Metpack is a small but extremely focused exhibition with much running equipment particularly in dry-offset and digital printing as well as forming of metal cylinders for aerosols, beverage cans and food containers. Held every three years at Essen, Germany’s former steel capital, Metpack’s 25th edition was attended by 7,200 professional visitors this year. Three of Messe Essen’s halls brought together some 300 exhibitors, of whom 75, that is 25%, were from the Asia-Pacific (55 from China, 6 from India, 5 from Taiwan, and 9 from South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Australia). Compared to Metpack 2014, visitor numbers increased by 3%, exhibitor numbers by 22% and the number of exhibitors from Asia-Pacific by 58%. The Indian presence also doubled, with Dodia, Hindustan Tin, Metaldec, Arcelor-Mittal, Scan Holdings and Tata Steel each occupying fairly large stands (that is, if you liberally count Arcelor-Mittal registered in Luxumberg as an Indian company).
The can- and cylinder-making business can be divided into three segments, each with their own technologies: three-piece containers, two-piece cans and, more recently, monoblock cans. Three-piece containers are the leading technology in the food industry, while two-piece cans dominate the beverage market and account for 60% of all cans. Crown and Ardagh are the leading manufacturers of three-piece containers, while Ball, Rexam, Crown, Ardagh, MCC and Can Pack account for three-quarters of the two-piece production. At this Metpack, however, aerosol tube production was the most visible type of metal containter.
Can and cylinder production
The actual tube- and can-making equipment was showcased by the likes of Can Man, Soudronic’s Cantec, Crown-owned Carnaud, Ball-owned CDL, Mall Herlan, Brückner-owned PackSys, Stolle, and several Asian and Turkish manufacturers. The two main issues here were material reduction and coatings. According to ThyssenKrupp, who exhibited tinplate and various other coated and uncoated materials at the show, plate thickness for can bodies, bases and lids can be reduced to as thin as 0.09 mm, and might even move to 0.07 mm in the near future.
LANICO presented its Can Former CF 589, which permits material savings of up to 30% in comparison to conventional can-making equipment. On the coating front, Tata Steel introduced a new range of Protact laminated steel as well as technologies to safely seal welded cans. Valspar presented its V70 series of migration-safe coatings for can and tube interiors, for which the company also won the Metpack Bronze Innovation Award. Other coating technologies were showcased by Actega, Inx, Hinterkopf, Madag, Mall Herlan, Technopack, and a few others.
Accordingly, curing and drying systems on show included new technologies developed by Crabtree, IST Metz, KBA-MetalPrint, Mall Herlan and Perm. Italy-based PrintabLED won the Metpack Gold Innovation Award for its high-performance UV-LED systems for printing lines because of the high energy efficiency and environment-friendly design of this technology for curing printing inks, paints and adhesives on metal packaging. The system doesn’t use mercury and has a narrow emission spectrum, so that no ozone or undesirable radiation is formed during thermal drying.
An important issue across all manufacturing technologies was the increase of productivity and efficiency by digitization, as the chairman of Metpack’s organizing committee, Wolfgang Niemsch, explained, “Systems and machines are consuming less and less material and have shorter setup times. Industry standard 4.0 has definitively arrived in the sector. The networking of production is increasing, and there are more and more digital interfaces between the various machines.”
Most of the actual tube or can filling and closing equipment could be found at interpack, a seven-day show held near Düsseldorf, overlapping with three of the five Metpack exhibition days. Mumbai-based caps and closures manufacturer Dodia and Hindustan Tin Works had stands at both interpack and Metpack.
Printing on metal
KBA-MetalPrint, known for its Mailänder and MetalStar offset presses for metal sheets, announced the development of its first sheetfed inkjet press, the MetalDecojet, for shorter printruns at the same sheet size as its offset counterparts. For its offset presses, the company introduced several new developments, such as the sidelay-free infeed device Drive Tronic SIS, an automatic blanket changer, and the MetalCoat 483 coating unit in combination with a new HighEcon drying oven for sheets as thin as 0.1 mm for the three-piece market.
The company also introduced the new CS MetalCan, a keyless dry-offset printing system for high-volume can production with ten inking units, automatic plate and blanket change, and integration facilities with the existing CS PinOven or CS BeltOven drying systems for the two-piece market. The CS MetalCan won the Metpack Silver Award for innovation.
Another sheetfed offset press for printing or decoration on metal was showcased by Fuji Kikai Kogyo. Its proven Primex P453S in configurations of up to six colors can print sheets of up to 1,145 x 950 mm at speeds of up to 6,600 sheets per hour, and has around 1,000 installations worldwide. The Fuji Kikai Kogyo metal decorating presses have met excellent success in India in recent years with the installation of half a dozen new machines across the country.
The other printing presses on show consisted of dry offset and digital presses directly printing on cylinders and other containers. These included dry offset presses from Crown-Carnaud, Hinterkopf, InterCan, and Omso, while digital presses or proofers were running at the Hinterkopf, Technopack, KBA-MetalPrint, Inx, Madag, Mall Herlan and Stolle stands. Technopack presented the Michelangelo KX48P, a 7-colour digital press built by Martinenghi, which at Metpack 2014 had been shown as a prototype but which is now installed in the market and ready for series production. Mall Herlan also presented market-ready equipment previously showcased as prototypes.
In addition to new ‘free from Bisphenol A’ coating technologies, there was great interest in recent ink developments in this segment, shown at the stands of market leaders Inx, Sun Chemical and Zeller+Gmelin as well as a few smaller Italian manufacturers such as Ink Maloberti and Mettlac. Apart from Böttcher, Schawk and Trelleborg, a considerable number of Asian companies, mainly Chinese and Taiwanese, showcased their prepress capabilities, consumables, can ends, closures and machine parts for the metal container industry.
The next Metpack will take place at Messe Essen in May 2020, alongside interpack 2020.
Ron Augustin based in Brussels is the European editor of Packaging South Asia and Indian Printer and Publisher magazines.
Editors note: Our live coverage of Metpack and interpack by Ron Augustin, Shardul Sharma and Naresh Khanna will appear in the print and eMagazine versions of the June issue of Packaging South Asia dated 7 June 2017, which goes to press on 30 May 2017. Editorial inputs and advertising queries for both web and print channels can be sent to email@example.com.