The blogosphere appears to be without any reviews about Label Expo 2009 in Brussells, the biggest labelling show in the world. Tens of thousands of people go every 2 years, hundreds of stands, millions and millions of pounds/euros/dollars spent and not a single blogger out there reviewing it I can find (at least in english). Bizzare.
So, for anyone who didnt go and is looking for a users opinion of the show, here we go. Its bulleted for my convenience and speed. Please quickly add your thoughts to the comments once you’ve read it – no registration needed, just type and press!
- it appeared to be a big show, as big as last time, but there was a lot more space in the halls due to halls not being filled with exhibitors, and certainly low number of attendees, certainly on the 2 days I was there.
- This was my 5th Label Expo (01,03,05,07,09) and this time 1.5 days at the show just wasnt enough to have all the quality conversations I wanted to, and I missed out on plenty of casual booth stops that I would have liked to as well . For next time, I am going to have to stay over for 2 nights and get in 2.5 days.
- I’ve tried driving, flying and training it now, and I can confirm that without a doubt, Eurostar is the best and most convenient way to get to Label Expo from the UK (thanks to Barry D*** for that tip!)
- Exhibitors said it was busy on Wednesday and Thursday, but quieter on Friday and Saturday – indeed many exhibitor reps I wanted to speak to had gone home by Friday lunchtime! The organisers were likened to Dick Turpin by 2 exhibitors I spoke to – “highway robbery” was the phrase used – apparently it isnt cheap to attend this show!
- The main new innovations I saw at the show that were genuinely new were the Holoprint printing technique from Nilpeter and the rush of digital inkjet incarnations all jumping on the Xaar 1001 bandwagon
- I saw some good products that were new to me but already established in the marketplace, mostly in connection with the security labelling part of our business as possible add ons to our Label Lock product range
- There was a small but useful Linkedin.com speed networking session on Saturday organised by Lou at the Linedin Digital Label Printing Group
- Kocker and Beck are moving into to the manufacture of rotary screen units, taking some business from the 2 existing suppliers, Stork and Gallus. Thats an interesting move – maybe rotary screen pricing will come down soon?
- “Lanbel” is a new concept in linerless labels, whereby you supply labels on a slightly offset web with each label sticking to itself. I novel idea, but I doubt it will catch on. Yes, it saves the liner, it just looks too unrelaible to use in a production environment
- The new gallus Granite, made of slabs of granite was a novelty item to me; I just didnt get it. Why? Why Why? Apparently they were being sold cheap – 350k euros for a quality 8 colour press which is pretty good, but surely Gallus must be making a big big loss at those rates???
- Cold UV light for ink curing from LED lamps was new and very nice, but at £10k+ per lamp, I’ll give it a miss at the moment. No doubt it will take over in due course – it looks very good.
- The global economic crisis is having its impact on show freebies – the best giveaway I got all show was a plastic packet of plasters from Evonik!
- There were some new high performance chemical resistant thermal transfer labelling solutions that didnt need lamination, using special ribbons and material combinations.
- Whilst there were plenty of people selling standard modular 5+ colour UV flexo presses at the show (yawn…), I think the message had got though that its the speciality machines that make the money, and that end of the market, even in combination presses, is commoditised.
- There was a sad lack of any initiative from any of the raw material substrate suppliers to address the industry wide problem of recycling of label production waste and the recycling of siliconisaed liner. IMHO the solution to stopping the landfill of the milions of tonnes of this waste every year has to come form the big 2 suppliers (UPM RAFLATAC and AVERY DENNISON groups) and then onto the smaller coaters, Herma, Mactac, Flexcon, Manter, Smith McLauin etc). We cannt keep ignoring it, and it needs a concerted effort by the industry to address this. FINAT, please lead the way – the problem isnt going away! If one of the suppliers had launched a recycling solution for this, it would have been a complete show stopper. As it was, the best news I saw on this front was that Calvin Frost from Channelled Resources launched a new European scheme to recycle liner .
- I dont know what happened to the PISEC 2009 move from Athens to Brusells, but it wasnt there.
Comments on the digital labelling developments
Basically there was nothing significantly new from either of the 2 main players in digital labelling (Xeikon and HP), both having put out major developments at DRUPA 2008, Xekion with its 3300 1200dpi fast solution, and HP with its high quality fast WS6000 series digital labelling presses. There were some new partnerships developing on the software and web 2 print integration sides, but nothing new in terms of kit. IMHO both these top end solutions are at the same level now; both have very similar quality, both have some advantages and disadvantages over the other, they are priced at different points and each have their own peculiarities, but nothing from any other digital label printer comes close to them at present.
There were lots and lots of new uv inkjet incarnations, all but 1 or 2 based on the xaar 1001 inkjet head. Some were stand alone machines with no converting, some ran offline converting, some ran inline with full rotary converting, but none I could see ran inline with laser or semi rotary die converting. The problem is fundamentally that they all suffer from the same problem – the resolution of the xaar 1001 head is only about 600dpi, and compared to either the HP or Xeikon at 1200dpi+, or conventional flexo or letterpress or screen or anything else, its just not as good. I dont understand why anybody would buy a digital solution now with lots of lines in it from blocked nozzels or whatever, when you can by a xeikon or HP thats much higher quality at not much more money (HP may even give you a free one if you will use enough click charges!).
UV inkjet has a lot going for it, and I expect that it will take over the market for digital label printing at some point soon, but it wasnt LabelExpo 2009, I’m sure of that. The advocates of full rotary inline converting for digital inkjet are misguided IMHO – I just cannt see why thats a good idea (Stork DSI 4330L, [wrong, edited out 29/9/09 ] Rapid Machinery Squidjet etc). Semi rotary or laser is the only way to take full advantage of digital, unless you are printing pre diecut stock (like EFI Jetrion advocate, in which you are really restricted to non bleeding images if you want any decent quality.
The only non Xaar uv inkjet instalations I saw were from Agfa Dotrix / Edale which was not bad at all, but still not at the Xeikon/HP end of the quality scale, and I think the EFI Jetrion system has its own head system, but again its too narrow and the quality isnt there.Xaar 1001 printhead
Of all the Xaar 1001 instalations, I thought the Durst quality was the best, but again, you have to be prepared to compromise on quality and productivity compared to Xeikon or HP.
GM had an interesting idea for an inline laser die cutting solution from Spartanics to fit into their existing converting line, but the price was just too high at the moment to launch it. They also had a small footprint converting solution for offline digital labels, and there were many of these at the show.
There are a growing number of small desktop type short run digital labelling solutions from many different providers (eg Primeria), basically based on a reel to reel A4 laser colour printer or small inkjet system – nice but at £20k ish, and very expensive to run in anything over say 1000 labels, its only good for end users to print very small quantities of the same materials and designs in house, not industrial manufacturers.
There was a real lack of anything new at the show – the cheap tamper evident materials (mostly from east Asia) I saw were rubbish, even the stand exhibitors couldn’t get many of them to work properly.
The exception was the new Holoprint technology from Nilpeter, arguably the premier brand in narrow web machinery. Their system involves printing a 50,000dpi holographic image in register and inside a varnish with no foil, using a new printing system they have patented (read the patent here). It could be classed as a brand new printing technique, along with gravure, flexography,offset, letterpress, hotfoil, intaglio etc – really a combination of flexo and direct gravure. Very clever, impressive and cost effective to run I imagine. I hesitate to guess how much it would cost to install though!
Basically it works by flexo printing a UV varnish onto a web which is then embossed by a special plastic PDMS rubber shim that crucially can transmit highly focussed UV light so it is partially cured (or “set”) under the shim that embosses the hologrphic image into the varnish, which is then followed by a post cure. Hats off to the guys who thought of that!
- A good show, too much “me too” in respect of traditional flexo offerings, and not enough innovation.
- Anybody who can crack 1200dpi, 20m/min+,250mm web+ narrow web UV inkjet will make a fortune.
- Belgian beer is excellent!
I am the MD of a UK label printing company (Mercian Labels), we are are a Xeikon user, and these views are from the perspective of a label printer with interests in digital, flexo and security label printing – it is not an all encompassing independent review – if you want one, go to a journalist!)
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A reminder to please quickly add your thoughts to the comments once you’ve got this far – no registration needed, just type and press – opinions about anything very welcome, and unless your post is offensive I will publish it and share your views and get some debate going.