Packaging innovations report

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.

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