Mid web press launches, hybrid technology, and advancements in automation and sustainable materials—Labelexpo Europe 2019, which took place Sept. 24-27 in Brussels, Belgium, had it all. Some say the 2019 edition of the show represented a landmark moment in Labelexpo’s evolution from a label exhibition to a technology giant involving multiple areas of package printing.
Some also say it is the most successful Labelexpo in the event’s 40-year history. One-hundred-and-forty countries were represented—up from 125 in 2017—with attendees numbering 37,903. Show floor space rose from 414,410 sq. ft. in 2017 to 427,887 sq. ft. in 2019. There were also more exhibitors (693 compared to 679 two years ago).
Labelexpo Europe 2017 marked the beginning of a shift toward flexible packaging. Two years later, some of the show’s most significant conventional press launches—including Nilpeter’s new FA-Line and Omet’s X7—were geared toward mid web flexible packaging and shrink sleeve production, offering label converters opportunities to diversify their businesses into new areas of production.
At the Flexible Packaging Arena, visitors could see demonstrations of pouch printing on a Bobst M6 flexo press and a Xeikon CX500 digital press. At HP Indigo’s booth, its Digital Pouch Factory showcased stand-up and three-side-seal pouch making printed on its 20000 press and converted on Karlville’s Pack Ready lamination system.
In addition to mid web, hybrid printing was also a focus, with a host of those presses on show in a variety of configurations. Digital press manufacturers are increasingly partnering with converting equipment suppliers to create hybrid systems, based around digital printing and a mix of conventional units. Then there was the launch of Gallus’ Digital Printbar, a module designed specifically for digital insetting of high-opacity digital white or tactile variable varnish.
Sustainability & Automation
At Labelexpo Europe 2019, new materials—from Avery Dennison and others—using increasing amounts of post-consumer plastics and bio-based materials, were plentiful. Avery Dennison and Xeikon also sponsored the Sustainability Insight Café, where visitors could see how to boost their green credentials with a gallery of the latest sustainable innovations.
Automation was another key trend at the show. Manual jobs carried out by flexo press operators, such as monitoring print pressure and registration, are increasingly handled automatically by feedback systems. Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, is beginning to make an impact. Inspection system manufacturers at Labelexpo Europe showed cameras that can learn what a mistake is, referring back to the approved data from the prepress stage and using that to monitor the job and make adjustment suggestions to the press.
In addition, intelligent maintenance systems can predict where problems might occur and prevent them beforehand. Intelligent systems can also begin to run the plant at the factory level, automating the choice of printing and decoration processes, planning jobs and buying stock for the warehouse.
Labelexpo Europe 2019 included a two-day educational program—the show’s most extensive to date—that drew in attendees eager to boost their industry knowledge. Three expert-led, Label Academy-hosted master classes covered the hot topics of inks, coatings and varnishes; digital label and package printing; and flexible packaging, while a workshop covered self-adhesive label materials.
Lisa Milburn, managing director, Labelexpo Global Series, said: “Labelexpo Europe 2019 showed that the global label and packaging printing industry is still as vibrant as ever, and that the show—40 years on from its foundation—is still a vital platform at the forefront of the entire supply chain.”
Products & Demos
A number of FTA members introduced new products and hosted informative demonstrations at their booths:
- At Mark Andy’s booth, live demonstrations were conducted daily on the brand new Evolution Series and Digital Pro 3 with semi-rotary, as well as the single-source hybrid press, Digital Series HD, which also announced extended format sizing of 17-in.
- GSE introduced an enhanced “version 5.1” of its GSE Ink Manager software, which enables packaging and label printers to reduce the costs of handling ink, simplify ink-related processes through the workflow and improve response times
- MPS Systems introduced the “Beyond the Machine” concept showcasing four key processes that extend beyond the printing press, and debut of a wider EF SYMJET. The MPS EF SYMJET press is now available in 13-in. and 17-in. widths and can be equipped with multiple flexo units, lamination and embellishing units, die cutting and many more converting options
- Asahi Photoproducts featured its popular AWP washable plates, the first to use CleanPrint technology
- Almost 70 of Vetaphone’s corona surface treatment stations were either in active use at the show or on static display, including its new C8 high-power corona treater, designed for fast running on difficult substrates, and the new single- and double-sided web cleaning units, which were exhibited for the first time at Labelexpo Europe
- GMG displayed its Calibration Creation Wizard, which also won a Global Industry Label Award for Innovation. The GMG Calibration Creation Wizard was developed to enable customers to create color-accurate mock-ups for labels, flexible packaging and cartons
- Avery Dennison introduced its new Surfas Technology. This patent-pending adhesive technology increases surface contact for better initial tack to create a stronger hold on rough finishes, like corrugated boxes
- Domino launched two new after-sales solutions. The first, Evalu8, is a new Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tool, which has been developed to help Domino’s customers maximize their investment and profitability. The second was Domino’s Digital Solutions Programme (DSP) in Europe
- Hybrid Software presented its Variable Data Printing software. The company’s VDP implementation is an easy-to-use solution for labels and packaging that changes text, images, bar codes, colors and other elements linked to variable data sources, producing an optimized file for fast printing on all digital presses
- Nilpeter showcased the FA-17 and marked the world premiere of its new FA-26, built for value-added, short-run flexible packaging and labels—from pouches and sachets, to wraparounds, shrink sleeves, labels and more, all inline
A number of FTA members we recognized with Label Industry Global Awards:
- The Award for Innovation (for companies with up to 300 employees), sponsored by Flint Group Narrow Web, was presented to GMG GmbH & Co KG, for its GMG Calibration Creation Wizard
- The Award for Innovation (for companies with more than 300 employees), sponsored by Xeikon, went to Esko for its 2019 FTA Technical Innovation Award-winning Print Control Wizard software, developed to simplify the implementation of screens and dot gain curves in the reprographics process
- Avery Dennison won the Environmental & Sustainability Award, sponsored by Labels & Labeling, for its Recycled PET Liners
- The Rising Star Award, sponsored by the Label Academy and Avery Dennison, went to Robert Rae of GEW. His skills have enabled him to continually assist in the launch of precedent-setting LED systems. He has been heavily involved with the UVFoodSafe Group
- The R. Stanton Avery Global Achievement Award, sponsored by Avery Dennison, went to Jim DeFife, VP pressure-sensitive materials, Multi-Color Corp. DeFife has been a driving force in the global label industry for almost 40 years, with a focus throughout his career on the development of technical solutions that have revolutionized and grown the pressure-sensitive market—for the past 17 years, with Spear and Multi-Color