China’s label industry is dominated by domestically-owned, fast-developing companies, especially those producing self-adhesive labels. Labels produced in China account for more than 50% of the total label market in Asia but most are produced using analog printing. The adoption of digital printing technologies by label converters takes time but China’s demand for digital printing is growing fast. The market requires short-run, print-on-demand, quick turnaround and personalization capabilities. And for label converters, digital printing is the answer.
In addition to western companies such as HP, Xeikon, Konica Minolta, Epson, Domino, Durst and Screen that operate in the Chinese market, there are also domestic OEMs such as Haotian, Flora, HanGlobal, Pulisi and others that offer UV digital label presses. Many of these OEMs are starting to participate in European trade events such as Labelexpo Europe.
Guangzhou Haotian Machinery Manufacturing, a manufacturer of printing and finishing equipment in China, launched its first digital label press in 2015. Today, the company offers fourth-generation inkjet presses in 216 mm and 314 mm print widths, such as the Haotian HTS220/HTS330, equipped with Kyocera printheads. Both presses can be upgraded to 9 colors and have a maximum print speed of 50 m/min. Haotian does not participate in trade shows outside its home country, preferring to sell its machines on the local Chinese market.
China-based inkjet OEMS operating abroad
I previously wrote about HanGlobal and its LabStar 330S label inkjet press. The company has taken part in all the major international trade fairs, including Labelexpo Americas and Labelexpo Europe and already has press installations outside of the APAC region.
Another major China-based player in the production inkjet market that has recently started offering UV label presses abroad is Shenzhen Runtianzhi Digital Equipment Co., LTD (RTZ). Established in 2000, the company is a supplier of industrial digital printing solutions, with a focus on digital inkjet printing. It sells its machines under the FLORA brand. RTZ’s product applications include covers sign and display, textile, ceramic, corrugated, label and POD printing.
The first wide-format solvent printer for indoor and outdoor advertising was produced by Flora Runtianzhi in 2000 and won an award for innovation. In 2004, the LJ-1800 became China’s first UV-curable wide-format printer. The company unveiled a completely revamped portfolio at last year’s FESPA, demonstrating its printers, now upgraded with new Epson printheads.
Having become one of China’s leading manufacturers of wide format printers, RTZ turned its attention to ceramic and textile printing, developing Cjet1000 in 2011 and Tjet1000 in 2013. The company’s textile printers now range from large format roll-fed sublimation printers to direct-to-garment printers capable of producing hundreds of items per month. In 2019, RTZ launched a press for printing on corrugated board. Today the company offers both scanning and single-pass corrugated digital inkjet printers up to 2.5 x 2.5 m and a speed of up to 150 m/min.
The latest addition to RTZ’s inkjet portfolio, about three years ago, was its first web-fed inkjet press with water-based inks for the POD market, the Phenix 330/440/660 for printing books, magazines, catalogues and brochures. It achieves a printing speed of up to 100 m/min and resolution of 600×600 dpi or 600×1200 dpi at a slower speed.
Using the expertise, that it has developed in the wide-format graphics market, Flora Runtianzhi has also entered the market for digital label printing. The first machine that can be called a digital printing press was launched by RTZ in 2017. It was the label printing system Digiweb 340. Today the company offers 3 models for label printing: J-330, J-330S and the recently launched J-350 Pro. The J-330S is a 4th generation press which was demonstrated at Labelexpo Americas 2022. It is a 5-color, CMYK+W, UV inkjet press designed as a compact reel-to-reel single-pass platform. With a 1 m diameter roll unwind, capable of handling up to 370 mm-wide media and with a print width of up to 350 mm, it supports a wide range of applications. It uses 15 Epson S3200 600 npi printheads and can run at speeds of up to 60 m/min, offering high productivity and flexibility. The maximum print resolution is 1200×600 dpi at a slower speed of 30 m/min. J-330S uses a combination of the smallest drop sizes of 3.2 pl and nominal drop sizes of 5 pl and 10 pl, providing consistent ink density across the image.
The J-330 is a previous generation model. It is bigger and faster than the J-330S – with print speed of up to 75 m/min and it can have additional Orange and Violet colors. The press has slightly smaller roll widths – 350 mm with a maximum print width of 320 mm. It can be driven by popular RIPs including Onyx or Atlas from Global Inkjet Systems.
Recently introduced Flora J-350 Pro is a new hybrid 6-color digital label press. The standard configuration is CMYK with optional White (single or dual channel), spot Orange, Violet or Varnish. The press can be equipped with flexo stations for extended capabilities, such as pre-coat, brand spot color or cold foil. Equipped with 18 Epson S3200 print heads, the Flora J-350 Pro has a maximum print speed of 60 m/min with a resolution of 600×600 dpi and a print width of 350 mm.
The Flora brand is already well known outside China for its wide format printers and is now expanding into inkjet label presses for the international market. The company took part in Latin America’s first label and packaging printing exhibition LABEL EXPO MEXICO 2023 and will participate Labelexpo Europe 2023 in Brussels in September.
Guangzhou Pulisi Technology Co.,, the company known for automatic quality inspection systems, recently launched the Pulisi AOBEAD DPIM-330 digital press in Korea and the USA. The UV inkjet label press has a maximum print resolution of 600 dpi x1200 dpi and the standard CMYK+W configuration with the in-line Inspection system. It also offers a hybrid press with flexo modules and custom spot colors, as well as an entry-level press DSMART-220. All models use Epson printheads and have a maximum print speed of 60 m/min. The company signed a North American sales agent for the US and Mexico markets and has decided to set up a demo room in Mexico City.
Labelexpo Europe is the world’s largest event for the label and package printing industry and the presence of Chinese companies is sizeable. Major label inkjet press manufacturers from China include HanGlobal, Flora and Pulisi among the participants at the September 2023 event, so it is a good chance to plan ahead, see the presses running, and to talk to the vendors.