Introduced earlier this year, DM-Jetliner is an upstream digital metal transfer film unit which can be easily integrated with HP Indigo narrow web presses. It enables the production of high-quality labels with metallic effects on a variety of substrates, in one pass and at full press speed. Production is available up to 75m/min with an achievable resolution of 600 x 600 DPI. After application of the Kurz Digital Metal transfer with a UV-curable adhesive on the plain substrate, the PET carrier is peeled off, so the substrate can be overprinted using the digital printing press.
The system can be retrofitted to existing presses in the field. At All4Labels Hamburg, this has seen a DM-Jetliner installed in-line with an HP Indigo WS6800, one of 14 HP Indigo digital presses running at the site. This includes 10 WS6X00 models, three HP Indigo 20000 presses and an HP Indigo 8000.
Roger Gehrke, executive vice president, operations and business development at All4Labels, explains: ‘The idea behind the project was to bring our digitally printed labels to life with metallic colors and effects. This was previously achieved using conventional cold foil technology, which was preprinted, warehoused then overprinted as needed after insetting on a digital press to create metallic effects. This largely involved the use of a silver foil overprinted to achieve the color required, as well as the use of more expensive colored foils.
‘DM-Jetliner allows us to apply cold foil transfer in-line prior to the HP Indigo print engine and then create precisely the look our customers have specified, in a more cost-effective and productive way.’
Gehrke says that All4Labels will primarily target these benefits at small- to medium-sized enterprises who might struggle to achieve the volumes required to cost-effectively benefit from cold foil if using conventional printing.
‘Although they might be operating on a smaller scale, labels and packaging is fundamentally a marketing tool so businesses of all sizes stand to benefit from the combination of digital finishing and in-line embellishment. Such finishes help them standout on the shelf, even if it’s only a run of 1,000.’
Conversely, one of the first jobs to come off the DM-Jetliner installed at All4Labels was a longer run. For this job, the benefit of a reduced time-to-market achieved through combining digital printing in-line with embellishment was the deciding factor, as Gehrke explains: ‘When we tendered for the job in November 2018, we were asked to deliver from summer 2019. As this was new business and the volumes were quite high, we prepared for the job with investment in an offset press with cold foil. At the same time, the DM-Jetliner unit was installed in December 2018 and was up and running in a very short space of time.
‘When the customer asked us to deliver the labels almost immediately, we were able to use the combination of the DM-Jetliner and HP Indigo WS6800 to offer a solution that enabled the labels to reach the market much sooner than had initially been specified.
‘As producing 10,000 linear meters on a digital press is not as cost-effective as using conventional technology, the customer had to make a compromise in terms of cost versus time-to-market. The job has now been moved onto the offset press as first planned but it gave us four months working with the DM-Jetliner and to prove that the Kurz technology worked at scale.’
Time-to-market is a key selling point that Gehrke identifies for the entire digital printing supply chain.
‘A lot of customers hear “digital” and assume it must be cheaper. Depending on the run length and complexity, digital printing is not necessarily cheaper but the total cost can be lower so the overall value is better. It offers greater flexibility, reduces stock holdings and warehousing, and allows much faster lead times.
‘If you look at the Amazon Prime business model, if you want next-day delivery it is not offered for free. We also don’t offer it for free. It’s all part of cost estimating and depends on what the customer’s requirements are. Some customers are ready to and do already pay a premium for faster turnaround.
‘We must avoid commoditizing digital printing. Adding value with embellishments with technology such as DM-Jetliner is one way to do this.
By working at 75m/min, DM-Jetliner is future-proofed, with the next generation of digital presses set to offer ever-faster printing speeds and productivity. Gehrke expects this to be realized at Labelexpo Europe 2019 and drupa 2020, where the likes of HP Indigo and the various inkjet press vendors now active in the market will be pitching to capitalize on growing demand for digitally printed labels and packaging.
Converting can be a bottleneck in the production of digital labels and packaging, although there is much work going on in the supply chain to better dovetail the two essential elements of print production. From fully modular lines such as the new Lemorau MEBR+ (see page 207) to integrated units such as DM-Jetliner, these are being developed to suit the ever-more demanding world of digital labels and package printing. AB Graphic, for example, is doing lots to create systems that align with the production capabilities of current and next-generation HP Indigo digital presses. This includes its portfolio of Digicon lines, the ILC760 in-line coating system to work with HP Indigo 20000 digital presses and the Digicon 3000, developed in partnership with Edale as a mid-web finishing system for labels and flexible packaging. Also compatible with the HP Indigo 20000, the 30in-wide Digicon 3000 can be configured with a technologies for the production of digitally printed labels, shrink sleeves, pouches and even POS/POP items. AB Graphic has then developed a module using JetFX digital embellishment technology as an off-line, fully digital system for creating varnish and foil effects. JetFX technology is found at the heart of GEM, a UV inkjet-based unit that enables the application of fully digital graphic embellishments in one pass with an HP Indigo WS6800 digital press. GEM itself is capable of a wide range of embellishments including digital spot and tactile varnishes, digital foils, and a range of other creative effects.
All4Labels Hamburg has a GEM unit installed. It operates a further 17 converting lines of various configurations to suit the requirements of its customers. From an AB Graphic Digicon Series 3 installed in-line with its HP Indigo 8000 to a Pantec Rhino hot foil system, these allow it to add embellishments and augment the value of its output. While a new addition, the Kurz DM-Jetliner has already proved itself a valuable tool in the company’s converting mix.
‘I’d say the quality of the fine details produced with the Kurz DM-Jetliner is as good, if not better, than you get when using conventional technology,’ states Gehrke. ‘With conventional cold foiling, you are reliant on the skill of the printer. A good one can give you very fine details. This means you have to plan and schedule your production to the least skilled people, but with the Kurz system we are less affected by human involvement impacting the output.’
Gehrke continues: ‘Digital printing and the associated technologies have allowed us to offer greater flexibility and respond faster to the market. Print is a traditional business but the world is turning faster and we must evolve. We most look to the future and maintain a competitive advantage. Technologies such as the Kurz DM-Jetliner allow us to do that.’