LabelExpo 2009 in Brussells – a review

Label Expo 2009

Label Expo 2009

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

Linkedin digital labelling group

  • There was a small but useful 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
gallus granite press

gallus granite press

  • 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.
there werent any quality freebies - thank the credit crunch

there werent amny quality freebies – thank the credit crunch

  • 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 Agfa/Edale digital inkjet press was based on Toshiba TEC inkjet heads

The Agfa/Edale digital inkjet press was unusually based on Toshiba TEC inkjet heads

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.

Security Labelling

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 Nilpeter Holoprint system is clever and effective

The Nilpeter Holoprint system is clever and effective

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!

The Holoprint images are very good quality, unlike my photos!

The Holoprint images are very good quality, unlike my photos!

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!
Leffe beer


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!)

Please now comment!

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.

  • Adrian, this was a great review of Labelexpo.

    Thank you for being an important part of our Digital Printing Labels,
    LinkedIn group meeting at Labelexpo.

    During the past 11 weeks, over 650 members have joined the group,
    making us the world’s largest Label Printing network group.

    You can join via the URL link below.

    Best regards,
    Lou Berceli
    Founder of the Digital Printing Labels group on LinkedIn

  • W.Koopman

    The Stork DSI 4330L is equiped with semi rotary finishing modules in order to take full advantage of digital printing. The writer of this article is wrong when stating that the DSI comes with full rotary equipment. Stork works only with proven semi rotary modules.

  • Thanks for the comment from Mr Koopman of Stork. I apologise if I got it wrong, but I did look at the press on the stand, and it appeared to be full rotary, and I asked and was told that it was full rotary, and I have the brochure given out on the stand and it dosnt mention semi rotary at all. Is the semi rotary an option, or a planned future development, or was it a semi rotary unit on the stand and I just got it wrong?

  • Nilpeter’s HoloPrint machine was developed in conjunction with a company called Stensborg – and they have more information about it on their website, including details of its advantages, the prepress process involved, etc:

  • W.Koopman

    Dear Adrian,
    No problem and your apologise is not needed. Please let me explain. During the demonstration on Labelexpo, the DSI 4330L printed 9 jobs within 10 minutes at a speed of 35 m/min with inline semi-rotary die-cutting (so, converting at 1 single pass). You had to watch very closely to see the semi-rotary movement of the web as the Stork DSI speed is high. From a distance it maybe appeared to be full rotary but the web movement of the converting section is semi-rotary. Regarding the brochure, it is mentioned that the Stork DSI comes with in-line converting modules like semi-rotary UV flexo, semi-rotary die-cutting, slitting and matrix removal (see page 7 under chapter Modular Hybrid System). Thank you very much for your interest and visit to our booth and all the best with your company.
    Best regards,
    Wilfried Koopman

  • Willfried
    Understood, I’ve found it now, apologies, and I will update the blog accordingly.

  • Steve


    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it this year from NZ to Label Expo. Just thought I’d thank you for this informative piece. As the Kiwi’s drift back to the land of the long white cloud, the feedback I’m getting is that it sounds like the Stork digital unit was a big hit and the talk of the show.


  • Dear Adrian,

    I am one of the guys behind the HoloPrint technology. Thank you for the compliments.
    The installation cost of HoloPrint is less or comparable to traditional off-line holographic production methods.

    As mentioned above we have more about it on


  • James Godden

    Hi Adrian,

    Great review.

    The Digital Printing LinkedIn group event sounds like a great initiative. I hope other LinkedIn label groups will take note and look at doing something similar in the future.

    On the issue of waste, I agree that Calvin Frost’s development is a step in the right direction. However, I also saw that Avery/Fasson are launching a liner recycling scheme for polyester liner. This free-to-user service involves Avery issuing big bags to the generator of liner waste (label printer or end-user) and collecting free of charge. It is launching in UK, France, Germany and Benelux first, with plans to roll out across Europe. The liner waste is being recycled into polyester fibre for use as feedstock (e.g. in textile manufacture). This is, to my mind, a very exciting move. Let’s see what the take-up is.



  • James

    thats a really exciting news – have you got a source URL or press release location?


  • Trevor Smith

    Nice review, thanks, I managed a couple of days at Expo and thought it was one of the best I’ve been too. Not many presses on show but that was expected and, tbh, not missed for me, not many innovative ideas. Of interest to me was the rise of inkjet, material suppliers from overseas, market/industry info. Stork / ABG digi the most impressive demo but IMO they don’t have enough clout to impact on the big players in the Digi arena (existing + new entrants in the wings) and will ABG be able to build more platforms? Might tempt some of their existing customers. Great show for networking and meeting potential new suppliers, I ran out of time to visit many of my existing suppliers.
    Holoprint fascinating but I spent all my time looking at the kit and technology involved and none trying to find out it’s market relevance so not sure of the answer to the question – why?
    For something that not everyone caught up with take a look at the MPrint Hybrid Label Print/Conversion system LP2000/2. A nice bit of kit and it’s modular design looks well suited to speciality where profit doesn’t come from high volumes.
    I was dissapointed with the ‘green park’, practically nothing there that any reasonably awake label producer would not already be aware of, comfortable benches though!
    Rgds – Trevor

  • I’ve been there. And I’m very excited with numbers of ink jet presses. But unfortunately when I tried to explore samples, nearly ALL samples had stripes from clogged nozzles. IMHO It’s a biggest issue in ink jet printing – unpredictable nozzle blockage during job run. In this case IMHO it will be a quite long way for ink jet technology to industrial label printing.
    Best regards

  • Dear Trevor,

    HoloPrint is developed to make you able to actually print holograms in line at your printing machine, in principle just as you are printing everything else.

    No foil usages and dependence of second source suppliers, stocking foil materials, and no dealing with waste materials.

    Rgds Jan

  • I think I stand by my original comments about inkjet – lots of pent up demand, but the quality just isnt there yet. is the machine Trevor was discussing FYI.

  • James Godden

    Hi Adrian,

    I can’t find a specific press release for it. However, Packaging News talk about it as a trial here:


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  • Lee Richards

    Hi Adrian,

    Finally found an independent Labelexpo review. In fact the only Labelexpo review I can find.

    I must agree with most comments that there was little ‘real’ innovation at the show, however I found the show to be informative and a good place to network and keep intouch with the label printing world.

    Companies keep offering parts of the solution to digital printing but no company as shown or even demonstrated the ‘Holy Grail’ of a 1200dpi with inline uv varnish, lam unit and semi rotary or laser die cutter. The Stork Dsi looked good but again the issue of blocked heads were apparent on some of the samples. In my experience customers would not accept this level of quality. I don’t understand why they don’t incorporated a head cleaning cycle between jobs. They seem obsessed with making a press 100% productive. I would rather have a press 95% productive with no customer returns!!

    The Gallus Granite press looked interesting. A short web path and quick job change/set up. A few questions – How much does it weigh? Would floors need to be reinforced? A number of printers I have visited or worked for have printrooms on the first floor.

    The ‘Lanbel’ system I’ve seen before. I can’t recall the name but a press was lauched six years ago at Labelexpo to produce linerless labels. It didn’t catch on.

    I like to explore the perimeters of the hall’s, especially hall 12, you can sometimes find some little gems of ideas there. I found a digital print engine, similar to the primera cx1200, but based on a A3 colour laser printer instead of a A4. It can run at 9.3 mts/min and handle rolls up 327mm across. Still costs a bit $45000 (US), but will output 2 to 2 ½ times the ammount of the Primera. Still needs the web to be converted (same old problem).
    It could output about 180-190 sq mtrs in an hour, in theory. Infact when I looked at the digital print awards display most of the labels printed had runs of 200-250 mtrs (66-84 sq mtrs).

    I’ve found the Eurostar to be the best way to travel to Brussels and have used it on the last 3 visits. This time I booked the hotel through Eurostar as well and stayed one night at the Crowne Plaza with the train fare all for £106. Bargain. In fact I’m sure I told B D*** about Eurostar travel over a Leffe in the ‘Stuffed Horse’.

    Lee Richards
    Written using Openoffice/Aspire One running Linpus Linux.(Open Scorce)

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  • Mike Roddis

    Regarding the comment from Lee Richards, what was the machine you saw similar to the Primera, but larger?

  • I agree in few years back there were only few leading companies in the world in terms of providing digital media related printing solution; however, as technology and world is moving fast so there are so many brands came in market. on of them is which started providing similar branded products in India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and in other countries as well.

  • Maher Break

    What is the price of this machine if it was used?