The plan is to ship the first field test machine to the chosen site in December for operation in January, with a second beta to begin in the spring next year at the same time as the press receives its worldwide unveiling at Drupa. Before then, Koenig & Bauer Durst is contemplating investing prospects to the K&B packaging experience centre near Dresden.
The press will be built at the Radebuel plant. “We have a number of existing customers that would like to be beta sites,” says Koenig & Bauer Durst managing director Robert Stabler. “And we plan to show them the machine after the summer. A good beta site will be one that has a market need for short run printing and who has a vision around mass customisation – and someone that will be a good partner for a beta site.”
The press is at the heart of the newly formed joint venture between Koenig & Bauer and inkjet specialist Durst. The business can already sell existing digital presses for corrugated board printing. But most attention has been created by the potential of the carton press. This uses components from Koenig & Bauer for the sheet transport from flexo printing and post print coating and potentially for litho printing and for inline die cutting, according to specifications set by the end customer.
Durst’s expertise is called in for the inkjet technology and electronics, the water based ink and the digital front end software. The press will print seven colours, CMYK plus gamut extending and brand colours.
The joint venture company is headed by Stabler, previously with Xerox (which had been the original parter for inkjet announced at Drupa 2016) and with HP Indigo. He explains that an appearance at Drupa would have been ideal. “Drupa is the ideal kick off for the world wide launch of a future oriented product,” he says.
And while some of the glamour attached to a Drupa reveal will be rubbed off before the show opens its doors in April, the Varijet 106 will potentially make a bigger impact if the Covid-19 pandemic leads to a change in the way brands do business and source packaging.
The early users of the inkjet press will be the larger groups that are able to drive work to a 6,000sph machine that can combine pre-coating and litho print units to produce the branded elements of a job that do not change with inkjet for the variable elements in shorter production runs. “At launch we will be concentrating on offering a standard configuration,” says Stabler, “with a flexo unit to apply a primer coating, and a post print flexo unit for an over print varnish to offer the rub resistance to protect the printed image.”
The task will perhaps be a little easier with Heidelberg's decision to cease production of its Primefire 106 inkjet press as this was aimed at packaging applications. On the other hand, competition will validate a market. “There are a number of other presses coming that I’m aware of, says Stabler.
“What is interesting for us however, is the strength and the trust that Koenig & Bauer has in the folding carton market and as a result of that, we are integrating some of the workflow capabilities from the new Rapida platform. There is a need to call on the best of both words.”
The Varijet 106 was announced as a development project at Drupa 2016 with Xerox as a technology partner. It has become the crux of a new business Koenig & Bauer Durst, using Durst inkjet technology, and will be installed at a first Beta site at the end of this year, pandemic permitting.