Is Flatbed inkjet printed corrugated the next big opportunity?

Screen’s announcement that it will use its close relationship with Inca Digital to develop a flatbed folding carton/corrugated digital press was swiftly followed by an announcement by Xeikon (albeit lacking detail) that it too would release one. Both will use aqueous inks. However, there is already a surprising solution available from a source that is represented here in Australia by Kissel + Wolf. Andy McCourt investigates.

Inkjet digital continues to find more application-specific niches in industry and packaging, using the same basic principles developed for flatbed UV machines used for signage i.e. piezo printheads, a large vacuum bed, high-quality graphics and occassionally robotic sheet loading and offloading onto pallets or some other kind of semi- or full-automatic sheet handling.

Corrugated and cartonboard, and estimated USD$28 billion global market and growing, are two natural substrates for flatbed digital printing because so much packaging uses this type of inexpensive media, such as Kraft and Coated white. The Hanway Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hanglory Group based in Shenzen, China, has achieved some success here with its Handtop flatbed UV signage and display printers, distributed by Kissel + Wolf.

Hanway has been set up as a separate division exclusively for the industrial models and, like the Handtop range, use renowned Kyocera piezo printheads. However, the inks are aqueous, an attractive plus in the food and beverage packaging industries. This also delivers speed benefits, with up to 150 linear metres per minute possible at 600x400dpi. The Barberan Jetmaster UV corrugated printer, as installed at pioneering corrugated manufacturer Abbe Corrugated, Melbourne, in comparison can run at up to 80 linear metres per minute at 360dpi, with UV inks.

Hanway also make available versions of the Glory 1604 with a stacker and stacker+varnish and there is also the gargantuan 2504 with 2160mm max. sheet width and single-pass priming, printing, varnishing and die cutting. As with all of this type of flatbed printer, the ink carriage (up to 20 printheads per colour) remains stationary and the substrate moves below it. Board thickness can be up to 11mm on the 1604 and 15mm on the 2504 model.

Unconfirmed reports are that Xeikon’s recently announced Idera flatbed corrugated project could be an OEM of the Hanway 1604, Certainly the sheet size and speed are identical and both use aqueous inks.

The Screen/Inca machine is scheduled for release in the first half of 2021, perhaps in time for drupa. It could be going head-to-head with EFI’s Nozomi C18000, although that is an LED UV device in 4 or 6 colours plus white. A Nozomi is installed at Orora’s Melbourne packaging print division. Durst (who also has a joint venture with Koening&Bauer in digital packaging, called CorruJET) is also in the corrugated field with its Delta SPC130 and Delta 2500HS, using IR/UV drying of ‘non hazardous inks.’ HP has been in corrugated for a few years with its HP Scitex 17000 and 15500 systems running UV cure inks at up to 1,000sq/m per hour, and the aqueous-ink PageWide C500.

Also, it should be noted that the corrugated and folding carton markets are accessible at the very short run end using existing flatbed UV devices and CAD-type cutting tables from Zund, Aristo, Kongsberg and so forth.

Post time: Jun-29-2020
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