20 May 2018 Events

Fespa underlines the spread of possibilities through digital print

Fespa is spreading out from its core in display graphics into packaging and textiles thanks to the versatility of inkjet printing.

As the doors closed on Fespa in Berlin at the end of last week, the organiser announced that the whole show will move to Madrid in 2020.

And as Fespa in Berlin underlined how the exhibition is spreading its tentacles from display graphics into textiles and packaging, this will put the show into conflict with Interpack and Drupa which take place in Dusseldorf. Fespa will take place from 24-27 March; Interpack from 7-13 May and Drupa 16-26 June, both at the Dusseldorf Messe.

In the previous generation each would have a distinct and separate audience, both in terms of exhibitors and visitors. However, the rise of digital and especially inkjet technologies, is blurring the ages between the applications, the technology and the buyers. A company like HP has been a major exhibitor at each of the shows. How it balances what it announces at each and how it manages the logistics of build times and marketing will be debated over the next months.

The reasons for the convergence were also clear at Fespa. For the first time it ran a digital corrugated experience zone, reflecting that corrugated packaging is of the key battlegrounds for technology providers. HP announced that it has extended its PageWide T1100 2.8m wide press for corrugated packaging to support six colours. The kit to make this press into the T1170 is available was a retro fit, while the T1190 increases speed from 600m/min to 1,000m/min.

While EFI did not bring its Nozomi, aimed at the same corrugated packaging market, it did announce a first UK sale to Delta Group. This is a traditional display printer where direct to board printing will replace litho lam printing, at least for shorter runs. The same technology, different applications.

Higher production speeds on more conventional inkjet presses will also take an increasing share of the applications that previously only litho could address. The Inca Onset X3 was shown with robotic handling which is needed to cope with a potential productivity bottleneck is there with the Nozomi, HP’s C500 and the return of Agfa to this sector.

Agfa had been one of the pioneers of high sped inkjet with the MPress and returns with the Jeti Tauro H3300 LED. This is rated at a top speed of 453m2/hr, but will surely run faster as LED technology improves. It has automatic handling for both loading and unloading, runs with a thin film technology to reduce ink consumption at this production rate, and can run roll to roll or as a flatbed.

Inca discussed a single pass large format printer which will push productivity higher when introduced to the market, either for display graphics or initially for corrugated in a similar configuration to the EFI Nozomi.

Speed is coupled with higher resolution printing. Only a few years ago firing an ultra fine droplet was possible, but because of the impact on production speeds, not feasible. At Fespa this year, the “mine’s smaller than yours” race was on. EFI’s new 3.2 meter wide H3 and H5 hybrid presses talked of 1200dpi resolution for what will become the company’s flagship graphics presses. Fuji’s 5 metre wide Acuity Ultra can fire a 3.5ppl droplet; the new Agfa H3300 LED offers 1200dpi resolution, at least in one direction.

The combination of speed and higher quality surely means that display graphics will be the first industry sector where litho printing can be completely eliminated. This is undoubtedly helped by the increasing requirement for fast turnaround and shorter, more customised runs, that the Fespa Census, a survey of more than 1,400 printers worldwide reported.

The growing use of fabric material in display printing has been underway for half a decade and is mainstream with a number of announcements and introductions here, but also pushing into the mainstream of textile printing. EFI’s FabriVu 340i comes from its textile division in Italy, but notched sales to Close Up, an Irish display graphics printer and to Ottimo Digital, which will be its first installation in the UK.

Equally however, the technology is increasingly used for mainstream textile production, for sports and leisure wear and for home decor fabrics. A printer used to display graphics can in theory offer services to a completely different sector or a new range of products to existing customers.

The core of Fespa remains that display graphics customer. For them them the new high speed EFI machines will have been a key announcement. So too the HP R2000 hybrid latex printer which for the first time takes the latest technology on to rigid substrates, once the preserve of UV printing. HP lists 22 media types that the printer is effective, some porous, many not. As the family expands, the true capabilities of the technology will be apparent.

Ricoh was also demonstrating a future direction of latex inks with an unnamed roll to roll printer which arrived on the stand with no pre publicity. It is a product created entirely within Ricoh, heads, inks, engineering, to distinguish it from previous machines based on a Mimaki chassis. Ricoh is emphasising ease of ownership, with minimal set up and manual maintenance. It will ship in the autumn.

Gareth Ward

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