Koenig and Bauer developing inkjet for metal 

Koenig and Bauer’s MetalPrint subsidiary is developing two separate UV LED inkjet systems for printing to metal for packaging and decorating applications. MetalPrint already makes several conventional metal printing lines, including the MetalStar 4 and Mallander 280, as well as various coating, drying and sheet handling systems.

The first of these digital solutions is the MetJet One, pictured above, which integrates digital printing into a production line for metal decorating. It takes sheets up to 1200 x 1000 mm, printing on pre-coated sheets without requiring further pre-treatment. It’s a modular system, built around a MetalPrint sheet handling system combined with an inkjet printing unit from Durst. This is a multi-pass scanning system using Ricoh printheads with UV LED inks. It prints CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan as well as white and has a resolution of 900 x 1200 dpi. It will be able to produce 200 sph. 

Samuel Teufel, product manager at Koenig & Bauer MetalPrint, commented: “The unique design enables us to create a customised solution that fits the flexibility and print quality requirements of our customers in the metal packaging industry.”

Customers will be able to add other MetalPrint units to the line, such as the MetalCoat coating machine, inspection transport for checking the image and any overprint varnish, or a sheet management system for sheet ejection.  

The line will be field-tested with Reynolds Services, Inc, or RSI, at the beginning of 2025. The machine will be installed at the company’s headquarters in Greenville, Pennsylvania, in the US. RSI produces a range of flat rolled steel and tin mill products. John Frangakis, CEO at RSI, commented: “We are delighted to be working with Koenig and Bauer MetalPrint on the new MetJet One. We are convinced that this digital printing solution will enable us to realise customised prints in very short runs.”

MetalPrint is also working on a second system, the MetJet Pro, which will be a high speed single pass press. However, since Durst does not have a single pass UV system, MetalPrint has turned to the Italian industrial inkjet specialist Neos, with the two companies signing a letter of intent for the project.

This system will also use Ricoh printheads, but with a resolution of 600 dpi. It will print CMYK plus white as well as orange and green with violet also being developed. The inks will comply with European regulations for indirect food contact regulations. 

It will include a camera system integrated with the Neos software to monitor the ink drop placement and ensure precise register and print quality control. The same system will also be used for sheet identification.

MetalPrint will be responsible for the sheet handling and inline coating. It will be able to produce 2500 sph, using a maximum sheet size of 1200 x 1000 mm. It will use an integrated corona pre-treatment. Teuful says that the future plans include digital inline coating, noting that the existing MetalCoat coating machine can be used with either digital system for applying an overcoat or varnish inline.

The MetJet Pro will be a modular system so that it can be configured for a number of different applications, including the production of three-piece cans, crown caps, closures and so on. 

The aim is have the MetJet Pro installed at a customer site by the middle of 2025 though this could slip as the project is still at a very early stage of development.

Teufel says that the MetJet Pro will be positioned between the new MetJet One and the existing conventional machine, the MetalStar 4. He adds: “We estimate the point at which our digital solutions become more cost efficient than an offset solution on 580 sheets with the MetJet One. Exact figures for the MetJet Pro are not yet available, but the break-even point will be significantly higher.”

You can find further details on the MetalPrint systems from metalprint.koenig-bauer.com.


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