Coming out of Drupa, I see history repeating itself for digital package printing. In the early 1990s Indigo entered the narrow web labels sector with their Omnius digital press which paved the way for single pass digital printing of labels. Also in those early days Xeikon, offered the DCP/32S a dry toner press and others introduced UV inkjet single pass systems. The common theme was that all these companies entered the labels market as digital printing specialists rather than label specialists. In hindsight, I think all these vendors would admit that back then they ‘didn’t know what they didn’t know’ about the labels business. In these early the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufactures) had a very limited understanding of the business dynamics driving the labels sector.
In the mid 1990s as digital label printing was gaining a slight foothold in the sector, the OEMs decided it was a good idea to bring laser die cutting into the discussion. At the time, lasers were in the early days of development for this application but showed a great deal of promise, just like the digital presses. I remember many heated discussions among vendors as to the merits of placing the laser die cutter inline with the digital press or leaving it offline as a stand-alone station – a question still being asked today. I recall seeing a very painful LabelExpo demonstration in 2004 of a MarkAndy flexo web press with the Dotrix SPICE (Single Pass Inkjet Color Engine) with laser die cutting stations added. The purpose of the demo was to show how well the “combo” would work, but problems with the laser and the rewind did not help the demo showcase a ‘solution’.
Timing is everything, and it was not viable in 2004. LabelExpo 2011 and Drupa 2012 however, featured vendors such as Jetrion among others, who showed fully integrated laser die cutting options within their new modular systems. Timely solutions, delivered to a market that is ready to adopt them into a production environment.
So what is all this talk about history? As a packaging guy this Drupa really resonated with me as “the we think we have a digital solution for Packaging” Drupa. There were so many companies showing systems that could handle “board” and they used that as license to say they are “packaging” presses. Let’s take a look at a few digital solutions that caught most of the packaging (in this case for cartons) press (pun intended). On the digital press side the obvious introductions are those of Landa, the S10 (S standing for Sheetfed) and the HPIndigo 30000 presses that have been designed from the ground up to address folding carton production.
It is clear to me that both Landa (who by the way was the father of the first digital systems and the Indigo printing system) and HP did their homework before coming out with these presses. Both companies are building on lessons learned in the days of developing digital label systems. For example, both companies used outside expertise to expand their core strengths for component development such as sheet handling. Both went to the carton marketplace to understand the needs of carton manufactures before they came to market with a machine they thought would work. And biggest of all, both seem to understand the business and manufacturing dynamics of the carton market better than their predecessors did in the label sector 10 years ago.
The next digital carton related technology that was shown was the Euclid system by startup HighCon. This system is the first of its kind digital die cutting system for short run cartons. There is a lot written about this system so I wont go into it in detail here. I do see the Euclid as a well conceived and developed first attempt at addressing the next bottleneck in the carton workflow. I also think more systems will be seen at Drupa 2016 that address this need. I expect acceptance of digital die cutting for the carton sector will progress, as the presses will, much faster than they did in the label sector. This will be partly due to the advancement in the laser technology itself, which is significant, but more so but the understanding OEMs are seeking of the marketplace they are trying to serve.
I also commend the HighCon team for understanding that this system should not just be tied to the digital printing engines, that it has a place in all of short run cartons. This is illustrated by their collaboration with Presstek and their 75DI digital offset press. This combination can be used for economical short carton runs of 500 to 20,000 impressions. This type of collaborative thinking is happening much earlier in the development cycle for cartons than it did for labels and bodes well for the evolution of the digital process for cartons.
For these reasons and for the fact that digital printing technologies (liquid toner, dry toner, Inkjet, and now nanography) have come so far over the past decade, I feel by next Drupa digital carton presses will be seen as viable production press options rather than cool new technologies that aren’t even in beta yet.
Kudos to the OEMs for learning from the past and for looking to the future…Continue reading
WOW what a first day…
Drupa is living up to its reputation of bringing new technology to the industry. Historically companies have introduced new technologies to Drupa that will are expected to hit the market by the following Drupa (4 years out). Depending on where products are in their development cycle the 4 years could be 2 or even one year away. This is what we saw today. Unfortunately, due to flight delays our time on the floor for day one was cut to about 3 hours, but what a 3 hours! First we met an old client who is working on a new technology which will be ready to be shown in a year or two (with technology this could be twice that). This company is well under the radar of users and most technology developers as well but the promise of this new digital printing technology is quite interesting (which is a step or two before ‘promising’). I can not say much about it but we promise we will be keeping our eyes on it for you.
After seeing the ‘future’ we went to the place on the floor that seemed to be BUZZING, you guessed it, the Landa booth. Unable to catch the entire presentation by Benny Landa, due to our arrival delays, we were able to see the new presses that all the hype is surrounding. We have to say we were impressed!
The user interface strikes you right off the bat, it looks like the workstations that Jordy and Data worked at on the Enterprise. The whole front panel is the screen. The user interface is similar to a big iPad with icons that move by using one or two fingers, so clean and simple a child could operate it. Short of its sexiness, it will be up to the market to tell us if it is practical in a production environment.
We did learn that the paper handling of the S10 (S for Sheet) press designed for folding carton production, was engineered by Komori, a company who knows about sheetfed carton presses. The S10 is looking at Beta launch in 2013, and we can tell by the print samples (which they display on the wall for all to see) that there is still some work to be done from an image streaking perspective. The image intensity and density of color seems to be very good but they freely admit there is still work to be done and will hold off pushing it into the market until these issues have been addressed. We will spend more time in the Landa booth over the next four days and continue to report what we see. We have yet to report on the Flexible Packaging press, so stay tuned!
From the Landa Booth we headed to the HP Press Conference. We felt a little bad for HP – particularly the Indigo division – as they have some HUGE news of their own which has been a bit overshadowed by the Landa announcements. We had the privilege to attend their Pre-Drupa event in March to get a sneak peak of the new press line (read about it here). We have dubbed the 0000 (or ought 4) the 10000 (no comas) a 20 by 30 inch sheet fed press, the 20000 off the same engine which is a web press for the Flexible Packaging market and the 30000 for the Folding Carton market. We will be spending time in their booth the next day or two, and we will report on the latest news in detail. Don’t worry, we won’t forget to review the label press innovations based on their current engine – that should peak your interest enough to tune in tomorrow!
So, for a short day there was much to see and talk about. For up to the minute images and coverage, follow @DigitalKevin on Twitter or hashtag #DrupaPack. Be sure to continue to check out the Digital4Packaging Blog at Package Printing Magazine’s website.