Labelexpo Europe 2017: Quality Printing Extends Beyond the Press

Labelexpo Europe 2017 logoAssessments of Labelexpo Europe 2017 are in: “Traffic flow from start to finish was strong. Four days flew by in no time!”

Labelexpo Europe 2017’s footprint grew 12 percent from the event two years ago, with 679 exhibitors filling nine halls of the Brussels Expo. The event shattered past records, counting 37,724 visitors, up 5.6 percent from 2015. Live demonstrations of working machinery jumped 25 percent, marking what many said was a quantum leap from past experience.

Tarsus Group, the show planner, reported, “The trade floor reflected continued diversification into flexible packaging, with a wider appeal for brand owners and wide web converters… 2017’s event was used for a large number of significant product launches, with new machines unveiled by many of the leading press manufacturers.”

Labelexpo Europe 2017 entranceRandy Ward of acpo, who provided the statement opening this story, elaborated on his point: “Labelexpo Europe has a way of drawing a professional group of visitors, looking to learn what’s new in the market.”

Jules LeJeune of FINAT observed that “digitalization, automation, compliance, sustainability and innovation [are] keywords in the increasingly wider world of labels and packaging.” That assessment was echoed and expanded on by many. They pointed to the advent of smart, compact, efficient, environmentally friendly devices as one significant trend brought to light at the Sept. 25-27 exhibition. Multiprocess printing and inline finishing were others. Integration and collaboration also served as a pair of developments, with inspection and control being a third combination. One word—turnkey—was repeated, time and time again.

Labelexpo Europe 2017 Nilpeter
Nilpeter launched the latest iteration of its established FA-4* press at LabelExpo Europe 2017.

Labelexpo Europe 2017 as a Launchpad

Tarsus identified “a wealth of new conventional flexo press developments on show, with enhanced features for automation, package printing and increased efficiency for short run.” Highlights cited by show management included:

  • Gallus marking the European debut of its LabelMaster press
  • Nilpeter launching the latest iteration of its established FA-4* press
  • OMET introducing a film package for its iFlex press

“Growth in the digital printing technology sector was obviously evident, with many high-profile launches lauded.” Tarsus specifically pointed to:

  • Mouvent, a joint venture between Bobst and Radex
  • ebeam Technologies, Uteco Converting and INX Digital International jointly introducing Gaia, an industrial, end-to-end, digital narrow web system for mass-personalization of indirect food contact packaging and labels
  • Durst’s new high-resolution Tau330 RSC
  • Xeikon adding UV inkjet capability with the global launch of its Panther PX3000 technology
  • HP Indigo unveiling its GEM digital decoration system inline with a WS6800 digital press
    Labelexpo Europe 2017 Mark Andy
    At the forefront of interest and activity were the latest hybrid presses from major conventional equipment suppliers such as Mark Andy.

Also taking their position at the forefront of interest and activity were the latest hybrid presses from major conventional equipment suppliers. Tarsus singled out:

In that regard, Mark Andy observed, “True digital hybrid presses feature seamless inline converting and finishing, all with the flexibility of digital, proving to be single-pass profit centers that are transforming the market.” Edoardo Cotichini, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, agreed: “Inline finishing options have been well received,” he commented.

Antonio Bellosi, Bobst Firenze R&D director, said he repeatedly issued “The Digital Flexo Challenge.” Explaining what was entailed, he offered further details: “An M6 UV flexo press at a converter’s plant in Milan and a ‘twin’ M6 press at the Bobst booth were challenging each other on setup time of a food packaging job, filmed ‘live,’ with a split-screen satellite video connection. The two presses were filmed in detail, operating a job changeover at more than 600 miles apart, each time in front of hundreds of converters.”

Labelexpo Europe 2017 MPS
MPS at Labelexpo Europe 2017

Bettering the Basics

Kevin McKell of Vetaphone explained, “There seems to be a greater awareness of the importance of surface treatment, especially with some of the new substrates coming onto the market. Converters are realizing quality printing is not just about the presses they have—It’s about good preparation.”

That’s rooted in every element of the process, from the essential inks, substrates, anilox rolls, doctor blades, cleaners, etc. Mette Laursen, Flexowash, maintained, “Interest was strong in anilox, plates and parts-washing technology.”

Catherine Wilson, Meech International, similarly noted, “From web cleaners to static control equipment, Labelexpo Europe 2017 proved to be a truly global show. We had inquiries from all over the world.” Marc Larvor, Siegwerk, added, “The narrow web team had a great success in presenting UV low-migration solutions.”

Sun Chemical also weighed in on improved inks. “Following the collaboration agreement signed with HP Indigo to develop cost-effective digital coatings, Sun Chemical has advanced the relationship by introducing a comprehensive range of both water-based and UV-based OPVs, and solvent-based varnishes to be used with HP Indigo ElectroInk and compatible with a wide range of media.”

Labelexpo Europe 2017 Omet
Omet introduced a film package for its iFlex press

Domino, too, focused its eye on that arena. “For shrink sleeve applications, Domino is proposing the N610i is supplied in a hybrid configuration using a flexo station after the N610i Integration Module to print a cost-effective white back layer to the shrink label. The combination is designed to provide the full benefits of digital printing with instantaneous job change, minimal substrate waste and variable data printing capability, but more cost effectively through combining flexo printing for the high ink usage, non-digital elements.”

Citing the need for what it called “failsafe automatic procedures with unique machine ergonomics,” JM Heaford stressed that its new Label AutoMounter, designed to eliminate the need for skilled operators, is one example. Similarly. Eaglewood Technologies unveiled its Laserlox Mini, then hailed it as an

“intelligent, environmentally safe and effective way of maintaining anilox inventory.” It further claimed, “Advanced laser technology is proven and safe, with cutting-edge software to easily clean inks and coatings of all types.”

Full Investment Mode

Esko, in commenting on its Labelexpo Europe 2017 experience, strongly stated, “Turnkey workflow solutions for fast startup, increased automation, enhanced collaboration and more demonstrate ongoing investment in the labels and packaging market.”

Labelexpo Europe 2017 Bobst
An M6 UV flexo press at a converter’s plant in Milan and a “twin” M6 press at the Bobst booth, shown above, were challenging each other.

Maarten Hummelen of GSE added, “Labelexpo Europe 2017 is a clear sign the market recognizes the importance of turnkey ink logistics solutions and more sophisticated software in response to shorter production runs and tighter quality controls in packaging and labeling.”

Meike Wesseling, Dow Performance Silicones and Alberto Lora Lamia, Dow, alluded to what they saw as a theme: “Innovation Inspired by You.” They stressed, “Solutions featured exemplified how the industry is accelerating innovation and helping customers take advantage of emerging trends, like access to new applications and industry segments, cost control and enhanced sustainability.”

Jakob Landberg, Nilpeter A/S, summed things up for the record, “This year, we took advantage of the opportunity to present our visions for modernized flexo printing alongside digital hybrid inkjet. Response was great. Our main takeaway is that the industry is in full ‘investment mode,’ which provides us with a lot of opportunities, and we are very excited for the future.”