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Biggest LabelExpo in Brussels reflects industry trends

Wednesday, 25 September 2013
By Patrick Howard

Label converters look to carton and flexible packaging for extra growth opportunities as narrow web technology expands its capabilities.

Defying the downward trend in international trade shows, LabelExpo opened on Tuesday with 600 exhibitors showing converting technology from 37 countries. Increasing the number of halls the show occupies to seven in the massive Expo complex, the organizers, Tarsus, are predicting more than 30,000 trade visitors over the four days.

Brussels Expo is label centre

The health of the show is a reflection of growth in the label sector, estimated by industry guru, Mike Fairley, to be steady at three to five percent globally. However with the flexible packaging sector posting eight percent growth, the trend is for label converters, in the same way that commercial printers are doing, to diversify from their core production to get a piece of the larger action, a market estimated at US$76.5 billion.

One of the major themes of the show is the expanding capability of narrow web machines, flexo and digital, to produce a wide range of small flexible packages and cartons. Most presses are being presented as suitable for labels and flexible carton production.

Thre is a distinct digital flavour to this LabelExpo, even if the sector is confined to its own Hall 9 in the complex. Despite claiming less than two per cent of the overall volume of 46 billion square metres converted every year, 20 percent of all narrow web pressses now being sold are digital.

Inevitably HP Indigo claimed pole position in announcements with the launch of a silver ink to complement its WS6600 digital label press. More than 500 of these best selling machines are now in the industry and according to the company the volume of labels printed on its engines grew by more than 25 percent in a year.

It again showcased its B2-size presses, the HP Indigo 20000, the 30-inch web for flexible packaging and labels as well as the HP Indigo 30000 for folding cartons. The latter is promised to the market by this time next year, while the former should be getting its first installations early in the new year.

Alon Bar Shany, general manager, made the point that so far HP Indigo has met all its production and launch deadlines.

Arguably an even more significant announcement on the first day came with the launch by Epson of its PrecisionCore technology. This latest generation thin film piezo inkjet technology has three times the nozzle density and generates 40 million precisely controlled drops per second. It is completely scalable, ultra fast utilising micro electric mechanics [MEMS].

First engine to make use of the new PrecisionCore is the SurePress L-6034, a UV ink label press that produces 15 metres per minute across a 33 centimetre web. This is the second label press from Epson, following the introduction of the SurePress L-4033. There are already three of the engines in New Zealand. Craig Heckenburg, Epson Australia, says he is bringing in the new model to the company’s Sydney showroom as soon as it is available, some time around the middle of next year.

According to Minoru Usui, president and driving force behind Epson, the PrecisionCore technology will change the game for inkjet industrial printing. He made the point that Epson is the only company that builds every part of its technology from the inkjet heads to the press frame and the formulation of the ink.

LabelExpo opened to good crowds and the aisles were well filled from the word go. It is refreshing to come across so many Australian and New Zealand printers and convertors who have made the trip. Without exception they are all busy, confident and secure in the future of their industry. It’s worth being here if only to experience that.


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