10 June 2018 Digital Printing Technologies

Canon plays first card in packaging hand with LabelStream

Canon has introduced an inkjet label press, a first bid to establish a strong presence in the digitally printed packaging sector.

Canon is making a second bid to enter the market for digitally printed packaging, this time focusing on inkjet technologies.

It has introduced the LabelStream 4000, a press comprising an Edale transport and flexo units and FFEI imaging unit using Xaar printheads and crucially Canon’s ‘inkjet DNA”. It is currently the only product for a new industrial and packaging print division that will have a worldwide footprint.

Previously Canon had developed a carton press at its Point facility as the Infinistream using a liquid toner technology. But while a press was installed at a beta site, development encountered a number of obstacles that would prevent its effective commercialisation and the project was pulled.

But Canon did not abandon the idea of taking on the packaging market and has applied the market research and experience to an inkjet based approach. LabelStream, which will reach the first installations later this year, is the first evidence of this commitment.

The press uses the experience of two UK companies. Edale provides the transport system and the fast change flexo units and die cutting solution. These are built around its Aiir automated impression, inking and registration technology. Up to ten flexo units can be specified as part of the LabelStream configuration. It also includes AVT inspection systems as is part of the Edale Aiir approach.

This is combined with an imaging unit from FFEI, a combination which has aired resulted in the Graphium label press that Edale sells. Graphium, however, can run with six inkjet heads, LabelStream has five, white plus CMYK. It does, however, have space for additional colours. Print width is also different, Graphium having a fixed 450mm print width compared to the 330mm or 405mm of LabelStream.

LabelStream also uses the latest Xaar 2001 printhead to run at 48m/min in standard mode, and 68m/min in a fast production mode. Two versions are used: the GS6U for the CMYK heads offering finer details and the GS12U for the high opacity white.

The largest difference comes with the UV ink that Canon has developed. The company has many years experience in inkjet inks having created multiple ink types for large format UV printing and aqueous inks for continuous feed printing for transactional, direct mail and book printing.

The white ink that has been developed for LabelStream bears this out. There are two versions, a high opacity Alpine white or a True White with a slightly lower opacity.

As well as competing with Graphium, the Canon press as a hybrid machine will be up against presses from Omet, where Durst is the partner, the Heidelberg Labelmaster and Nilpeter’s Panorama press. The inkjet market is also populated by standalone presses from Durst, Domino, Uteco, Mark Andy, Stork and most recently Xeikon.

It is, however, pitching against the Xeikon and especially HP Indigo label presses that have the lion’s share of the digital label market. Canon reckons that the LabelStream will offer twice the productivity and 30% lower running costs than its toner rivals.

Gareth Ward

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The new LabelStream 4000 is a new move on the labels and packaging market where digital print technologies are starting to make significant inroads. It is a second attempt for Canon Océ following the cancellation of the Infinstream project.

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