Web, sheetfed and inkjet presses for packaging printing

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The number of stands formally registered with Asian companies grew from 310 at drupa 2000 to 470 at drupa 2016. Over the same period, visitor numbers from Asia almost doubled from 17,600 to 33,600, including 9,900 from India and 5,900 from China this year. The Asian exhibitors counted, in addition to their multinational brands registered as European subsidiaries, 315 from China and Hong Kong, 48 from India, 32 from Taiwan, 32 from Japan, 30 from Korea and a dozen companies based in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

China’s leading CtP manufacturers such as Cron, Chengdu, Amsky, Founder and a dozen others came in force to this drupa, as did diecutter manufacturer Masterwork in its fullfledged collaboration with Heidelberg getting full play in the Heidelberg stand and Zhuzhou Sinovan with a digital press for corrugated board. Other large exhibitors from China included manufacturers of presses, laminators, diecutters and consumables such as Beiren, Dumor, Hans Gronhi, Huafeng, JMD, Lucky, Sino-MV, StarLight, Tiancen, Wisdom, Youbond, Zenbo and many others. From Korea, packaging presses, cutting plotters and ancillary equipment were running at the stands of Ace, d-gen, Dilli, Unijet, YWDS and others. The Indian companies included drupa-regulars Chemline, Convertech, Cosmo, Diehard, Garware, Holostik, Kohli, Line-OMatic, Manugraph, Mona, Patel, Prakash, Print-O-Graph, Ronald, Radix, TPH, Uflex, Zenith, newcomers Cytech and Trivedi, and several paper mills and other substrate suppliers.

Machinery
The large majority of press manufacturers had some form of digital presses on show, in addition to or in combination with other printing and converting technologies. Most presses, both web- and sheetfed, were geared at packaging printing and/or POS/POP production.

Landa showcased its S10 Nanographic Printing Press with improved versions for folding carton, commercial and signage printing as well as a new 100 cm wide perfecting press for publishing and direct mail, the W10P. Although we definitely consider nanographic printing to have a promising future for specific applications, we feel these presses still lack the print quality one would expect when listening to Benny Landa’s, granted, fabulous marketing rhetoric. His main argument, that nano particles are not absorbed by the substrate, actually speaks against their presumed image sharpness. In my view, the horizontal fusing of the particles resembles the artificial pixel smoothening used for large television screens. Any printing technology developed over the past few hundred years has had its ink absorbed by the substrate to some degree, and not few of these resulted in very crisp images, despite the dot gain. The charm of certain images printed in gravure, offset or other processes may precisely be their dot gain characteristics. In contrast, Landa’s Nano-Metallography system shown on an Omet flexo press looks like a serious alternative to the use of metallizing foil.

Corrugated board in different flutes is increasingly being applied for packaging and POP/POS purposes, and at drupa 2016 several manufacturers catered for this market with new developments, such as Bobst, Durst, Frommer, Memjet, Roland DG, Scodix, Screen, Tecno Converting 2000, Tresu and a large webfed press built by KBA for HP. Virtually all the major inkjet, offset, flexo, gravure and screen printing press manufacturers showed versions capable of printing either folding carton or flexible packaging or both. Hence also a relatively large number of wide format inkjet presses at the show, which one would otherwise see at signage fairs such as Fespa, and many of the top brands in hybrid narrow web presses next to their larger flexo and gravure counterparts.

KBA, for instance, introduced a VariJET 106 offset press with a 7-color Xerox Impika inkjet module and inline screen printing, coating and converting options for folding carton. It also showed a 6-color Rapida 145 with coater and double delivery for high-speed quality applications such as pharmaceutical packaging as well as its Neo XD LR flexopress developed after the takeover of Flexotecnica. Heidelberg’s main theme at this drupa was its Primefire 106 digital printing system developed with Fujifilm, an R&D project enabled by an unprecedented 100 million Euro loan from the European Investment Bank. Komori showcased two digital systems, the B2-size Impremia IS29 developed with Konica Minolta, and the B1-size Impremia NS40 based on Landa’s S10.

Labelmen showing its claws with the new PW-460 press for IML printing and diecutting. Photo PSA

Other inkjet presses geared at packaging printing were showcased by Agfa, Autobond, Bobst, Canon, Contiweb, Dilli, Domino, Durst, Edale, EFI, Epson, FFEI, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Memjet, MGI, Mimaki, Miyakoshi, Mutoh, Nipson, OKI, Ricoh, Riso, Roland DG, Ryobi-Mitsubishi (RMGT), Screen, Thieme, Toshiba, Uteco, Winkler + Dünnebier, Xeikon and Xerox.

In flexo, gravure and offset, the printing and converting of paper board and or flexible packaging have been the focus of Bobst, Cerutti, Comexi, Convertech, DCM, Eagle, Edale, Gallus, Goebel, Goss, Heidelberg, KYMC, Labelmen, Manroland Sheetfed, Manroland Web Systems, Moog, Omet, Prakash, Presstek, Ronald, Rotatek, RMGT, Sakurai, Soma, TKM, TPH, Tresu, Uteco and Windmöller & Hölscher, not to mention the huge number of prepress, press control and postpress equipment on show.

Windmöller & Hölscher presented a new gravure press for ultrashort print runs, the Dynastar with cylinder slide-in carts enabling fast changeovers and profitability at print runs under 3,000 metres. W&H also showed enhancements on its proven Miraflex and Heliostar flexo and gravure presses. Soma introduced a new series of Optima flexo presses for short-run paper board printing at printing widths between 62 and 127 cm. Omet showcased its 85 cm wide offset press with flexo units, the Varyflex V2 Offset for the printing of folding carton, flexible packaging and in-mould labels. Accordingly, drupa 2016 brought together the largest number of prepress hardware ever, comprising cylinder engravers from Daetwyler, Hell, Ohio and Reese and CtP systems for offset, flexo and screen printing from Agfa, AV Flexographic, CST, Dupont, Esko, Fujifilm, Glunz & Jensen, Heidelberg, Hell, Ipagsa, Kiwo, Kodak, Krause, Lüscher, Mitsubishi, Pröll, Roland, Ulano and a dozen Chinese manufacturers.

Software
Drupa also provided an overview of the industry’s relevant software applications, beyond those that are an integral part of equipment configurations. Compared to earlier drupas, in particular, drupa 2000 with its panoply of MIS, workflow and eCommerce applications, this year’s exhibitors reflected the maturing and high degree of consolidation in this industry segment and a clear shift towards more integrated and compatible systems for image processing, color management, standardization and production control.

Beginning with Printcafé, a rising star at drupa 2000, EFI swallowed most of the management information systems in the industry and has become the uncontested market leader in MIS and affiliated eCommerce applications for web- and sheetfed commercial and packaging printing. Apart from Cerm, Imprint, Optimus (in a collaboration with Xerox-owned XM-Pie), PrintVis, Tharstern and one or two MIS developers not present at this drupa, only extremely specialized applications such as those for the corrugated board and label industries survived. More technical workflow or production planning and control applications have also been reduced to a handful of – merged providers, such as ABB, Caldera, Dalim, Esko, Hybrid, Infosystems, Objectif Lune and the systems developed in conjunction with accompanying hardware, example, Agfa, Atlantic Zeiser, Kodak, Daetwyler, Durst, EFI, Krause, Müller Martini, Onyx, Xitron and others.

The strongest software representation at drupa 2016 could be found in the areas of color management, image processing, image optimization and standardization, at the stands of Agfa, Alwan, Caldera, Colorgate, Esko, Hybrid, Mellow Colour, OneVision, Techkon and X-Rite, with additional proofing systems from Dalim, EyeC, Global Vision, GMG, CGS and EAE and ink key presetting applications from Agfa, EAE, QI Press Controls and System Brunner. Related editing systems were showcased by Chili Publish and Enfocus, whereas imposition and personalization software could be found this time with most of the inkjet press manufacturers, in addition to Hybrid, Insoft, and Ultimate Technographics.

The Ghent Workgroup released new PDF specifications, including one specifically for packaging printing. Based on the ISO PDF/X-4 standard, the GWG2015 spec for packaging describes file settings and processing requirements for packaging printing in offset, gravure and flexo. Standards association CIP4 announced the development of a simplified JDF (Job Definition Format) version, XJDF, which splits up the job ticket in tasks for each process stage from pre- to postpress. Currently under review, the new open interface will be available next year. Concurrently, some of the German equipment manufacturers, amongst whom are Heidelberg, KBA, Kolbus, manroland web systems, Müller Martini, Océ and Wohlenberg, are working on a compatible JDF version of their own, provisionally code-named Print 4.0 and geared at the production of personalized print products in small batches.

Substrates
The paper and other substrate dealers finally got what they wanted for years – to be closer to the equipment manufacturers in their specific market segments. In the past, most of them had been concentrated on the upper floors of Hall 7, which they felt were not sufficiently frequented by visitors who had no prior appointments already. This time, both upper floors were closed due to the fact that less exhibition space had to be covered, and the paper manufacturers and other substrate suppliers could be found scattered over the halls between the printing, packaging converting and postpress equipment manufacturers.

As if to mark the occasion, the Federation of German Equipment Manufacturers VDMA had huge constructions with the letters PAPER placed on the exhibition floor. In addition to brands like 3M, Fedrigoni, Feldmuehle Uetersen, Folex, Gmund, Koehler, Metsä, Mondi and Stora Enso, a large number of paper, plastics and other consumable suppliers from Asia filled that part of the show. Among the adhesives, coatings and ink manufacturers we also spotted a relatively large number of exhibitors from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East in addition to the likes of Flint, HB Fuller, Henkel, Marabu, Pröll, Siegwerk (which sold its heatset and coldset business to Flint) and Toyo.

The next drupa will be held from 23 June to 3 July, 2020.

Packaging Soth Asia is a cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which was held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany