Exhibitors at Print4All were relieved in May when a decent audience turned up at the Milan Rho exhibition complex for what was described as a new approach to print trade shows.
The organisers had combined previous separate events on the same complex, so a print and packaging equipment show was cheek by jowl with a packing equipment event, plastics show and exhibition about meat processing technology.
It meant a good flow of visitors around the show, but until the figures are analysed it will be difficult to say whether visitors took advantage of the cross fertilisation possible.
Certainly it worked for some exhibitors which straddle different sectors, print and packaging for example. Koenig & Bauer took a huge open stand where discussions were order of the day, aided by VR glasses. This was in the packaging hall among the packaging presses from Bobst, Cerutti and Uteco.
In the commercial print hall above, Heidelberg’s Italian subsidiary had a digital press, Gallus label machine and folder alongside a Scodix Ultra because it is also distributor of the embellishment machine in that country. The Scodix gained a lot of attention, as did the MGI JetVarnish on the Konica Minolta stand.
The Japanese company had brought a C6100 as representative of its cut sheet presses and C190 label press. Visitors interested in the KM1 could don a pair of VR glasses and take a CGI tour of the press. “The idea was to show examples of what we do,” says Edouardo Colchini.
“Italy is the country in Europe where we sell most label presses so it was obvious to bring the new label press for the first time. The MGI is the showroom machine from Italy because we see a lot of opportunity in this area.” By the end of the event, this had a sign to say it had been sold to a company in Rome.
“It is B1 format, is now very, very stable and delivers very good quality,” he adds. Alberto Steffani, KM’s marketing manager for Italy, says the format for the event had worked. “My first impression? The organisers have been rewarded. We have been getting a lot of registrations and visitors from very qualified professional people.”
Inevitably the majority had come from Italy itself, supported by cohorts from around the Mediterranean region, the Balkans, Near East and North Africa as well as Spain. English, German and northern Europeans were rarer, but not non-existent. In contrast to Ipex last year, this was a vibrant show.
There were no offset litho presses running nor on show; some of the major companies had stayed away, Kodak, MBO, Muller Martini among them and others like Fujifilm had only a token presence. Most were present through their Italian subsidiaries. But those that did bring equipment were rewarded with plenty of attention. UK companies represented on the floor included Morgana and Watkiss.
In digital printing, alongside KM, Canon had strong range including its Colorado large format press, Agfa had a Tauro 2500 LED UV, HP brought an Indigo 12000 and Xerox introduced the Iridesse with a constant stream of printers wanting to find out if it lived up to the hype.
This was not the only product launched. Petratto launched Eclipse, a digital creaser cutter for cartons and direct mail purposes that had been seen in concept form at Drupa. Now the machine is properly thought out, with users able to select a configuration as they need it. Fulvio Petratto explained it is the only single-pass digital creasing and cutting using mechanical creasing.
A sheet is creased along one direction before turning through 90º direction under a second set of creasing wheels. It is then registered by camera before entering the laser cutting section, the laser being moved to ensure precise registration. And then it is through a section to remove the unwanted trimmed card and onto a delivery table or stack. Users can select single or double lasers and have options on the delivery to reach the configuration needed. The entry level price is €180,000 and speed will be from 1,000 B2 sheets an hour to 5,000sph.
It was not the only production introduced. Uteco collected hundreds of potential leads for the Gaia inkjet label press. It has come on leaps and bounds since first seen at Labelexpo as a 24m/min press. It now has 12000dpi Fuji Samba heads running at up to 100m/min. Its USP, however, is that this is the first digital press to use electron beam curing. The project is the result of partnership between INX which supplies the ink, its delivery system and electronics; eBeam as the provider of the dryer and Uteco for the transport system.
The technology is completely food safe, needs no priming or varnish to provide a high gloss scratch resistant finish on almost any material. At the show it was printing on Bopp films and reels of aluminium. It did not put a foot wrong.
Equally intriguing was a digital press from Rigoli. This is a first wide web reel to reel press using Memjet print heads. It was in the area away from the print halls, in a hall among reel handling machinery and filling equipment. The MVZ1000 delivers the web to a filling head for loading dry packaged goods, say rice or coffee.
It is limited to printing on uncoated paper substrates thanks to use of waterbed inks. These are second generation Memjet heads that are popular across all kinds of small label printer. The company is working on a new type of head which might expand the scope of the press.
The aim is to cut supply chains by printing at the point of packing for short runs needed for sampling, promotional or to tackle immediate shortages, the same sector that HP Indigo is targeting with the 20000. These short runs can cause disruptive chaos for conventional flexo presses where makeready can be longer than run time. And while the quality is not in the same class as the Indigo – at least not yet – nor is the price.
The printheads can deliver at 1600dpi of water based ink, though to increase throughput to 18m/minute, it can be set to run at 1600x800dpi, doubling the throughput. Speed, though, is not the point.
This is a machine that solves a problem, namely how does a brand reduced the amount of stock of printed reels it holds and how does it cope with small batch orders that are needed quickly?
The digital aspect means this machine can print small batches, just one to two to several hundred or so, can switch between designs instantly and can have the job out the door within a couple or hours if not faster.
This opens the door to changes in behaviour. Instead of running the same design for an extended period and then following with other designs, then sorting for distribution; the MVZ1000 can print in distribution sequence. A converter or packer can shift those awkward short run jobs where makeready time is often longer than run time from the flexo machine. At an instant there is more capacity on the flexo presses.
Certainly Peter Barton, managing director of Reprocad, thinks so. Reprocad is the sales channel across Europe for the Italian made machine. Simplicity, he says is to the fore. This is a press designed for operation in sites where print knowledge may be minimal.
There is a new design of cleaning and maintenance station where the print heads are parked when not in use. There is no need to slice through the media to run the maintenance routine, Barton says. The cleaning station, which moves along the press instead of to one side as many inkjet presses do, prevents the nozzles drying out and cleans them to minimise the risk of blockages. Users choose how often they wish to use the cleaning routine.
“It’s a very usable product,” he says. “It is designed to cope where there is a proliferation of Skus,” explaining that the pilot customer in Italy is 101Caffée, a coffee business in Milan which currently has 1,400 product references, customised with details of the outlet selling the coffee to its customers.
It will no doubt make further appearances over the next couple of years as early user feedback is incorporated into production models. It will always be a product launched in Milan.
The three biggest issues that printers across Europe face are coping with short runs; job changeovers and makereadies and material waste. The findings come from a survey conducted by Keypoint Infotrends released at Print4All.
The report looked at conditions and trends across the industry in Europe, through an in depth attitudinal questionnaire. Most answers come from commercial printers, followed by those in label and packaging and display printing.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found the three areas where printers plan to invest are web to print, workflow automation and colour management. Implemented correctly these will address the major concerns, minimising waste of time and materials, the purpose of a lean manufacturing approach.
The consultancy business draws a number of conclusions from these and wider trends. “Print production is no longer a linear process,” says Ron Gilboa, one of the report’s authors. “Everything can now be interconnected and transparent. The new workflow is also characterised by collaboration, flexibility and responsiveness.”
Printers need to harness innovation in order to deliver more than just print to their customers. That innovation can be in creating new products from the insight gained by listening to customers, through continuous improvement of existing products and by offering unique products that others are not delivering.
“There is pressure from clients on their suppliers to do new things,” says Bob Leahey, Gilboa’s colleague. Seven times as many printers report having to tackle a growing number of short runs as those that claim that longer runs are growing.
This highlights the opportunities for digital printing but also the issues that the technology needs to address, at least the issues that digital printers raise: reliability, cost of toner, spot colours and repeatability. “Digital is changing fast, but offset is not going away,” he says.
While digital has made the deepest impact on the sign and digital sector, it has barely touched packaging. The opportunity is there, however, as brands want to achieve stand out on the shelves, to use more customisation and through the proliferation of Skus, increasing 4% a year over the last 40 years.
“Digital has been in packaging for 20 years through label printing,” he points out.
Analogue printing is not going away, though some of the traditional printed products will change or disappear “or be very much smaller than they are now. It is like the buggy whip manufacturing industry, which flourished before the arrival of the motor car. There are still whip manufacturers, just not so many of them.”
Exhibitors will have been pleased that Print4All received substantial visitor support and an audience that was keen to find out about new products. After an anxious few weeks leading up to the show, most will have been received that the Italian show was an improvement on Ipex.