Dr Matthias Schlörholz, project manager of R&D chemistry for Actega Metal Print Photo Nessan Cleary

Actega has demonstrated its EcoLeaf unit running at production speeds at Labelexpo in Brussels. EcoLeaf, which can be installed inline on a printing line or on a finishing line, can be used to create both over and under print effects.

EcoLeaf has been developed by Actega Metal Print, or AMP, which is a subsidiary of Actega Coatings and Sealants, which in turn is owned by Altona. The technology was first developed by Landa and demonstrated as a prototype at Drupa 2016 as Nano Metallography. In 2017 it was transferred to Altana, which has invested heavily in Landa. AMP has since completed the development including testing it with a wide range of label stocks.

The process starts off by first printing a trigger image, using a UV curable clear varnish-like fluid from Actega that cures to a tacky finish. Dr Matthias Schlörholz, project manager of R&D chemistry for Actega Metal Print explained: “We need a flexo or inkjet unit to apply the transfer image. Or we could use a screen printing unit. We can overprint to give us a gold-like shiny effect.”

Then the web with the trigger image passes into the EcoLeaf unit, where the metal flakes, are suspended in a water-based dispersion, are first applied to a donor roller. From here, the tacky finish on the trigger image pulls the metallic flakes off the donor so that the metallic effect only goes where it’s needed.

Schlörholz adds, “Then we press the preprinted image with a transfer image on the substrate. It takes away the flakes from the donor and gives us almost 100 percent transfer from the donor to the target image.”

Actega’s EcoLeaf metallisation unitPhoto Nessan Cleary
Actega’s EcoLeaf metallisation unit
Photo Nessan Cleary

It can now run up to 80 mpm with flexo or 70 mpm with inkjet. Schlörholz says that the speed of the EcoLeaf system is determined by the target unit, noting, “We have to print the same amount of ink as the image and can slow down to give a more haptic effect to about 50mpm. But if you put enough printheads in you can run as fast as you want to.”

However, Harald Jasper, managing director of Actega Metal Print, believes that the current speed is fast enough, saying, “The inkjet machines are running faster than an analogue flexo press. We are not slowing down the customer’s production and that’s a very important part of it.”

No carrier film and no unused foil

The main advantage is its sustainability as it completely does away with the waste associated with conventional foiling. There’s no carrier film, and no unused foil, while the metallic effect is very similar to that achieved by foil. The samples certainly appear very shiny and are said to be scratch and fade resistant.

The EcoLeaf is suitable for a number of different product areas including laminated tubes, pressure sensitive labels and shrink sleeves, with the health and beauty segment seen as the main market focus for now.

Jasper says, “We are talking to the brand owners. We are talking to OEMs and we have an agreement with AB Graphics. And then we are talking with the main label converters.”

The EcoLeaf unit was designed to be easily integrated into an existing production line and just requires speed and safety signals. At this month’s Label Expo Europe it was shown integrated into an AB Graphics solution, as well as with the Gallus One, while Dantex has said that it will integrate it with its PicoJet.

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First published by the Print and Graphics Journal on 26 September 2023. Reproduced by permission.

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