The Swiss city of Lucerne is usually a placid place, cars navigating the tram tracks and roads around the lake and overlooked by spectacular mountains. Every two years however, this scene is disrupted when the world’s printing industry descends for the Hunkeler Innovation Days, four days for digital press suppliers to show off their developments and for printers to see these machines in action.
Every so often the event collides with the Lucerne carnival when the normally reserved Swiss citizens engage in a week long bacchanalia with fancy dress, parades, bands wandering from restaurant to restaurant and drinking. Lots of drinking. And so it will be this year when HID kicks off on 25 February.
The event began as a simple open house to show off the latest developments produced by Hunkeler. To make things more interesting press suppliers were invited to bring machines that could run with items of Hunkeler technology, from unwind and rewind units to cross fold, slitting and cutting units to turn a web of paper into a letter or direct mail piece.
In the early days it attracted printers from the document processing world, printing bills and statements on toner presses. Today those toner presses have almost gone, though the application remains. Instead HID has become a showcase for the latest in continuous feed inkjet printing and the most important show for this sector other than Drupa.
The applications have evolved over the years too. After transactional printing came book printing, at first mono only, now also including colour printing, newspaper production and now commercial printing. This will be the key discussion for the event this year: just how far and how fast can this type of inkjet encroach on what has been an almost exclusively offset industry?
Two years ago Screen showed samples of printing using a new type of ink that was under development. It would print on standard offset papers and would need no precoating or post print coating to deliver an offset like finish. A party from Bluetree saw this, culminating last year in the online printer from Rotherham installing two Screen 520HD presses to print work which previously would have been printed on its litho presses, namely short run multi-section books and brochures where the job can come off folded and collated ready for binding or in collated sheets ready for stitching.
At the event this year, Screen will be showing an upgrade to this press with an enhanced drying capability allowing the press to run at 120m/minute, albeit at the cost of some resolution. It will run at 60m/min in 1200dpi resolution dropping to 600dpi at the highest speed.
The key to running at this speed has been an Adphos near infrared dryer which works only on the water in the ink and has minimal impact on the paper. This does not cockle or stretch, as a result giving a more predictable quality finish.
In Hall 2 of Lucerne’s exhibition centre, Screen will be running this press in a configuration allowing roll to roll printing or roll to sheet. It will also have roll to roll printing at 150m/min using a TruepressJet 520NX, for the more traditional transactional and mailing market. This will be the first time this set up has been shown using the Hunkeler Innovation Days higher speed reel handling modules.
Ricoh, Screen’s partner in press development, is also pushing on with breakthrough quality on its equivalent of the TPJ 520HD. Its Pro VC70000 was announced as a development project last year and will be one of the main product launches in Lucerne. It too uses an ink comprising the components that prevent the colour being carried into the fibres of a standard offset paper, but it is not the same as Screen’s SC ink.
The company also differs in the approach to drying the web. It is using a combination of a heated drum to dry the paper from the underside and hot air to evaporate the water in the ink. Tension control systems are designed to prevent cockling due to excessive drying. Ricoh's own quality systems are joined by a Hunkeler WI8 web inspection system which is able to keep pace with the press at its 150m/min full speed.
Ricoh will also show the entry level Pro V20100, a mono only press developed with Domino and printing book sections and roll to B2 sheets for pharmaceutical leaflets. The cutter and delivery for this are first time presentations at the show. Ricoh will also have a cut sheet machine to show the cross over between web and sheet, inkjet and toner printing.
As well as colour quality, a key aspect of commercial printing is the ability to run without stopping the press to change reels resulting in down time of 10-15 minutes every hour. As presses become faster, the lost time becomes a problem. Other manufacturers of reel handing systems have developed solutions to this. Now Hunkeler will debut a non stop flying splice for the unwind and a non stop rewind.
The RS8 roll splicer and TR8 turret rewind will feature on an HP T240 web press running at 150m/min. Hunkeler, however, has designed the modules to run at up to 240m/min and on papers from 50-216gsm. This will mean a gain in productivity of around 30%, dependent on running speed and paper weight. Either way for webfed inkjet printing to make a real impact in commercial printing this is essential, paving the way also to automated running at some point in future.
HP will reveal further adoptions of its printheads to open new types of work to the thermal inkjet technology. Two years ago the high definition printhead was star of the show, delivering higher quality printing. This will be demonstrated on an application running postcards on a heavier paper which will be finished offline using Hunkeler's technology.
There will be strong emphasis on books and book production, both with Hunkeler's own fly folder able to switch seamlessly between formats and different page signatures and with a dynamic cross cutter to minimise paper waste ahead of binding. Blocks will be fed automatically into one of the Muller Martini Vareo binders.
This three-chain three-clamp binder for book of one production was launched in Lucerne four years ago and has become a key component of Muller Martini’s approach to industrial short run book production.
The Swiss company is taking this a stage further this year, with an integrated flow line for section sewn, soft cover and case bound book blocks. This includes the VBA end papering unit to apply the end papers and gauze to prepare the book block for casing in. It is already a big draw for those attending. Muller Martini GB sales manager David McGinlay says: “I have booked 34 appointments for the event and 60% of those are interested in this technology.”
The production set up will include three Vareo binders feeding an Infinitrim Duo robotic trimmer. This has a robot arm which moves the book block into the correct position to be trimmed. The trimming knives and anvil remain static cutting the risk of an inaccurate cut. Muller Martini plans to demonstrate production of eight different sized publications in small and book of one batches.
Meccanotecnica will be present with its latest universal binding line capable of both glued and thread sewn sections, including application of end papers and gauze for the sewn blocks. The latest version, being launched at the show includes dynamic movement of clamps to suit different block thicknesses.
Horizon will link its perfect binders and trimmer to Hunkeler unwind modules and cross cutters, including the DynaCut ahead of delivering the block into a Horizon BQ480 PUR binder.
Press developments are key to increasing the appeal of the technology for commercial printers, as will be the support and understanding shown by the vendors. Canon Océ has longer experience than most in the sector, staging educational events at its Poing factory and supplying presses to direct mail as well as book and transactional printers.
The company introduced the ProStream at the event two years ago as its machine to take inkjet into commercial printing. Again standard offset papers are used and a gentler drying technology. In this case the company has taken its cue from heatset web offset where an unsupported web is passed through a long oven to dry it without the risk of marking and to avoid distortion of the web. The web has to pass through the oven for each side being printed.
The ProStream will be the key press on show running both roll to roll and roll to stack on 200gsm offset coated paper. It too uses a long sheet cutter and stacker with a job separator to deliver B2 format sheets in collated order.
Xerox will show the Trivor, its webfed inkjet press for this market with enhanced colour capability, but without the new ink set that others are using. The company is also running an educational event for users to coincide with the Hunkeler event with a full day of presentations centred on the opportunity in direct mail and trigger marketing before delegates reach Lucerne.
The toner world is not absent. Xeikon, which is a long time supporter of the event, will be running an application from a Hunkeler unwind unit, believing that electrophotography is better than inkjet for volume production in certain areas.
It is bringing a CX500 single-sided five-colour press and running it with book covers and dust jackets, designed to show how toner can complement inkjet. This is a derivation of its 30m/min technology used in label printing applications. It is joined by Nipson which will launch its MagySpeed high speed press. This can run at 300m/min with MICR inks thanks to magnetography and flash fusion to cure the toners.
The name missing from the line up this year is Kodak which has been present at previous iterations but has switched from being a supplier of Prosper presses to supplying the technology in the form of print heads and has the Ultrastream next generation printhead close to market readiness.
Also absent, though not a regular participant, is Fujifilm. It has announced the Fujifim Xerox 11000 as an inkjet web press aiming at offset level quality on standard offset papers. This is only available in the Fuji Xerox part of the world, too soon for Xerox to bring to the event, though there will be questions to ask.
In the adjacent Hall 1, there will be less machinery in operation. Instead most displays, like that for Koenig & Bauer, will be information based. While technology providers will be present, Adphos with explanations of NIR technology, OneVision taking digital workflows and Global Graphics about the importance of colour management and screening to obtain the best results from inkjet for example, there is further bias towards commercial printing applications.
Argos will have a coater for UV coating and Scodix will have the much discussed digital embellishment technology on hand. This can add spot varnish effects, raised print akin to embossing and digital foiling. Gietz will have a more conventional approach to adding value to print through foiling. Likewise Komfi delivers a conventional approach to laminating and can in addition add foil effects for short run or personalised covers or cards.
Book production software, including for photobooks, will sit alongside software for variable data printing from third party providers as an alternative to the software provided by the machine vendors.
Here too are the paper companies, the likes of Mondi, Burgo, UPM and Crown Van Gelder whose product has been synonymous with colour inkjet printing thanks to its specialist papers. Not every printer needs to run standard offset papers, so specialist papers are still needed.
Friedheim International is the UK agent for Hunkeler and handles invitations to the event. Demand has been greater than ever from the UK. National sales manager for digital solutions Robin Brown says: “We will be taking over 100 UK customers to the event, including technology leaders who will influence and set the pace for the next stage of industry innovation. Continuous workflow automation will be a focal point for transactional printers, direct mailers, book manufacturers and commercial printers.
“With Bograma, Palamides and Komfi also taking innovative solutions to the event, visitors will see what the future holds for digital print and finishing up close and personal at Innovation Days 2019.”
Stefan Hunkeler, president of Hunkeler, says automation will be a strong message in 2019. “We’ve made the Innovation Days event slogan ‘Success with automation’. This refers to the convergence of important customers, technology and worldwide experts in Lucerne. We are very excited to present the broadest state of the art solutions portfolio for the digital printing and finishing sector.”