29 May 2016 Digital Printing Technologies

KBA targets digital cartons through Xerox inkjet deal

KBA is in the later stages of developing a B1 digital press in collaboration with Xerox, aiming to become market leader in a rapidly developing market.

KBA and Xerox are partnering on a B1 carton press which will not be at Drupa, but which it is hoped will be available next year.

The German press manufacturing has been building its portfolio in the packaging sector and the KBA VariJet 106 powered by Xerox technology fills a gap and ensures that KBA has an offering at what is becoming a fiercely contested part of the market.

Both Fuji and Konica Minolta have a B2 press capable of digitally printing cartons, the Landa Digital Printing S10 is configured for carton printing, as is the Heidelberg Primefire 106. Bobst has also announced development of a webfed carton press using inkjet printing. In smaller formats, Xeikon, HP and Xerox have been promoting digital carton printing. Xerox is reckoned to have 60 presses producing cartons in this way in the field. KBA will be able to supply the carton configuration of the iGen to customers in Germany as part of this deal.

That is however, based on the iGen platform. The KBA VariJet 106 is using Xerox’s Impika technology. Impika uses Panasonic print heads which can reach resolutions of 1440dpi and speeds of 105 m/min. These have been aimed at offset quality commercial printing and would suit the demands of carton printing.

The VariJet will print 4,500 sheets an hour of card to 600 microns and at a maximum 750x1060mm format. It will be offered as a four-colour machine with the option of seven-colour printing to cover almost the entire PMS range. In addition pre and post coating will be possible with inline cold foiling, creasing, die cutting and perforation.

These technologies are already available on the Rapida platform, so sheet transport will not be an issue. Neither has yet explained how the inkjet units will be mounted, how the sheet is held and whether this is around a cylinder or on a flat bed.

The inks used will be aqueous and will meet any relevant food safety requirements for indirect food contact, complying with the Swiss ordinances and forthcoming German specifications. Xerox will show print samples of its latest High Fusion inks at Drupa. These are formulated to print on offset stocks without the need for a pre-coating step.

The interest in digital print for packaging in general is supported by research from across the spectrum. A report from Smithers-Pira that KBA quotes says, for example, that digitally printed cartons will grow at 40% a year for the next five years. This is from a tiny starting point and will require significant shifts in supply chains. The transition of conventional print to digital and from analogue printed labels to digitally printed labels are examples to follow.

The partners believe that there is plenty of scope in short run cartons, for regional and language variations, for promotions and product testing purposes without the need for the sorts of supply chain shifts that personalised packaging would require.

KBA is further strengthening its position in packaging with the acquisition of the Iberica platen business from Cerutti. It follows the acquisition of flexo press manufacturer Flexotecnica from the same Italian supplier and fills a further gap in the KBA portfolio.

The partnership with Xerox follows that with HP for the PageWide T1100S 2.8 metre wide press for digitally producing corrugated packaging. This was introduced at the end of last year and HP will take the lead in sales for this machine. KBA will provide service support as necessary.

KBA will lead in sales for the VariJet 106 with Xerox providing specialist support for the imaging units. It too has further stakes in the packaging game, showing a direct to shape printer at Drupa, capable of printing on the outside of bottles and other solid objects. Further, like KBA, there is a partnership with UK technology provider DataLase to implement its high speed non impact coding technology.