Part one of the drupa I missed … packaging potential

Part one of the drupa I missed … packaging potential

It feels very strange to be missing drupa for the first time since the early 1980s but, just because physically I’m absent, doesn’t mean I’m not there in spirit and the mind is still busy ticking away and considering where the strongest influences will lie at this year’s event. So, even though I’m absent, it won’t stop me writing about it and using some guesswork in terms of the action.

Were I asked to guess at a key area for ink-jet at this year’s drupa, I’d have gone with my gut instinct that I predicted a while back — and that it would be that it’s packaging’s turn to come to the fore this time. For exhibitors in the wide-format segment there have been other shows, of course, where this has been mentioned but it seems apposite that Düsseldorf should provide the best world-wide platform at the right time to announce technologies that are geared up for this type of production — and hit the right audiences.

The concept of working with corrugated sheets isn’t new for most wide-format technologies, given that many of the principles involved don’t differ wildly from producing FDUs used in point-of-purchase applications. HP is no newcomer to this market segment with both the Indigo and its Scitex flat-bed options, plus variable data and versioning being key drivers, as well as changes in logistics helping to offset the additional price per print. However, speed and material handling are also vital aspects in digital packaging and addressing these points has been key to making successful printing machines. With many manufacturers, essentially what has happened is that flat-bed technology has moved up several gears but the trick in the corrugated arena has been the ability to enable a low enough unit cost across different volumes to make a digital transition a sensible business prospect. Modifying an existing engine to tackle a market sector where growth is inevitable involves changes that cut across all areas of workflow yet sensibly maintains the elements that can be used as valuable parts of an ink-jet platform.

It is hardly surprising to see major players at drupa bringing out the latest digital editions that fill the corrugated packaging remit. Here are the first to come to my attention. Well-versed in all aspects of working with rigid materials, including boards, EFI has launched a new machine in the form of the Nozomi C18000 which features four levels of greyscale and single pass print-heads. A sensible move is that its new Fiery DFE will integrate with EFI’s MIS and ERP productivity options which makes perfect sense in busy environments where job management and accountability are both vital components.

Durst is another using drupa to highlight its newest offering into the packaging sector with its Rho 130 SPC but this machine is based around the company’s water technology and emphasises its future plans for sustainability and applications in the food sector, thanks to its non-hazardous inks. This again uses single-pass print-head technology, already founds in its Tau 330E label printer.

But packaging isn’t just about printing to sheets — another example to be found at drupa is from INX International with its direct-to-object solution for metal decoration, the CP100 UV digital cylindrical printer, that can match brand colours. Driven by FlexPack software, supplied exclusively by CMA imaging, colour accurate half-tone and continuous tone proofing and prototyping can be generated direct to cans with the CP100 or as wrap printing using Roland’s VersaCAMM VSi wide-format engine.

I can’t bring you the hustle and bustle of the halls at the Messe Düsseldorf nor the latest dramas. But what I am hoping to do during the next week or so is to have a quick look at some the technologies on show and how they’re intending to shape the industry — and bring them here.