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Digital production on menu at 5th Xeikon Café

Friday, 29 March 2019
By Patrick Howard

Revieiwing Xeikon’s progress in Antwerp, Benoit Chatelard, CEO of Xeikon (left) with Patrick Howard.

The ‘other’ digital press manufacturer draws visitors from 55 countries to its Belgium HQ for three days this week to sample the latest developments in the digital production of packaging.

Benoit Chatelard, CEO of Xeikon for the past 18 months, has sharpened the focus of the digital printing pioneer, driving it into UV inkjet with the new Panther label press while reinforcing its commitment to dry tone for commercial and packaging production. Secure in the backing of new Flint Group owners, the pragmatic president has redirected the company’s efforts away from areas, such as folding cartons where opportunities are cramped by the role of offset, to explore more promising pastures.

Capping off a productive 24 months of change that saw the start up of inkjet press manufacturing, the purchase of the Jetrion label inkjet business from EFI, as well as the introduction of new toners for its established market, Chatelard presents a refreshing realistic approach to the challenges of digital manufacturing. Long recognised as the ‘other’ player to HP, the company now appears to have a new confidence in its chosen digital markets. With a production rate of around 120 digital presses every year from its Belgian factory the company grew last year by 15% especially in the USA and China.

Indicative of the new direction Chatelard claimed at a press conference in Antwerp on Monday that half of Xeikon R&D is now dedicated to inkjet. This means that he can claim with some truth to be the only manufacturer positioned as a major player in both digital technologies addressing the packaging, labels and commercial printing markets.

Innovative digital printing solutions for such packaging items as flexible pouches are moving Xeikon into the production for consumer goods in the food, beverage, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Brand owners looking for shelf impact for their products are increasingly choosing flexible pouches for their ability to stand, their light weight and sustainability.

According to Filip Weymans, vice president marketing, this is a prime example of what he calls customer driven innovation. “By focusing on this application we are supporting our customers’ requirements and also responding to the current trends in consumer preference. This development takes our digital production portfolio to the next level.”

He highlighted the advantages Xeikon’s dry toner technology in the production of packaging; the high print quality on flexible substrates, reductions in start-up costs and no job change-over costs along with the ability to print variable data information in both single and full colour. A cross over point for flexo and digital processes is at around 4000 linear metres.

The Antwerp press conference, billed as a pre-Labelexpo event, took place immediately before the opening of the high profile Xeikon Café. Half conference, half exhibition, the Café attracts a wide range of digital print professionals to learn of new developments both in business and in technology. Thirty industry partners are here ranging from ABG with its Digicon Series 3 digital finishing to MGI with its Jet Varnish 3D Web digital embellishment as well as the Tripu smart laser cutter and advanced robotics for factory production.

The Café is a serious affair with demonstrations across a wide range of press operations with tips on how to save up to 20% in toner use over a wide range of self-adhesive labels. Printing paper cups on single or double-sided PE coated paper is not only biodegradable but can be targeted to gain traction with advertising events.

Surprisingly only two Australian names are on the list here. It’s a long way to go but for anyone seriously thinking of getting into digital labels and packaging it’s well worth making the effort. Next year the Café will be held in conjunction with drupa.

There are a good number of Xeikon machines in our region with the latest going into trade printer, Guru Labels, at Tuggerah north of Sydney, even as we speak. The first high-speed Panther inkjet is also destined to go into a Brisbane printer.

I expect we’ll hear even more of Xeikon is our market as it continues to expand its digital printing applications.

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