Koenig and Bauer Durst deliver on corrugated promise

A little over two years ago two of the major players in the print industry, Koenig and Bauer and Durst came together to form a separate joint venture company, Koenig and Bauer Durst, to develop new presses targeting the digital packaging market. The first stage has been pushing Durst’s existing Delta SPC 130 out into the market.

The Delta SPC 130 with the integrated FlexLine production line.

The Delta SPC 130 is a single pass inkjet press designed to print to corrugated substrates. It was originally developed by Durst and shown at Drupa 2016, which is when I first came across it. Oliver Barr, senior product manager for the corrugated market for the Koenig and Bauer Durst joint venture, says that the original model was more or less based on the design of Durst’s Gamma Tile printer and used some third party feeders, stackers and dryers. 

It’s possible to integrate the press unit alone into an existing production line though Durst has built an integrated production line that it calls the Delta SPC 130 Flexline Concept. Barr explains: “This is an industrial press. It is the most highly automated single pass press on the market. We have an automatic pile transport system so the substrates come from the corrugator more or less directly into the feeder. We have then the waste gate at the beginning of the infeed control systems. We have the optional inline primer, we have the print tower and dryer and then we have the waste gate and an automatic stacker also on the tail of the press. So this has more or less just one thing in common with the Drupa 2016 press which is the inside of the printing unit but nothing else.”

There are cameras throughout the system, even in the dryers so that the operators have full visibility of the whole process from the control station. The cameras are backed up a number of sensors, such as a media control sensor on the infeeder to check for deformed boards, which can be automatically ejected through the waste gate to prevent bad boards going into the press.

There’s an inline top and bottom sheet cleaner to ensure to optimise the quality of the sheets in the press. From there the boards are moved via a belt transport to the printing station. There’s fully automated cleaning for each head with a vacuum to keep dust away. There’s an optional inline quality inspection system to measure the quality of the print right after printing. In addition, the operator has an option to divert a board as a proof that can be examined at the control station. 

The signature feature of the press is that it uses Durst’s water-based technology WT ink, which I will cover in more detail in a separate story shortly, along with Durst’s Quadro printhead Array. 

Oliver Barr, senior product manager for the corrugated market for Koenig and Bauer Durst

The standard configuration is for four colours – CMYK – but with an option to add two further colours. Durst initially started with light cyan and light magenta, which is because this ink technology was originally developed for wide format printing where light colours are commonly added to help reproduce skin tones and to smooth gradients. The light colours are still available but there’s now also an option to add orange and violet, which can produce a wider colour gamut and is more suitable for the packaging market.

There’s no option to add white ink. Barr points out that it’s harder to develop a white ink with water-based inks than with UV, adding: “I don’t see much value in white ink. First, we achieve a very high quality on brown boards. Second, the orange and violet delivers a much wider range, a much wider colour gamut and gives more value than white.”

It can manage small formats from 500 x 600mm through to very large formats with maximum dimensions of 1,300 x 2,800 mm and print a maximum thickness of 12mm. It can run at an average speed of 3000 sqm/hr for sheets of 1.3 x 2.1m. Maximum resolution is 800dpi. 

Thanks to the WT ink, the SPC 130 can print on a wide range of substrates without a pretreatment including coated and uncoated. Barr adds: “It’s a water-based ink so it penetrates the paper surface. We have a certain absorption and this also benefits us in terms of specrto consistency and print processing.”

Nonetheless, Koenig and Bauer Durst has introduced an option to add a primer to this press. This involves adding a separate unit before the main print engine to apply a primer. This is an inkjet system that jets the primer exactly in the spots where the ink drops will land. Barr points out that the alternative, using a flexo or anilox roller, would risk damaging the soft parts of the corrugated boards which the non-contact inkjet approach avoids.

The primer itself is a water-based fluid that fully complies with all the necessary food safety regulations. Barr won’t say more about the primer though most inkjet primers use some form of saline solution. The printheads are not the same as the main imaging system, though he won’t say which heads, or even which vendor.

Barr says: “The primer can give us an even wider gamut. But it also can be used to reduce the ink laydown to achieve a similar colour gamut as we have today. So it can compensate for ink laydown and ink volume to achieve the same result. And it means you can use even cheaper paper to save substrate costs in conjunction with the already accepted colour space and push the total cost of ownership to a totally different area to boost your return on investment for the entire price.”

He points out that customers can also achieve special effects by using the primer as a fifth colour and only applying it in certain areas. 

The SPC 130 as shown at Drupa 2016 – it seemed like a fairly big unit then but much smaller than the full FlexLine configuration.

The SPC 130 comes with Durst’s Workflow Plus software and the company is planning to add an estimating feature to this to help customers calculate the costs of the different options, with or without primer on alternative substrates. Baar says that parts of this same workflow will also be offered with the Koenig and Bauer CorruJet. He acknowledges that there will be some issues in getting the APPE-generated PDF from the CorruJet into the Workflow Plus world, which is based on Global Graphics’ Harlequin Host Renderer.

Joint venture

The Koenig and Bauer Durst joint venture was announced two years ago in January 2019 and has been operational since August 2019 with both companies having a 50/50 stake in it. 

Barr himself comes from the Koenig and Bauer side having joined the company in 2012 as business development manager for the Rotajet inkjet press. He says that the partnership between the two vendors is working well, noting: “Durst has a very long and successful track record in digital printing”. He added: “And also they work with the Dimatix printhead which we also work with on the Koenig and Bauer side so there was an overlap in how we see things and what we do together.”

The reason behind the joint venture lies in Koenig and Bauer’s project to develop a digital folding carton press, the VariJet 106. This was initially announced at Drupa 2016 as a joint project with Xerox. Barr says: “This had been silently slowly terminated as Xerox couldn’t realise the quality level that we wanted to have.”

Instead, Koenig and Bauer turned to Durst as a partner to help re-energise the VariJet 106 project. Barr explains: “Although Koenig and Bauer is running quite a successful digital business, they were looking for a partner in order to do the VariJet 106 project. First we looked for a partner who had a deep knowledge of the business as well as its own technology. Durst also had some appetite to look into the folding carton market but they didn’t have a go-to-market organisation for that.”

Barr says that although the two companies operate in similar markets, they are not competitors and there is an opportunity for their products to be complementary. He says that there was some overlap because Durst had the SPC 130 while Koenig and Bauer had the CorruJet, both of which are corrugated single pass inkjet presses. But he argues: “We found out that both presses served certain markets, so for example, the SPC 130 is a market-ready product that’s been shown a couple of times already in central Europe. So this is the most productive highly automated corrugated single pass press on the market.”

He adds that the CorruJet addresses an even higher volume market and can also deal with fine details. “So if a customer requires volume far beyond 10 million or even 20 million square metres per year, that’s a potential customer for the CorruJet. So we have a nice line up for moderate to very high volumes, and for even higher volumes. So we have a very unique offer for the corrugated market and no one else offers really two different solutions.”

Rondo Ganahl is building a dedicated digital print unit at its St Ruprecht an der Raab facility in Austria.

There are currently four SPC 130s installed right now, including one in Germany, and one in Austria, with all using the same food-compliant water based inkset. One of these is installed at Rondo Ganahl, a large corrugated board and packaging manufacturer, with six plants across Europe, mainly serving the food industry, mostly with flexo and offset printing. Since installing an SPC 130 two years ago, the company has seen digital corrugated production grow by 25-30 percent and is now planning to set up a new digital production plant at its St Ruprecht an der Raab site in Austria later this year. 

Karl Pucher, managing director of Rondo Ganahl at St Ruprecht an der Raab, explained: “During these Covid times we see that lead times are going down and artworks are changed a lot at short notice. Being able to print digitally means we are flexible and able to deliver the requirements in a very short time. This is what brands are demanding. The Delta SPC 130 with its water-based technology from Durst is providing the solutions that we need for delivery to the food industry. The growth in sales has been so big that we decided to build a new facility for digital printing. And we hope to move in during the autumn.”

Barr says that the main market is primary food packaging, where the use of water-based ink should give the SPC 130 an edge over competitors such as EFI Nozomi and Barberan, which use UV inks. There are other vendors that are also using water-based inks but he adds: “We see our press as the most automated and most productive press, for customers running beyond 10 million square metres where we have the most proven press on the market”

The cost depends on configuration but should be around €4 – 4.5 million. I will follow this story up with a second part in a few days discussing the Quadro array printheads and the Water Technology ink. In the meantime, you can find further details on the SPC 130 from koenig-bauer-durst.com.

…with a little help from my friends

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