Xeikon launches Lion label press

Xeikon has shown off a new dry toner label press at this year’s Label Expo, the LX3000 Lion, which is effectively the third generation of its Cheetah press platform.

As such it’s essentially a faster version of the existing CX300. This it is a five colour press with a 322mm print width and 1200 dpi resolution, but with the speed increased from 30mpm to 42mpm.

Senior product manager Frank Jacobs explain to me: “To get the higher speed we had to do some extra things. We took the Print Media Conditioner unit and we put in some extra power. We have a non-contact pre-heating device that preheats the substrate directly before the actual fusing, and then the print stations were also adapted to keep up with the charging and de-charging because everything is faster.”

For now there are no plans for a wider 508mm LX5000 version because it is more difficult to print at this speed across the wider web though it does seem as if it’s only a matter of time before Xeikon overcomes this limitation, assuming the market is there for it.

The new press features an automated calibration system that Xeikon calls Cruise Control, and which is an upgrade to the existing Quality Measurement Module, or QMM.  This uses a spectrophotometer and a camera system to monitor the density and registration. It was sold as an optional extra for most of the series 2 CX300 and CX500 machines but is fitted as standard to the Lion presses. 

The Lion also comes with an upgrade to the X800 DFE with a new version 9 software, which in turn has allowed Xeikon to upgrade the QMM to Cruise Control. This system starts off by asking the operator to check that the machine is in full working order and then checks four criteria: density of the different print stations; linearisation of the print stations; colour to colour registration; and a reference check of the colour.

Xeikon prints a colour wedge on the edge of the media, based on a Fogra wedge. Jacobs says: “If the colour shifts with a variation of less than Delta E 2  then we will try to correct this automatically.” If the shift is less than Delta E 4 then the system will warn the operator, and if the variation is larger then it will assume something has gone badly wrong and issue an alarm. The system also prints a traffic light control on the opposite edge to give the operator a visual and verifiable confirmation. Thus a green dot means that everything is working as expected, amber suggests that the operator might need to check the print quality while a red dot indicates a problem.

The version 9 software upgrade will be offered to existing customers at the start of 2024 so that anyone with the QMM option will be able to upgrade to Cruise Control. 

Xeikon has also developed a new Eco toner to use with the Lion series machines. Lode Deprez, vice president of technology for digital inks, told me that the company takes sustainability seriously. Thus around 60 percent of the base particles are made with high-grade transparent recycled PET. The Eco toner builds on Xeikon’s previous generation of toners that are free from BPA, mineral oil, and photo initiators. In addition, the Eco toner does not use any fluorine (either inorganic and PFAS) and is 100 percent vegan. Consequently the Eco toners are suitable for applications with indirect food contact with only a paper barrier, and for FDA direct food contact with dry food, which in turn should make recycling those materials much easier. Additionally, the Eco toners comply with the European Toy Safety Directive, the Nestlé Guidance Note on Packaging Inks, and the Swiss and German Printing Ink Ordinances.

For now, this Eco toner will be standard on the Lion but Xeikon is planning to roll it out to the older CX300 and CX500 machines at some point next year. 

Overall, the faster speed should help to keep Xeikon in the digital labels game. Jacobs says: “We don’t need to compete against inkjet because we also sell inkjet. We see the differences in the application. We say that if you want to print labels for food, then don’t go for UV. We think that some applications like health and beauty are better for UV inkjet but for very fine detail, for wine, for food, then dry toner is the way to go.”

Xeikon currently has two beta test sites in Europe. The LX3000 should be available in the first half of next year and will cost around €600,000, which includes the installation and the DFE. 

Xeikon also showed off its new Triton toner and TX500 press, which is designed to print to a wider range of food packaging, and which I’ll cover in a separate story.

In the meantime, you can find further details on the Lion LX3000 at xeikon.com.


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