New Heidelberg inkjet kit to target labels, sheetfed and product decoration

Jo Francis
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Heidelberg is planning a fresh assault on the crowded digital label press space with the promise of “no more compromise” for label printers.

Its as yet unnamed hybrid label press is based on the ECS340 platform from Gallus, which is 30% owned by Heidelberg.

It marries the established flexo, screen printing, cold foiling and rotary die-cutting capabilities of the Gallus press with Fujifilm’s inkjet heads, although details of the configuration, such as number of inkjet colours, have not yet been made public.

Gallus director of digital Jennifer Renner said the new press would mean “no more compromise” for label converters moving into digital printing.

“Large label converters have been slow to adopt digital because of the compromises, either in speed, embellishments, requiring a second pass or sacrificing features,” she said.

“This is a press with no compromise and the answer to that problem. We can finally deliver the speed, quality and flexibility label converters require. Regardless of a label’s complexity we can manufacture any label in a single pass,” Renner claimed.

The press will shown for the first time in September, possibly at Labelexpo in Chicago.

It will also be the first Gallus press to be integrated with Heidelberg’s Prinect workflow.

Heidelberg’s previous foray into digital label printing came with the Linoprint L, based on CSAT inkjet drop-on-demand inkjet technology. This was shown at Labelexpo in Belgium last September.

Heidelberg subsequently sold the CSAT operation to Markem-Imaje, but Gallus still has distribution rights for the press, which runs in an offline/nearline configuration as opposed to being a complete label production line.

Also slated for autumn is the first installation of a new 4D printing system, the Jetmaster Dimension.

The automated system marries "advanced inkjet technology" with high precision robotics and workflow. It scans the dimensions of 3D objects, prints onto the surface using UV inkjet, and then cures the print. A setup shown printing in Heidelberg’s R&D lab took under a minute to add branding to a football from start to finish.

Print samples included control panels and automotive panels with a grooved surface printed in a single colour, and plastic bottles decorated with four-colour halftone images.

Heidelberg envisages variants of the system will be capable of printing directly onto large three-dimensional objects, such as cars, trucks and even aeroplanes, appealing to an industrial decoration market beyond its traditional print heartland.

“Almost all end products can be printed, whether small or large. In the case of automotive, for example, we can print directly onto the body, removing the need for pre-printed foils to be fitted to the car surface,” said Heidelberg specialist Ivar Emde.

German web-to-print giant Flyeralarm will be the first customer, and will use its Jetmaster Dimension system to print onto promotional footballs. It will pay Heidelberg a ‘per print’ charge.

Jason Oliver, Heidelberg senior vice president of digital print, said: “We are getting paid per print. This is a recurring business model and completely new to us. Non-printing companies are going to like this model.”

The 4D system does not use Fujifilm heads at this time.

Meanwhile, sheetfed inkjet presses targeted at its heartland of printer customers are also now part of Heidelberg’s digital product pipeline, where it appears likely to compete head-on with Landa’s Nanography presses when those products ship.

Oliver said it would mark the “next generation” of sheetfed inkjet press. “The world leader in sheetfed together with the world leader in inkjet will industrialise this solution. We will extend the breakeven point significantly over current digital print offerings in formats up to B1 for commercial and packaging print applications.”

Although Heidelberg would not commit to a definitive timeline for sheetfed inkjet commercialisation, Stephan Plenz, Heidelberg board member responsible for equipment hinted that the company could have something concrete to show in the Drupa 2016 timeframe.

“We will get the label machine to market first and learn from that. In parallel we are working with the sheetfed machine. Whenever we do show it, it will be ready for beta,” he said.

“We are working on an industrial performance press and this will take a while. But we are not targeting for Drupa. We are targeting for when it’s ready,” he added.

Heidelberg still has an agreement with Landa that could see Heidelberg produce presses using Nanographic technology in the future. “We look forward to the day when he can really show us proof of concept,” Oliver added.

The “sneak peek” event held this week included an unprecedented tour of Heidelberg’s R&D development centre, where it has installed a Fujifilm Jet Press 720 B2 sheetfed press for evaluation.

Plenz said that Heidelberg’s sheetfed presses would be “totally different”. “The only thing that stays the same is the head. The rest will change.”

See separate story on Heidelberg's digital strategy for inkjet.



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