based technologies, with wider machine widths and up to seven or eight color channels. In addition multiple press vendors join EFI Jetrion in demonstrating in-line laser die-cutting, which is also integrated into more modular offline finishing systems. Inkjet now makes a mark in the coating and varnishing field, opening up prospects for fully variable end to end digital print and converting solutions.

• The conventional press manufacturers are further refining their technologies. Offset bounces back in a wide range of guises from variable sleeve, to ‘short’ inking anilox and intermittent, with global launches from the likes of MPS, Omet, Codimag, Rotatek and new Chinese player Weifang Donghang; new flexo press launches come from a list including Nilpeter, Nuova Gidue, Focus and MPS, and show how automation is lowering the ‘breakeven’ point with digital. High definition flexo workflows including plate imaging, anilox, ink and washing technologies boost the quality of these machines to levels approaching offset and gravure.

• This may be fairly regarded as the Labelexpo show when LED-UV curing comes of age. Mark Andy demonstrates a Performance P3 press running with its ProLED system and Flint EkoCure LED inks. A wider support structure for LED curing is now growing Siegwerk showing new LED inks running on a Gallus EM280 press and new LED system launches  by ITL/IST.

• All these developments are supported by leaps forward in the automation of pre-press workflows and integration via JDF/JMF into plant-wide MIS systems. Gallus shows an advanced example, integrating its Heidelberg Linoprint L digital press, ECS340 flexo press and ECS ‘C’ digital converting unit into a seamless workflow. Automated ganging of different jobs on digital presses – particularly combined with laser die-cutting – is now made simple using new software from Esko and leading edge MIS vendors.

• Cool running presses, food-contact ink systems and  servo tension control open up new opportunities for label converters to diversify into flexible packaging and even cartons on both digital and conventional presses. Short run converting systems are following quickly behind.

• There are major advances in sustainable’ technologies: Ritrama’s breakthrough Core linerless system is a great example, as is ETI’s Pellicut/Cohesio combination, but also expect to see thinner laminates, compostable and removable adhesives and liners incorporating post-consumer waste. On the coatings side the move to non-solvent chemistries continues. In terms of energy reduction, conventional UV systems are being further refined, with GEW’s new E2C lamp and power supply combination a notable example.

Show features

Rapid developments in digital and package printing provide the inspiration for three major features at Labelexpo Europe.

The Inkjet Trail allows visitors to see six of the leading inkjet press manufacturers printing the same label designs. At set times the participating manufacturers will produce a selection of food, pharmaceutical and industrial labels using the same sets of origination, on the same range of substrates.

The press manufacturers participating include Durst Phototechnik, Domino Printing Sciences, EFI Jetrion, Epson Europe, Heidelberg Linoprint and Stork Prints. Origination, color and die-cutter files for the different jobs are being prepared by Esko, while UPM Raflatac, FLEXcon and Herma will provide common paper, film and foil substrates for the range of printed labels being produced. For comparison with toner technologies, Xeikon will be producing the same label designs. Sample folders are available to collect from the entrance of the show, while samples of all the sessions’ printed products will be available from each of the participants' stands.

Mike Fairley will be running his popular Label and Package Printing Masterclass on the last morning of the show. Participants will also receive a copy of the latest edition of Mike’s comprehensive book on digital printing and finishing, which includes updated information on all currently available digital presses and finishing systems both for labels and package print applications. Places are strictly limited so early booking is advised.

Package printing technology will have a dedicated presence in Hall 12. At the Package Printing Workshop Xeikon will be demonstrating inline digital printing and converting of folding cartons on a Xeikon 3500 press with a dedicated finishing unit.

Nuova Gidue shows in the same area a fully specified ‘Digital Flexo’ Combat M3 press printing flexible packaging.

A key focus of the press demonstrations and presentations by Xeikon’s Filip Weymans and Nuova Gidue’s Federico d’Annunzio will be to show narrow web label converters how to broaden the range of package print products they can offer to brands and packaging buyers.

Demonstrations will run in Hall 12 at 11am and 3pm on the first three days of the show and at 11am on the final day, moderated by Packprint World consultant editor Nick Coombes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Thomas is strategic director of Labels & Labeling.

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