An unnamed US printer is the first to buy a press equipped with Kodak's Ultrastream inkjet technology. It is buying a Uteco Sapphire Eco W, a full width web press, which is believed to be the first digital press at this width for flexible packaging applications.
Uteco has been the first, and to date, only, OEM for the continuous inkjet technology to announce it is working with the high definition printheads. These have a resolution of 600x1800dpi and will run at 150m/min. While Kodak's Stream Prosper heads run faster, resolution is 600x600dpi. Other OEMs are evaluating test kits, while others are in various stages of discussion or implementation with Kodak. Further announcements are anticipated shortly ahead of the full commercial launch of the Ultrastream at Drupa. In 2016, a narrow web test rig was an eye catching technology demonstration.
Uteco has already partnered with Kodak’s Prosper technology for its Sapphire Eco press, installing this at customers in Italy and Japan, for labels and flexible packaging applications. This is a faster machine, but with a 600x600dpi resolution and a 620mm print width.
With the Sapphire Eco W, Uteco has fixed two heads across the web to give a 1,250mm print width. Both machines use water based inks which are inherently food safe. Inline coating for higher gloss levels and scuff resistance is available, as is a fifth station for printing white. A priming coat provides a consistent surface for the inks to adhere to and opens the way to printing on a wide range of substrates.
Other digital presses are in operation for flexible packaging, but to date these have been for short run production. The Uteco Sapphire Eco W is intended for medium to long run jobs with frequent changes in artwork for related skus, different language versions, for example, where continually changing a flexo press would be disruptive and result in cost and waste. Aldo Peretti, Uteco president and CEO, says: "As the world leader in the production of printing and converting machines for flexible packaging applications, we recognise the need for digital solutions in our customers’ operations.
“Converters and brands expect quality solutions that are sustainable and uphold brand integrity. We are proud to work with Kodak to deliver new technologies that meet such demands and enable growth." Randy Vandagriff, Kodak enterprise inkjet president, adds: "Uteco’s application of our technology in their new press is a game changer and a great example of how Kodak is helping printers to lower their costs and drive efficiency. We are proud to be delivering on the promise we made in February to have units in the market by the second half of 2020."
As well as flexible packaging, the Ultrastream technology is expected to be suitable for corrugated top liner, carton boards and laminates for wood and flooring, and via other OEMs into glass and other packaging. Kodak has built a version of its Prosper to run a packaging application on a press combining flexo and inkjet print technology.
While Uteco is currently the only supplier of a full width, high volume digital press, this will change in the next 12 months. Other inkjet approaches are promised, not least the Landa W10 nanographic press, which continues to be in development.