We anticipate a big year for inkjet product launches in 2020. With drupa cancelled some vendors may have held back planned launches, yet a good number of inkjet presses in label and packaging printing came to the market this year or were announced for next year.
This article provides an overview of the major announcements in each sector with a bit of context on the overall market. Come back tomorrow for an overview of inkjet launches in the production document/commercial printing markets.
Inkjet for Labels
Label printing is the packaging segment where inkjet has made its biggest inroads so far. There is an abundance of products available, yet vendors keep upping the stakes with advances in technology.
Domino Printing Sciences launched the N730i press, calling it the ‘most significant’ product the company has launched since it started in the digital label press business in 2013 – with almost 1,000 global installations already. It is the first press to use the new Generation 7 inkjet platform and also the first device using inkjet heads from its parent company Brother Industries. The Brother Bitstar deployed is a 1,200dpi print head using a combination of drop sizes of 2.1pl and nominal drop sizes of 2.8pl and 3.3pl. The new press is designed to print high opacity white at 70m/min (230ft/min). The N730i is available with optional flexo stations for priming, for spot colours or varnishing, or for reverse white for cost-effective shrink sleeve applications. The new press also includes Domino’s own in-house developed UV90 ink including a high opacity white. The device is shipping already. A more detailed overview of the press can be found here.
Xeikon launched the PX30000, a seven-colour UV label presses which is based on the Domino N610i but features Xeikon’s own X-800 digital front end. The PX30000 complements Xeikon’s other inkjet (the Panther Series and the Jetrion line) and dry toner offerings, especially for users with higher volumes that want to have the UV ink look and feel.
Mouvent started offering their top label printer model, the LB702-UV, in 2019. Not entirely a new device but an important extension of their offerings is a waterbased ink version named 702-WB. At the moment Mouvent is fine-tuning the device and the drying system and will start with a 80 m/min speed, and quickly advance to 100 m/min. The necessary Infrared (IR) drier increases the length of the device considerably. Apart from being environmentally friendly and food-safe, the inks produce a matte look, if that should be desired. Again, the COVID crisis brought some delays, but LB702-WB is about to start shipping.
ArrowJet Aqua 330R from Arrow Systems is a high-speed, aqueous pigment inkjet roll-to-roll print solution using Memjet DuraFlex technology and a print engine from Colordyne. The printer is a compact light production solution but offers high speeds (up to 150 ft/min or 45.7 m/min) and resolutions up to 1,600 x 1,600 dpi. The web width is 330 mm/13”. As with all printers using Memjet technology, inks are aqueous inks.
Another company using Memjet heads is COASO. In January the iCueLabel Press 420 was launched. Specs are similar to the ArrowJet, however with COASO being based in China the printer is targeted mostly at Asian markets.
With runs getting shorter, digital print is the method of choice. In many print applications toner printing and increasingly inkjet has already made some inroads. The folding carton segment has a strong tendency towards shorter runs, but the large formats usually required limited the uptake of toner presses. Among all digital printing technologies inkjet is best suited for large formats and high productivity, but it has been a bumpy ride to get matching solutions out. The year started with bad news for inkjet folding carton print as Heidelberg discontinued the Primefire 106, which was launched only 4 years before. Heidelberg cited the market not being ready.
Koenig & Bauer feels differently and continued work on the VariJET 106. Initially revealed at drupa 2016 the company planned to show the B1 press running at drupa 2020. The press combines a 7-colour inkjet imaging unit developed by Durst with a sheet transport and flexo pre- & post-print units from Koenig & Bauer. Accordingly, both companies formed a joint venture to market the press. (I covered the Koenig & Bauer Durst partnership previously.) The company is selecting beta customers now and general availability will start in mid-2021.
Inkjet has barely made inroads into flexible packaging. Although flexible packaging is a huge market, the challenges are also big. UV inks are undesirable for food packaging, a major area for flex pack. For aqueous inks, being able to print with water on plastics is challenging. Additionally, the print technology needs to connect well to the subsequent finishing steps in laminating and pouch making. Despite the challenges, the competition is heating up with an array of launches this year all using aqueous inks.
The Truepress PAC830F is the latest addition to the SCREEN inkjet portfolio and moves the company into flexible packaging. With a printing speed of 75 meters per minute (4,500 m/h) for materials of up to 830 mm wide and a resolution of 1,200 dpi, the Truepress PAC830F is a quite productive flexible packaging printer. The press is using CMYK and white water-based inks that conform to relevant food safety regulations according to SCREEN. The Truepress PAC830F is currently scheduled for release around March 2021
The UTECO Sapphire EVO W production inkjet press for flexible packaging is not exactly new, having been announced in 2019. It became fully available in June this year. The “W” refers to “wide” since this press has a 1250 mm (49 in.) width and a maximum speed of 150 m/min, targeting top productivity users. It is the first press to be powered by Kodak ULTRASTREAM continuous inkjet technology.
Even though there is no formal announcement, the Landa W10 should be mentioned lest readers think we missed it. Originally announced in 2016, the press was planned to go into beta in the second half of 2020. At a Landa-hosted virtual event in September, Benny Landa said that he hopes to have the first W10 installed at a “pre-beta” site sometime in 2021.
While all the previous solutions discussed cater for the high volume markets, there was also news on the low volume & low investment end. Afinia Label launched the Afinia FP-230, a desktop press for flexible packaging with a maximum media width of 230mm, using Memjet’s Versapass DN technology. Resolution is 1600 dpi, with speeds up to 18m per minute. The water-based inks are approved for food packaging when combined with inline cold lamination.
For quite a while corrugated seemed out of reach for digital print. That makes it all the more surprising that so many presses became available in recent years. The focus of the launches shifted from preprint presses to postprint on corrugated sheets.
Keeping with that trend, there have been some new introductions and updates to postprint corrugated presses in 2020. In June Xeikon introduced the IDERA platform. The press uses certified food-safe water-based inks on coated and uncoated corrugated sheets up to 1.6 m wide x 2.8 m long at up to 150 linear m/min (492 fpm). The Xeikon IDERA is based on the Hanway Glory with upgrades and DFE introduced by Xeikon. The first press is now at Xeikon’s Global Innovation Center in Lier, Belgium.
Domino launched the X630i in June as well. The press supports sheets up to 1,6 x 3m (63” x 118”) and has a print width of 1346 mm (53”). Kyocera heads with 600dpi resolution are used within Domino’s iTech inkjet platform. iTech refers to modules for ink optimization and conditioning, an automated stitching of printheads and automated cleaning and capping of printheads. The press has been designed to be relatively compact, still sporting a length of 11.5 meters (38 feet). Domino inks are based on a novel, water-based ink technology labelled AQ95 i-Tech PolyM. The inks are pigmented and contain a polymer component to allow printing on a wide range of substrates. The X630i is based on the Sun Automation Corrstream but adding a lot of Domino expertise.
The most recent launch is the updated EFI Nozomi C18000 PLUS, which adds an advanced sheet transport, improved inspection system and features to recover jams faster. The Nozomi C18000 PLUS is available now and first installations are already being made.
Finally, the Koenig & Bauer – Durst joint venture concluded the beta test of the CorruJet this year and has now two corrugated printers available, together with the Delta SPC 130.
Moving forward we might see even more players entering. Additional single pass corrugated inkjet printers have been hinted from companies such as Inca (owned by Screen) and Mouvent (owned by Bobst). There could be more to come from China, the biggest packaging market in the world.
Labels and packaging will continue to be growth markets for inkjet and we anticipate new launches to review with you in 2021.