Sign and Digital 2014

30th April 2014
This year's Sign and Digital show was busy.
This year’s Sign and Digital show was busy.

The Sign and Digital Show is a difficult one for journalists like myself to call – we naturally tend to focus on the news angle and to look for new products – but for most visitors this show is mainly about a day out to network and to learn about new opportunities. That said, this year there were several new machines to look at and the show seemed to be really busy. Continue reading “Sign and Digital 2014”

Can Ipex reinvent itself?

17th March 2014


It’s exactly a week now until this year’s Ipex show starts. I remember the first Ipex that I went to, quite a few years ago now, which more or less filled the NEC and lasted for two weeks. At its best, Ipex is more than just a chance to look at new kit and to meet old friends. It’s also a celebration of the British print industry and confirmation that print really does matter. Continue reading “Can Ipex reinvent itself?”

Packaging innovations report

7th March 2014

Last week saw the Packaging Innovations show at the NEC, which consists of a number of related shows co-located together. The show seemed busy, particularly on the morning of the first day, and well-organised and it was easy to pick out particular stands to visit. Better still, there was a proper press office this year complete with coffee and biscuits – what more could a journalist ask for?

The organiser, EasyFairs, announced that it will reorganise the shows in future around three areas: Packaging Innovations, include the Ecopack and Contract Pack elements; Empack, which will replace PackTech and Label&Print, which will cover packaging printing, labelling and converting. Personally I dislike the idea of mixing multiple shows together as it confuses visitors and exhibitors alike. Most people are smart enough to understand that a single show can have multiple strands and its much easier to build recognition of an event if it has a single name.

However, as Alison Church of EasyFairs pointed out, the company has built up a number of related shows around Europe over a nine year period so there’s a lot of sense in having common branding between them.

There’s a second UK show, at the Business Design Centre in London, which will include Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging (30th September to 1st October).

The discussion panels were generally well attended.
The discussion panels were generally well attended.

The show included a number of discussion panels, including one about the need for packaging. There was general agreement that customers didn’t want to pay for packaging, and that retailers were increasingly looking to reduce secondary or transit packaging to cut costs. Customers also worry about the sustainability of packaging, another good reason for reducing it. In addition, one panellist from Boots pointed out that there could be hidden costs such as the time it took for the shop staff to remove excess transit packaging. But of course packaging is also a way to communicate with the customer.

There were a small number of new products launched. Thus Denny Bros introduced Wraptac, which allows for a lot of information to be printed onto a relatively small label. The label wraps around itself, and contains an adhesive seal so that it can be opened and closed repeatedly. It also includes a self-adhesive strip so that it can be applied directly to a product. There’s a choice of three sizes, yielding three, four or five labels from an A4 sheet.

There were a lot of small desktop label solutions, including several using Memjet print heads. Impression Technologies, which sell the X series of Memjet machines also showed an LED toner label printer, the LP4, which costs around £14,500. The main advantage over the Memjet machines is the ability to run standard label stocks, rather than inkjet coated media. There’s an optional PrintPro RIP for variable data.

Laserlines showed this Mojo 3D printer.
Laserlines showed this Mojo 3D printer.

Laserlines showed off a number of 3D printers from Stratasys, including the Mojo. David Price, rapid manufacturing sales manager, says its an entry level model, though it costs around £6500. It will handle models up to 900 x 600 x 900mm though Price says “there’s a massive push for a larger machine.”

The company is concentrating on industrial applications. Price says there are four main applications: concept models; form fit models for testing such as how parts screw together; end use for short run production; and jig and fixture components. Laserlines is concentrating on these last two. The end use production is suitable for short runs, possibly up to 500, depending on the product, where there is a saving in things like dies and moulds. The fourth area, involves persuading people that a 3D jig is a cost effective alternative to making a metal one. Price says that it is suitable for applications where a soft jig prevents the product from being damaged.

Intec demonstrated a new label finishing solution.
Intec demonstrated a new label finishing solution.

Intec had a new LCF215 Label Finishing Solution, which is designed to work with its Edge 850 label printer. It can can be driven through Illustrator or CorelDraw for contour cutting and can cut up to 3m/minute. It also includes a laminator, which can enhance colours and scratch resistance.

Intec also demonstrated the CS5000 which can print on boards up to 400gsm thick, with white and clear toner.

Epson showed off two new desktop colour label printers. The TM-C3500 is an entry-level model that uses pigmented inks and can print at 720 x 360 dpi resolution. It prints up to 104mm wide and can produce up to 103mm per second. The second device is the GP-C831, which can print at 720 x 720 dpi resolution at a speed of 92mm per second. It has an eight pin tractor feeder and can print up to eight inches wide. Both are distributed through AM Labels.

Cerulean launched a portable carton tester, which tests for crease strength, spring back and box-forming force, and can evaluate friction properties for potential sticking and feeding problems. It can be used to test cartons made from corrugated, paper board and waxed carton board up to 230mm wide and 8mm thick.

All in all it was an enjoyable and educational day out in what is undoubtedly a fast growing market sector.

Digital printing seduces the label market

1st October 2013

So, as Label Expo comes to a close its time to reflect on the show. It was a busy, lively event with plenty of visitors, particularly in the digital hall. HP, which launched a new silver metallic ink for its Indigo presses, still remains the market leader. Indeed, HP has just celebrated the 500th installation of a WS6000, to a factory in china owned by the Rako Group.
Xeikon, which demonstrated its Ice toner for printing to heat sensitive materials, remains in the number two spot. Xeikon also showed off an inline laser cutting system.
But there were a lot of new single pass inkjet devices. The leading inkjet player is EFI, which launched a new press, the Jetrion 4950 LX. It has a higher resolution than previous models, up to 720 x 720dpi. EFI also showed off new finishing options for its Jetrion lines. These include a varnishing module, and a new high-powered laser cutters that are better able to keep up with the printers regardless of the size of the label or the intricacies of the cutting patterns.
But at the show we saw a number of new players that are determined to grab a slice of the label market. Thus Epson showed off its new label press, the SurePress L6034VW, a UV printer complete with LED curing. Epson is going for the higher quality end of the market, with the machine running at just 15mpm but with 600x600dpi resolution. It uses CMYK plus varnish and there’s an optional white ink.
Epson has developed a new print head, PrecisionCore, a greyscale head that has two rows of 300 nozzles giving a native resolution of 600dpi. For the L6034VW 11 of these chips have been stitched together to form a single pinbar which will be suitable for single pass printing
Screen launched the Truepress Jet L350UV, It uses Kyocera printheads, with 600×600 dpi resolution, which will appear higher since these are greyscale heads. It runs at 16mpm.

FFEI's new Graphium, a 410mm wide UV inkjet press using Xaar 1001 printheads.
FFEI’s new Graphium, a 410mm wide UV inkjet press using Xaar 1001 printheads.

FFEI showed its new Graphium press, which is being distributed by Fujifilm. It uses Xaar 1001 heads, which will run at a maximum speed of 50mpm at a resolution of 180x360dpi. Managing director Andy Cook expects most customers to run the heads at 35mpm, with a resolution of 360x360dpi, equivalent to 1080 dpi. The inks are Fujifilm’s UVijet UV curable inks and for now it comes with CMYK plus white, but from next April there will be an option to have white both before and after the process colours for over and under white. FFEI is looking beyond the label market at other niche areas such as window graphics. It has a web width of 410mm and can be used as a standalone digital press or inline with flexo units for a hybrid solution.
The American company INX showed its freshly launched NW140 label printer. This is a UV inkjet with LED curing, using Xaar 1001 printheads, with CMYK plus white and varnish. INX is primarily an ink developer and Angelo Possemato, national account director, says that INX has developed all the electronics that drive the heads, rather than using those supplied by Xaar, making it easier to tune the heads for the INX inks. It runs at 25mpm and costs €385,000.
ALS has also used the Xaar 1001 heads for its UV inkjet press. It uses Sunjet inks and as with most Xaar machines it runs at 25mpm at 360dpi resolution, which is equivalent to 1080dpi. It has an option for a built-in laser cutter and should come in at less than €500,000.

Miyakoshi's MJP13LX 2000 inkjet label press using water-based inks.
Miyakoshi’s MJP13LX 2000 inkjet label press using water-based inks.

But for me one of the most interesting new machines was Miyakoshi’s MJP13LX 2000, shown for the first time at Label Expo. It uses Kyocera printheads, with 1200 dpi resolution, and runs at a maximum 50mpm. Most unusually it has water-based pigment inks combined with a hot air drying system. The base unit has four colours but it is possible to have up to eight – CMYK plus red, green, blue and grey. Eisuke Morishita of Miyakoshi’s sales POD division, says: “We tested many colours and decided this combination should offer wider colour gamut.”
The standard configuration includes a rotary die cutter and costs around €400,000. Now, normally Miyakoshi prefers to sell through OEM deals, but it is planning to sell this directly under its own name. Miyakoshi has long been one of the most interesting digital vendors so it will be good to see the company operating in Europe under its own name.
Overall it was a fun show and it was interesting to see that since the last Label Expo in 2011, the label market seems much more accepting of digital printing. This is just a quick snapshot but there is a longer version in the October issue of Spindrift – you can subscribe via the Digital Dots website.

Sign and Digital 2013

4th May 2013
Epson Surecolor Sc50600 being demonstrated at the Sign and Digital show 2013. Nikon D800 with 24mm f1.4G
Epson Surecolor Sc50600 being demonstrated at the Sign and Digital show 2013. Nikon D800 with 24mm f1.4G

In many respects the Sign and Digital is a small UK show but its often used to launch new wide format machines. This year’s Sign and Digital show was surprisingly busy, given that there was an obvious risk that the upcoming Fespa London would overshadow it. But the halls were full and the exhibitors seemed happy with the turnout with several machines sold by the end of the first day.
Perhaps the most obvious theme was the growing interest in textile printing, both for soft signage and for clothing, with plenty of samples of clothing and soft furnishings, and many stands featuring soft signage.
Epson demonstrated two new dye sub printers, which are just about to start shipping. The F6000 is a 44ins wide entry-level machine. The F7000 is a more heavy-duty beast with a 64ins print width. Both can print up to 1440dpi resolution and use Epson’s water-based Ultrachrome DS inks.
Mimaki also has a new textile printer, the TS500, which has a maximum print width of 1890mm and a maximum throughput of 150sqm/hr. It’s a large machine, clearly designed for production environments.
Mimaki also demonstrated a new flatbed printer, the JFX500, which is capable of 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution and up to 60sqm/hr. Hybrid, Mimaki’s UK distributor, sold one to Victory Signs on the first day of the show. Both The TS500 and JFX 500 the same basic print engine, with Ricoh Gen5 printheads. The ink for both of these printers is supplied in a non-degassed form, with the printers degassing the ink once loaded. This makes the ink cheaper than previous models.
Mimaki also showed off the UJF-6042, an A2 UV LED flatbed designed for small format printing to objects such as pens, though at the show it was demonstrating packaging proofing.
There also seemed to be quite a number of solvent machines launched at this show, indicating that there is still a lot of life in this technology. Roland showed off its latest solvent printer, the Pro4 Soljet XF-640. This is a 64ins wide roll-to-roll eco-solvent printer. It uses the same chassis as the XR-640, but where that was a print and cut machine, this is a high-speed print only device. It can produce up to 120 sqm/hr in billboard mode, or 63sqm/hr in a high quality mode.
Mutoh bought its new ValueJet 2638, a 2.6m wide eco solvent roll-to-roll printer. This has up to 1440 dpi resolution and can produce 24 sqm/hr at 720 x 1080dpi.
GPT showed its 190s, a revamped 1.9m wide Mimaki textile printer, which has been adapted to use Mimaki’s older SS21 full solvent inks. The machine has two sets of Epson printheads, making it faster than some of Mimaki’s own solvent machines for a similar price.
Interestingly, Xerox showed off a new Memjet printer, a prototype of which was previewed at last year’s Drupa. It will be launched in the Asia Pacific market this month, and Europe the month after. It uses Memjet’s standard wide format array with five heads stitched together for a 42ins print width. As with all Memjet printers, it’s very fast with up to 1600 dpi resolution and a maximum speed of 18mpm.
Overall, this gives a useful preview of the sort of things that we will see at the Fespa show to be held in London in June. Quite a few machines were launched here, and given that many vendors will have held back for Fespa, it seems likely that we’ll see even more new kit, indicating just how vibrant a sector wide format currently is.