Hybrid Uteco/Kodak press reaches commercialisation

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 24 April 2018

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Uteco Group and Kodak are poised to install the first hybrid Sapphire Evo press for flexible packaging, featuring Kodak’s Stream inkjet technology.

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Sapphire Evo: hybrid printing with high-speed Kodak inkjet heads

The press, which is targeted at the label and flexible packaging market, was first shown at Drupa 2016 and the two manufacturers have been working on bringing it to commercial reality since.

The Sapphire Evo has a 650mm web width, with a 622mm print width and 2,530mm repeat length. Speed is 300m/min and the press is targeted at users producing up to 20m/sqm per annum.

It can print onto a wide range of plastic films as well paper. The configuration is bespoke, and can include flexo and gravure printing units, additional spot colours and inline lamination, as well as the Kodak Stream continuous inkjet heads.

Installation will begin in June at an as-yet-unnamed Italian flexible packaging company that operates in the industrial and fashion industries. 

Uteco Group chief executive Aldo Peretti said the Sapphire Evo would meet customer demands for a variety of needs, including mass versioning, shorter run lengths, and the ability to produce long-run digital print economically.

“Uteco’s rich experience in flexo and gravure printing, film handling, coating and drying, coupled with Kodak’s inkjet expertise, now allows us to deliver a device that combines the capabilities of flexo with digital,” he said.

The Italian manufacturer claims a world-leading position in specialist printing systems for flexible packaging.

Kodak had previously described its ability to inkjet print water-based inks onto films and plastics as “revolutionary”. The Kodak inks and pre-coating fluids used on the Sapphire EVO also comply with EU and US regulatory requirements for indirect food contact.

Randy Vandagriff, president of Kodak’s Enterprise Inkjet Systems Division, highlighted the economic and environmental benefits of being able to print water-based inks onto flexible films, at production speeds.

“It is great to be working with a partner like Uteco to combine their exceptional expertise with ours to deliver a high-end digital production device that offers new opportunities for the flexible packaging industry,” he said.

Further details such as the likely price point of the Sapphire Evo were unavailable at the time of writing.

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