Mercian Labels to install world’s first Xeikon Cheetah

Richard Stuart-Turner
Friday, January 23, 2015

Label printer Mercian Labels will next month become the first printer in the world to install the Xeikon Cheetah digital label press.

The Burntwood, Staffordshire-based firm has bought the five-colour press, which will be installed in mid-February, to boost its capacity. It will run alongside the company’s existing Xeikon 3300 digital press as well as its range of hotfoiling, flexo and inkjet systems.

The 1200x3600dpi Xeikon Cheetah has a top speed of 30m/min. It is dedicated solely to the production of self-adhesive/pressure-sensitive labels and includes the use of dry toners that meet FDA regulations for food contact and the ability to print opaque white toner in one pass.

It also enables printing on a variety of heat-sensitive substrates due to the incorporation of Xeikon’s ICE toner technology. The fifth station on the machine can be used to print gamut expansion colours or security toner and media weights range from 40-350gsm.

Mercian Labels managing director Adrian Steele said: “The technological announcement that Xeikon made in September to take speed up to 30m/min was something that we and many other Xeikon users have been pushing for for a long time so it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“We’ve been running our existing Xeikon press either 16/5 or sometimes even 24/5 and we’ve just run out of production capacity. We have a significant growth plan over the next three years which this will support so we’ll effectively have 156% of current digital capacity available once the machine is installed in February.

“Xeikon has taken a strategic decision to lower the consumables costs for the new Cheetah platform which means it becomes far more competitive against medium-run flexo work. And along with the increased speed, which gives a cost advantage, we can see ourselves eating more into that middle range market that’s been previously dominated by flexo.”

The business looked at a range of other technologies, from liquid toner to UV inkjet, as well as machinery from HP.

“Whilst we have inkjet technology in other parts of the business, and it works very well for that, in the prime labelLing sector, where superb quality is taken by default, for our market we didn’t think that UV inkjet was at a sufficiently high quality yet,” said Steele.

“Our customers are always looking for the very highest quality at the very highest speed so our lead times are very short. For us, I think we’d see a significant market kick-back if we imposed the current quality of UV inkjet as a replacement.”

Mercian Labels and Xeikon will be holding a preview event at Mercian’s Burntwood premises for brand owners and potential Cheetah users on the afternoon of 24 February, one day before the Packaging Innovations show at Birmingham’s NEC, and on the afternoon of 25 February.

Mercian Labels, which has 50 staff and a turnover of £3.4m, serves customers in a wide range of industries both in the UK and internationally. It has a customer base of approximately 9,000 and is acquiring around 40 new customers a month.

The business recently relocated to a new 2,230sqm factory, which significantly increased its capacity, having been previously based at a 557sqm site in Cannock. It also recently merged its subsidiary AC Labels into its main business.

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