CS Labels has been a first mover for previous Xeikon presses, the Cheetah, latterly the CX3, and the CX500. However, when managing director Simon Smith began looking at inkjet presses, it was not a shoo in. “We looked at Screen and at Domino,” he says. “but the best commercial fit for us was Xeikon, not least because it runs with the same X800 front end as the toner presses. All the other inkjet front ends have been that great.”
The inkjet press extends the range of products that CS Labels can produce. “There are certain applications where inkjet should be better than toner, on heat sensitive PPEs, health and beauty labels on clear films where the opacity of inkjet white is stronger and the speed of the press is better than toner. Inkjet is very much complimentary to what we we already do,” he says.
It will be able to combine the technologies, in peel and reveal labels for example, where the company has not been strong to date.
There is also an eye to the future. There is greater scope for development in inkjet technologies and while UV inkjet has limitations, not yet matching the print quality of toner nor offering food safe inks that toner can. On the other hand, UV inkjet can produce greater lift, which is liked in the drinks sector.
“Because we are totally digital, inked will expand the scope of what we can do. We wanted to see where inkjet would work for us,” he adds.
This led to an agreement to install a machine on an initial six-month loan period. CS Labels began printing on it at the end of January, leading into Drupa where Smith will check the latest developments and what the next generation of machines can offer in terms of speed. “Will we see water based and speeds of 100 metres a minute – I think we will,” he adds. “We didn’t want to wait for another three or four years until this happens before we dip our toes in.
“Inkjet is very different to toner, a whole different form of printing.” Issues around head replacement or recovery, cost of the ink, service back up and more needs to be understood. “And we must understand what is commercially acceptable. Some customers will prefer the inkjet finish and we have some positive feedback.”
The company has also taken delivery of the first GM DC350 finishing line in the UK. The inkjet press is running reel to reel, but at 50 m/min it is faster than the existing finishing lines with a capacity of 46m/min. The new line can run at 80m/min, so has room to cope.
The speed is also crucial to pushing into new sectors. The bottom end of the digital market is becoming crowded, says Smith. CS Labels has had to change, moving into pouch production on the one hand, and offering more on the other. “The first job we ran on the inkjet press was 28,000 linear metres. Xeikon was surprised, but we have to move away from the short run market. We want to continue to push at the boundaries.”