Epson, HP, and Quick Label Systems Announcements Highlight PackExpo Day Two

The second day of PackExpo 2013 was highlighted by several digital printing announcements and continued strong attendance. As with the first day of the show the aisles were full with attendees, including many international visitors. Of the 26,000 or so buyers, Mexico represented the biggest group with about 1,000 attendees, followed by China and Japan. In all 25% of Pack Expo visitors are from outside the United States. On the announcement front we saw several new products from companies such as Epson, HP, and Quick Label Systems.

Epson simultaneously released their new label digital printing system at LabelExpo in Brussels Belgium and PackExpo in the United States. The new SurePress L-6034VW and L-6034V are developed around a new platform called PrecisionCore linehead. PrecisionCore line head is comprised of two components: a new inkjet head and a line print bar. The new inkjet head is manufactured in a microelectromechanical systems (i.e., MEMS-based) process with 600 dot-per-inch (dpi) resolution, 1.5 to 24 picoliter drop size, and 50 kilohertz drop velocity. To achieve the 50 foot per minute (fpm) throughput of the new system Epson developed a line print bar that has in 11 staggered print heads providing a total image width of up to 13 inches. The PrecisionCore technology in the L-6034VW is likely a precursor to many other possible implementations of this technology in future products.

The SurePress L-6034VW and L-6034V are printing systems with image size ranging from 3.15” to 13” in width and up to 39.37” long, print resolution of 600 by 600 dpi, and 50 fpm speed for static printing (25 fpm for printing with variable data). The system has the following features:

  • Quick curing UV ink
  • UV LED and conventional curing
  • White + CMYK + varnish for the L6034VW model
  • CMYK + varnish for the L-6034V model
  • Varnish can be applied in three ways: glossy flood coating, matte flood coating, and an image-based selective UV coating that allows for some elements of the image to be matte and smooth while other areas can be glossy.
  • A center imaging drum that keeps substrate in position to ensure accurate imaging
  • An automatic maintenance cycle to keep the system operating at maximum up time including an Epson-developed inkjet nozzle testing tool that can analyze the status of each ink chamber for faults and proceed with corrective measure as needed to complete the print job.

The system initial list price is $550,000 and available now for customer orders.

HP News: New Cartridges, Inks, and Indigo Silver

Delivering more inks to more substrates is the theme behind several HP announcements. The new HP 45si Print Cartridge (integrated with the print head) is optimized for mild solvent inks, used for printing on non-porous and semi-porous substrates. The 45si cartridge can support extended shelf life for ethanol-based solvent inks, helping OEM partners and ink developers to improve supply chain and inventory management processes. The HP 45si Print Cartridge enables higher-frequency printing at a longer throw distance for higher productivity. It also supports higher viscosity inks, expanding the range of substrates it can print on. Partners such as Collins, General, ImTech, Mylan Group, and Tritron will be able to use this cartridge to develop their own solutions. To complement the new cartridge HP introduced a new solvent ink, HP 2580, to be delivered in the new HP 45si Print Cartridge. HP 2580 solvent ink is designed for printing on coated and blister foils commonly used in the pharmaceutical market. The extended decap time of the HP 2580 ink provides production flexibility such that stopping and restarting production line can be done without having to maintain the print cartridge. HP 2580 Solvent Ink in the HP 45si Print Cartridge is expected to be available after January 2014.

In another packaging market announcement at LabelExpo, HP announced new silver inks for its HP Indigo product line. As the company expands its reach with its HP Indigo WS6000 series, which now has over 500 installations worldwide, the products are driving 25% year over year growth in print volume. Available in early 2014, HP Indigo ElectroInk Silver is intended for a range of label applications, including paint, automotive, household chemicals, beer, and soft drinks.

QuickLabel Systems – Kiaro! 200

QuickLabel systems announced the Kiaro! 200 label printing desktop printer, which is an 8” wide, 1200 dpi, thermal inkjet color printer capable of printing at 40 fpm. Key system features include:

  • Three print modes: Best, Fast, and Economy
  • Print resolution: 1200 x 1200 dpi
  • Printhead arrays: Two sets of CMYK printheads
  • Print speed: 2 to 8 inches per second (50 to 200 millimeters per second); user selectable and automatic.
  • Media sensing: Reflective mark and continuous
  • Label print area:

    • Edge-to-edge, full-bleed labels
    • Print Width: 4.25” (108 mm) to 8.37” (212 mm)
    • Print Length: 0.80” (20 mm) to 17.92” (455 mm)
  • Inks:

    • Ink cartridges: Separate cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink cartridges
    • Ink type: Dye-based, developed to withstand moderate moisture & UV light exposure

The Kiaro! 200 is priced at $21,995, which includes a one year warranty, custom QuickLabel Omni label creation software, and a full set of Kiaro! CMYK inks.

Thoughts on Pack Expo 2013

As we wrap up our review of PackExpo 2013 it is apparent that digital printing technologies continue to have a critical role in supporting brand owners and production facilities with new possibilities for innovation. As we write these final notes let’s take stock of the key areas where digital printing solutions add value, and enable innovation these include:

  • Product coding – Inkjet solutions, both drop-on-demand (DOD) and continuous inkjet (CIJ), have been generating critical markings for compliance and product identification for many years. These are all critical for supply chain management and keeping consumers informed. Advances in inkjet technology now allow these to be accomplished at higher resolution and faster speeds.

  • Prime label production – This is an area that was initially developed with electrophotographic as well as inkjet technologies and has experienced rapid growth with the rising demand for more SKUs, shorter print runs, and the need for high quality output. These digital systems, combined with innovative substrates, are now becoming part and parcel of the ticket, tag & label market. As with many digital technologies, we see innovation in this space as well as the introduction of new direct-to-shape digital production systems that in some applications provide additional avenues to brand owners to achieve improved time to market, lower production cost, and rich and vibrant output quality.

  • Flexible packaging & folding cartons – As the market continues to evolve, technologies that had their initial introduction in drupa 2012 are emerging in the marketplace. B2 systems with print widths of 29” are now enabling migration to flexible packaging applications for food packaging. This is a notable response to brand owners’ desire to offer innovative products that can enable mass customization with valuable products that command a premium. This approach was previously unattainable with conventional processes.

  • Corrugated cartons – As shelf-ready packaging takes center stage at PackExpo, the importance of corrugated packaging continues to grow. Typically the high quality needed for retail ready packaging is achieved through a Litho Laminate process, however to achieve a comparable quality for the increasing number of SKUs in shorter print runs, brand owners and converters are looking to digital printing for a solution. Today high productivity inkjet systems enable brand owners to offer short-run production of shelf ready color packaging that enables product testing as well as short run production. All while offering rich color, versioning, as well as personalized content as needed.

InfoTrends thinks that there are growing digital print opportunities for equipment vendors, converters, manufacturers and brand owners. Based on our latest Color Digital Label & Packaging forecast, InfoTrends estimates that the total retail of value of print generated by digital devices in this segment will increase by a 21% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017.

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