Marginal gains for unfair advantages

By Nick Mansley, Monday 21 August 2017

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The approach to Brussels’ grand Art Deco Exhibition Halls, which will once again host LabelExpo Europe, is dominated by the gleaming Atomium, a 100m-tall structure of interconnected stainless-steel spheres – part sculpture, part building – which was erected for the 1958 World Fair as a symbol of faith in scientific progress.


It’s an apt symbol for the 2017 edition of LabelExpo, which puts emphasis on technological leaps forward.

Show director Jade Green says: “I think we’re only second to the aerospace industry in terms of development. The sector is so competitive, so a huge amount of investment is going into R&D.”

She says there will be 69 new digital presses on the show floor and that alongside new kit, visitors can expect to see existing machines tweaked as manufacturers focus on marginal gains. “Manufacturers have been fine-tuning machines to help printers exploit every little bit of advancement,” Green says.

With more manufacturers focused on delivering bespoke systems to meet customers’ specific needs, there will also be the opportunity for label printers to sit down with the kit developers and have machines built to their own specifications, according to Green. 

The 2017 edition of this biennial show bears the tagline ‘Gain an unfair advantage’, reflecting the hot focus on automation and marginal gains. It will be the biggest to date, according to organisers, being staged in a record nine halls of the exhibition centre, and will host close to 700 exhibitors. Green says up to 40,000 visitors are expected to attend. 

Facilities at Brussels Expo have not always been up to scratch, with the facility showing its age, but the site has recently been refreshed and improved; visitors can expect to find upgraded lighting, better catering services and free wi-fi throughout.

One of LabelExpo’s key new attractions will be the Automation Arena, which is being hosted in Hall 11 and features two complete label lines – one digital, one conventional – and is intended to show visitors how information management can integrate workflow and automate production, working towards better performance, reliability and profitability. 

The Arena draws its inspiration from Industry 4.0, an initiative originally developed by the German government to focus on smart manufacturing and something that printers who visited Drupa 2016 will be familiar with.

The label lines will employ technology from Cerm, Esko, Xeikon, MPS, Kocher & Beck, AVT, Rotocontrol, Matho and Wasberger and will be demonstrated in three half-hour real-time presentations daily (11am, 1pm and 3pm) over the show’s first three days, and once (at 11am) on the final day. 

UK label printers have been particularly quick to pick up on the benefits of automation, according to Green, so this is one exhibit that is likely to attract a lot of interest with UK visitors.

The Linerless Trail was a new feature at the 2015 Europe show and proved an instant hit. As a result it’s back again for this edition. The feature is intended to show off the benefits of going linerless: reducing costs, energy requirements and waste. It is targeted at label printers looking to improve their environmental credentials. 

The Trail brings together manufacturers from across the linerless sector, from materials through to processing, including Evonik, Henkel, Maan, Mitsubishi Hitec Paper, Ritrama and Transfer Trade.

Green says: “There’s a lot of talk about linerless and as interest continues to grow we are seeing it more widely used, particularly in food manufacturing.”


Venue Brussels Expo, Brussels, Belgium

Dates 25-28 September

Opening times 25-27 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm. 28 September: 9.30am to 4.30pm

Price Early registration (prior to 15 September): €55. Standard rate: €80. All tickets are valid for all four days of the show

Master classes There are two master classes on 26 September being hosted by the Label Academy: ‘MIS and workflow automation’ and ‘Shrink sleeve technology’ are priced at €636. A third master class on 27 September, ‘Inks, coatings and varnishes’ costs €535. Numbers will be strictly limited. 

Features Automation Arena New for this year the Automation arena features two complete label lines running live on the show floor, with kit integrated from a number of manufacturers. 

Linerless Trail This popular feature returns in which visitors can learn about the latest linerless technology, see demonstrations and collect samples 

Kit highlights

Domino (9, A60)

Domino Digital Printing Solutions is launching its latest digital front-end (DFE) workflow system for the labels sector. DFEv2.0 is designed for the N-Series of digital colour presses and according to the company boasts improved operating speeds and streamlined automation. It also remains compatible with the latest Esko code base and can work with a number of variable-data printing formats. It features a new screener, ScreenPro, which can help streamline workflow by combining several JDF processes into one. Simon Howes, product manager, Digital Printing Solutions, says: “With this new workflow, Domino is providing labellers with a comprehensive platform for managing integrated production and there is no better place to showcase the benefits of this technology than Labelexpo Europe.” 

Epson (9, A50)

Epson will be showing for the first time its new short-run label press, the SurePress L-4533 series. The new series will replace the existing L-4033 series and be commercially available straight after the show. It is comprised of two models, the seven-colour L-4533AW, which comes with white ink capability, and the L-4533A, which comes without. Epson says the new machines are aimed at small to medium-sized label converters looking for digital printing capability, as well as commercial printers wishing to diversify into packaging and labelling. It has been designed to offer an easy-setup digital solution for producing short to medium-sized runs of commercial labels on a variety of substrates, allowing users to diversify their services and offer quick turnarounds. Guy Martin, business development manager, Epson UK, says: “The L-4533 Series combines some of the most frequently requested enhancements with improvements in Epson print technology to create a new press that’s faster, higher quality and even more versatile, for a wider range of applications.”

Esko (3, C50)

Esko will be unveiling two new turnkey workflow solutions at the show: WebCenter Essentials for Labels, a project management bundle for label manufacturers; and Automation Engine Essentials for Labels, a workflow bundle for label pre-press automation. Esko software also forms part of the Automation Arena feature and will be used to show support of an end-to-end label workflow with realistic 3D viewing, web collaboration, PDF editing, content management and quality assurance tools, with a focus on controlling costs and optimising productivity.

Fujifilm (9, A34)

Fuji will be highlighting the benefits of its Flenex FW water washable flexo plate solution, which it says offers cost savings, environmental benefits and “outstanding” quality for flexo label printers, in comparison with thermal, solvent or other water wash technologies. In addition to Flenex FW, Fujifilm will also use Labelexpo 2017 to showcase its comprehensive range of Uvivid narrow web inks and ancillaries. Designed to maximise throughput and simplify the label production process, this range is specially formulated to deliver best-in-class performance on narrow web presses.

Gallus (5, B28 & C31)

Gallus will be showing its new Labelmaster Advanced, an extension of its flagship Labelmaster press. The machine prints at a maximum speed of 200m/min and is available in web width configurations ranging from 220mm to 445mm. The multiweb modular Advanced model takes a variety of substrates, including self-adhesive materials, paper, cardboard, monofoil label materials and tube laminates. Senior product manager Martin Kast listed a number of improvements of the Advanced model over the original Labelmaster, including higher degrees of automation, motorised cross adjustment, automatic register control, faster ink drying and an optional LED power supply. It also has a number of optional finishing configurations not found on the original Labelmaster: a hot-foil embossing unit, rotary embossing unit and insetting. 

MPS Systems (11, C20)

Dutch press manufacturer MPS Systems will be debuting its latest initiative at the show: the ‘talk to me’ concept is intended to improve interactivity between presses and MIS and is said to enable real-time data exchange and control at any given time. An app for iPhone and Android devices gives press operators extended “anytime, anywhere” functionality via the specially developed ‘talk to me’ app. The kind of information that can be exchanged includes the customer name, press run, colour sequence, tooling, material type and thickness, printing plate code and planning (job queue). Data from the press to MIS consists of the operator, printing speed, metres/yards printed (order status), waste produced (waste sheets), set-up and printing time. Bert van den Brink, co-founder and technical director at MPS, says: “The best way to achieve maximum printing productivity is to ensure that operators have the tools and freedom to get the most out of their machines. With ‘talk to me’ we offer just that.”

Nilpeter (7, B35 & B39)

Nilpeter will be launching its new FA press, which it describes as “the most versatile flexo press on the market”. It’s a bit tight-lipped about specifications ahead of the show but says the new press, which sits alongside its FA-4 and FA-6 series of flexo presses, is built around the modern press operator, with an intuitive user interface and fully mobile print controls. It offers high stability and tight register tolerance, and “excellent printing results” on multiple substrates. It incorporates Nilpeter’s ‘Clean-Hand’ design approach, intended to minimise hands-on operation; all data is saved, jobs are easily recalled, and the press will auto register. The press is also available with a range of value-add units to meet specific applications. 

Screen (9, B30)

Screen will unveil two brand new presses at the show, both intended to increase the manufacturer’s market share in food packaging: the Truepress Jet L350UV+ and the Truepress Jet L350UV+LM. According to Screen the L350UV+ system offers superior productivity, substrate compatibility, colour reproduction, operability and other advanced features that provide a significant edge over conventional technologies in a wide range of fields. The L350UV+LM also adds the option of low-migration inks for greater food pack safety. It also features a nitrogen purge mechanism for accelerating the curing of UV inks, further preventing ink migration and UV odour. Both presses offer CMYK plus orange and white, and are capable of running at speeds of up to 60m/min. Each system’s transfer section can also be equipped with an optional chill roller for cooling thin substrates that are particularly susceptible to the heat from UV lamps. 

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