Among its OEM partners, Memjet can count numerous providers of label printers, a number of suppliers of large format flatbed printers and some machines for mailing applications. Now it can add a flexible packaging press provider to that list.
Italian engineering company Rigoli has developed a press using Memjet’s inkjet heads to print flexible packaging. Not on clear films as that is beyond the current Memjet aqueous ink. But on a metallised paper used to make air tight pouches to seal in dry goods like coffee that need to stay fresh over longer periods.
It launched this machine at the Print4All show in Italy where the MVZ1000 looked not unlike any other small packing or filling line. The web is taken over a plow, sealed up the centre where the sides are brought together, crimped at the end before filling and crimped again to form the bottom seal of the next pack along. The big difference here is that instead of a reel of packs that are already printed, here the material loaded on the unwind unit is untainted by inks or varnishes of any kind.
In action the reel passes under the nozzles of the Memjet thermal printheads (a similar approach to HP’s PageWide head), some 350,000 of them crammed into each inch. There are five colours in a machine, the four process colours and an extra black to ensure text is readable, even on a coloured background. Inks are supplied in two litre or ten litre containers.
It prints to a maximum width of 1,067mm, though can also run narrower reels as required. The substrate is a limiting factor; no clear films for example, but as plastic is rapidly becoming the substrate non grata, this may be less of a problem in future.
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 sale 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 waging currently has 1,400 product references, customised with details of the outlet selling the coffee to its customers. The MVZ 1000 has gone down so well that another two are on order.
Depending on specification, the unit will sell for around €250,000, considerably less than the popular alternative in printing flexible packaging digitally. It comes equipped with unwind reels and a festoon buffer system. A lifting system is in place to ease the positioning of 700kg reels. The finished print can be laminated after printing if required. Reprocad is in conversation with several potential partners able to offer near line or inline lamination.
It is also testing the materials that the press can print, aiming to profile each and make this information available to users. “There are a lot of suitable materials on the market. we want to test them to find out which is best for any application,” says Barton. “The use of aqueous inks provides environmental credibility.”
Memjet is developing a new inkjet head to offer a longer life and to fire pigment ink and this might make open up a different set of applications, reaching parts that aqueous alone cannot reach. “We feel that this is just the first step in a major development for the packaging industry,” he says.
The MVZ 1000 is a flexible packaging line printing from five arrays of Memjet printheads and then filling dry goods, coffee being the perfect example. It was launched in Italy at Print4All and will sell for around €250,000.