Screen expands into packaging market

Screen has released details of a new inkjet press, the PacJet FL830*, which uses water-based inks and is aimed at the flexible packaging market though it won’t be available until March 2021.

This Screen PacJet FL830 prints water-based ink to flexible film packaging.

This can take flexible media up to 830mm wide but prints an 800mm wide image. The press offers resolution up to 1200 dpi even at its maximum speed of 75mpm, though this speed does depend on the substrate. At present, the system handles both PET and OPP media and Screen says that it is hoping to expand this. 

Screen have been a bit coy about the printheads other than to say that the head has been designed specifically for single pass printing and has an ink circulation system. However, Screen has previously told me that they have used technology from the existing Truepress Jet 350UV range of label presses for the PacJet and since the label presses all use Kyocera heads I think it’s a reasonable bet that Screen has stuck with Kyocera, hopefully using the new second generation printheads though this is pure speculation on my part.

The press will launch with CMYK and white inks. There is also space for two further channels though Screen has not yet decided which colours to offer. That’s not surprising since Screen also says that it is still working on the inks so is unable to say at this stage how much of the Pantone range these inks can reproduce. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the FL830 is that it uses water-based inks. Naturally these inks are said to conform to relevant food safety regulations. However, since the image is printed to the reverse of the substrate, converters will have to conduct their own migration tests depending on the barrier materials that they use. 

Inevitably, the substrates will first have to be primed to accept the water-based inks so there’s also an analog coater unit that’s not shown in the picture above. The other big problem with putting water-based inks onto plastic films is drying off the water without damaging the substrate. For this Screen has opted to use hot air over the course of a long tunnel. There’s also a module within the DFE that includes an image scaling tool to help cope with the effects of film stretching. The press itself measures 20m long, 6m wide and 3.5m high, including the winder/ unwinder and coating unit. 

Screen says that the price will be between $3-4 million for the press and that it will be cost-effective on jobs up to 4000 metres. This means of course that the market opportunity depends entirely on how many wide web flexo converters are currently being asked for short run jobs. It also assumes that those converters would rather go digital than dedicating a flexo press to an extended colour gamut inkset that would reduce makeready times and be able to compete for shorter run work. Nonetheless, there’s clearly a lot of interest in printing water-based inkjet to flexible films and this is a significant announcement and I have no doubt that there will be more to say about this in the near future.

Screen showed off this printbar, developed for BHS Corrugators, at Drupa 2016.

It’s also worth pointing out that Screen has been working with BHS Corrugated for several years now to develop an inkjet module for its corrugated presses. The idea here is to have a separate unit that can be retrofitted to the existing corrugaters, meaning that it has to run at 300mpm and across a print width of 2.8m in order to keep up with those presses. Screen did show an early sample of this printbar at Drupa 2016 and we might reasonably hope to see a commercially available version for next year’s Drupa though Screen is still unable to commit to this. 

This inkjet module has been developed at Screen’s UK subsidiary, GPIJC, which is based in Cambridge alongside Inca Digital, also owned by Screen. Inca Digital generally seems to favour Fujifilm Dimatix printheads so no surprise that this printbar uses Samba printheads. Naturally it will use water-based inks and be suitable for use with food packaging. 

Screen has also taken this technology a stage further and has been developing a single pass sheetfed printer for corrugated and folding carton. This will be a B1 flatbed press. Screen told me that the target is to deliver comparable quality to a Landa S10 but at higher speed. This also has been developed by the team at Inca Digital and the plan is to produce it in Cambridge, though production might be moved to Japan if demand exceeds Inca’s production capacity. The price for this is also said to be between $3-4 million. I’ve already covered this in an earlier story here, which explains some of the early thinking behind it.

Altogether, this gives Screen an extremely strong entry into the packaging market, with a wide web press for flexible films, a sheetfed press for corrugated as well as the existing label printers that have proved reasonably successful in the market. Over the next few months we will see other vendors also targeting these markets with their own announcements, and hopefully we’ll all be able to see these machines next year in Dusseldorf.

In the meantime, it’s worth keeping an eye on, where there’s a dedicated page for the PacJet FL830 and hopefully Screen will add more information as we closer to Drupa 2021.

*UPDATE: Screen has since renamed this press as the Pac830F.

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