What does it do?
“Factory 4.0” is the description of MGI chief operating officer Victor Abergel, who says the complete AlphaJet system will handle all carton, corrugated and label making and finishing operations in a single unit, potentially with a single operator, instead of needing three or four separate machine stages.
It is a B1-format single-sided, sheetfed digital printing system, with what Abergel calls a “cluster” of optional units covering aqueous colour printing, UV embellishment (raised varnishing and foiling) and in future, finishing and electronics.
When was it launched and what markets is it aimed at?
MGI first showed a prototype B2 inkjet called AlphaJet at Drupa 2012, based on its existing JetVarnish UV varnishing inkjet. At Drupa 2016 it reappeared as a substantially different design, now B1-format, with new linear motor sheet transport.
At the Paris All4Pack show in November 2018 this was announced with an entirely new print engine using the Memjet DuraLink printheads and aqueous inks.
Printable ‘smart carton’ electronics will also be an option, using technology from Ceradrop, acquired by MGI in 2013. These include ‘chipless’ RFID antenna and OLED flexible displays.
Abergel says that an entirely new digital finishing system will be revealed at LabelExpo Europe in Brussels next month, with plans to integrate this with AlphaJet by drupa 2020. It will apparently be laser based, but with a creasing method that Abergel says is different to Highcon’s polymer extrusion.
Target markets are existing conventional packaging, corrugated and label converters, plus small all-digital start-ups. “Brands may also be interested for short personalised runs,” he believes. The Memjet inks are said to be food-safe for packaging, while Abergel says that MGI is working on a low migration UV ink for embellishment.
How does it work?
The core print engine is four- or six-colour, using the DuraLink heads. DuraLink was announced in 2017 as a high-speed, high-resolution system with longer head lives than the original Memjet heads, plus integrated cleaning systems as well as new electronic controllers. Infra-red drying is used on this section.
A primer system will give compatibility with non-inkjet coated media. A white pigment ink is optional.
There is also an embellishment unit, based on the MGI JetVarnish 3D clear UV inkjet with LED curing, which can print either clear gloss varnish or build up the thickness to a maximum of 220 microns. MGI’s iFoil system can be used to apply spot hot foil.
A unique sheet feed has been developed that gives the whole feed, production and delivery a horseshoe configuration. It uses a linear motor to move individual sheets on ‘trays’. 14 to 18 trays can be in use at once, returning to the start position after the sheet has been delivered. Abergel says the linear motor with magnetic buffer smoothing can position trays with 3 micron precision. This is complemented by a camera system that controls varnish registration.
Abergel says that the AlphaJet can be upgraded after installation to add new units if required.
What’s the USP?
B1 inkjets are still unusual, but AlphaJet stands out for its ‘Factory 4.0’ concept of handling everything inline, apart from folder-gluer assembly. “The cluster can start at any level with upgrades as needed,’” says Abergel.
How easy is it to use?
“Ease of use is good, as there is one gateway for all operations from a digital file,” says Abergel. “It will be easy to use day to day, and also in maintenance, for instance it will take four minutes to change a head, with automatic re-alignment. So it is efficient for the operator and the owner.”
How will it be distributed?
Largely through Konica Minolta, which has just set up an industrial printing division to handle its own AccurioJet KM-1 B2 format UV inkjet (a joint venture with Komori) plus the AlphaJet, and most likely the B1 format KM-C UV inkjet carton press shown as a prototype at Drupa 2016, if that is brought to market.
What will it cost?
MGI says it’s too early to say and claims that as a complete system it will be more cost-efficient than B1 inkjet print-only carton printers from Heidelberg and Landa.
Not yet, but Abergel expects to announce the first beta site at Drupa next June. He expects to have AlphaJets running on both the MGI and KM stands, and maybe elsewhere.
Max speed 1,800sph
Colour engine Simplex Memjet DuraLink based aqueous inkjet with IR curing
Colours Four or six
Max resolution 1,600x1,600dpi
Embellishment engine UV inkjet with UV-LED curing
Foiling MGI iFoil hot foil technology (sticks to heated varnish)
Finishing MGI inline cutting and creasing module
Front end MGI RIP with planned links to other workflows such as EFI
Price MGI doesn’t have a price yet but says it will be more cost-efficient than B1 inkjet print-only carton presses from Heidelberg and Landa
Contact Konica Minolta Business Solutions UK 01268 534 444 www.konicaminolta.co.uk/en-gb
MGI says there are no direct alternatives to AlphaJet as nothing else offers the same capabilities, although Koenig & Bauer plans to include embellishment and cutting options with its forthcoming VariJet. We’ve chosen to include details of this and two other B1 format inkjets.
B1 simplex inkjet based on a Heidelberg transport with Fujifilm Dimatix heads and foodsafe inks. No inline finishing or embellishment options as yet
Max sheet size 750x1,060mm
Printheads Fujifilm Samba greyscale piezo, single-pass
Max resolution 1,200x1,200dpi
Max speed 2,500sph (1,200x1,200dpi)
Colours CMYK plus orange, violet & green
Price About €3m (about £2.66m)
Contact Heidelberg UK 020 8490 3500 www.uk.heidelberg.com
Koenig & Bauer VariJet 106
A joint venture with Durst. Planned options include an opaque white unit, inline litho and screen printing units, cold foiling plus finishing units including grooving/perforating and die-cutting
Max sheet size 750x1,060mm
Max resolution 1,440dpi
Max speed Objective is 8,000sph
Colours Up to seven
Contact Koenig & Bauer 01923 819922 uk.koenig-bauer.com
Originally a simplex printer for packaging application, there is now a duplex option. Deliveries of both have started.
Max sheet size 750x1,050mm
Max speed 6,500sph (13,000sph planned)
Inks Landa NanoInk aqueous pigment
Contact Landa 07551 880013 www.landanano.com