Product Review: Label Presses

The globalisation of world markets is having a significant impact on the Asia Pacific label world, as products are distributed in the global market, and as their manufacturers have as one of their primary concerns the promotion and protection of their brand. In order to ensure the brand is consistent those companies are insisting that the packaging, and particularly the label, is completely consistent. This is causing label printers across the region to ensure they have up to date equipment. In some case the label printerís customer even specify which type of press they want the labels printed on.

Another significant trend in label printing is the move towards one pass combination printing. Companies are always looking for a competitive edge, and for label printers combination presses mean they are able to offer customers labels that stand out from the crowd through the dazzling combination of effects printed, in one pass.

Indeed the biggest selling press from Danish manufacturer Nilpeter is its M-3300, its offset combination 330mm wide press. The M-3300 can come with any number of offset units, and can also incorporate flexo, screen, foil, embossing, die cutting, stripping, and its most recent addition, gravure. The press has been around for a few years, but sales are increasing year on year as label printers seek that something extra.

The gravure unit has been added to provide high quality metallics, but is able to run at full press speed, whereas foiling and screen effects often mean the press has to reduce its speed somewhat. Bruce Hughes, label products manager at Intergrafica Print & Pack, Australia says, ìThe beauty of the M-3300 is that effectively it is a dozen different machines, with all the combinations available. This gives designers a great deal of freedom, and allows them to produce labels that will set their products apart from the competition, and allows them to do it in a cost effective way, because it is one pass printing.î

The Nilpeter M-3300 is a modular machine, which means that users can add functionality as they require it. This includes adding offset units. When a printer buys the Nilpeter M-3300 they first specify need to indicate where they want the initial offset units to go, as they require inking units, but other processes can go anywhere. Some printers for instance prefer the gravure and screening units before offset, some after, depending on the type of application.

At Nilpeterís Open House in Malaysia recently (see story on page 24) the company was highlighting its FA-2500 flexo/UV-flexo press. The company believes that globalisation, both of products and consumer trends, is resulting in a significant increase in supermarkets opening across South East Asia, and those supermarkets are demanding high quality labels on the products.

Nilpeter believes its flexo press will meet that demand. Mr Hughes says, ìThere are two distinct trends in the label market at present. One is the demand for very sophisticated finished in-line label products, the other is for higher quality three and four colour labels, all printed with increased productivity to keep margins reasonable.î

Peter Sage, sales and marketing director at Aldus Graphtek, which distributes the Mark Andy and Comco presses says, ìThe trend now for multi-purpose work, with film, labelstock and board. Comco presses are able to do all that. Film is increasingly being used for labels, due to its cheap cost, for example in milk cartons and stretch sleeve work. Film also has other benefits including UV printing.î

Sleeve labelling

Typically in the industry these days sleeve labeling is growing very fast, with two main types of sleeve; shrink sleeve and stretch sleeve. Stretch is a sleeve stretched over, shrink is shrink to fit, usually over whole bottle, usually by heat, while wrap is a loose plastic outer. Both types are being increasingly used, and while at first it was a niche application for smaller runs, bigger companies are now looking at bigger qualities. However printing shrink sleeve may be far from straightforward. For instance there may be an X per cent shrink, but it may be far from uniform, take the example of a fat body thin neck container, which are not unusual. It has to be shrank on, but you have to stop ink cracking on top or going dull, it is fairly demanding.

Mr Sage also reckons combination processing is in demand, with Mark Andy presses on label side, while Comco is often used for film. He says, ìCombination means many different categories for example on an adhesive wine label, there may be embossing, foiling, screening many colours printed, and all to a very high quality. In personal care products, there may be gold foil, embossing, printing on the back, and high quality on the front.î

Mr Sage sees the benefits of letterpress including inexpensive plates, lower skills for predictable outcomes, the benefits of offset of finer vignettes and dots, higher quality printing, while flexo offers lower cost, higher running speed. He reckons flexo is a completely different discipline, as it is not so good on grained stocks or antique stocks, because the flexo plate is soft.
The new Mark Andy press is a 700 feet per minute machine, while the latest Comcos run high speeds on a range of board and film, at down to 20 micron film up to 150 micron board.

The Gallus Group sees itself as a leading partner to label printers worldwide and has devoted itself to their commercial success.

Success for the label printer means being able to produce quality labels at a competitive price on their existing press configuration and perhaps more importantly to adapt their existing machines to suit future market demands.

Gallus offers a wide range of in-line combination presses to suit most needs, they come in offset, letterpress, UV-flexo, WB-flexo in combination with screen printing, hot foil stamping and other standard embellishments. Today approx 70 per cent of all presses manufactured at both its Swiss and German plants can be classed as ìCombination Printing Machine Systemsî.

James Rodden, managing director of Gallus Australia says, ìThe advantage with combination presses is that the label printer can link modules in any sequence, enabling him to select the best process for any specific job.î

Paul Fletcher, sales manager at GMS, which supplies both the Italian made GiDue flexo press and the Japanese manufactured KoPack says, ìThese days virtually every label press everyone has a specific purpose, rarely do you sell a standard machine. Combination printing is the norm, and this itself can be in any variety, letterpress and flexo, rotary screen, hot foil stamping. People are effectively specifying custom built presses, would be same base standard, then list of options as long as your arm, effectively there is a press for every need.î

The GiDue range are flexo presses manufactured for the high end of flexo market. The presses can be UV, water based or solvent based. The main model in the GiDue range is the Combat press, which is designed for economic four colour work.

According to Mr Fletcher choice of letterpress or flexo often comes down to tradition, with Asia letterpress machines are often preferred, while within Australia and New Zealand flexo machines have the upper hand. Flexo does enable a higher quality, especially with UV, and is well suited to repeat work, as no adjustments in the ink ducts are necessary.

Mr Fletcher says, ìUV of course provides high gloss and instant drying, it gives better density of inks, easy working, no evaporation, and with all interdeck drying there is no printing on wet ink.î Direct contact with food remains off-limits for UV though, for the time being at least, but this is not overly concerning to label printers.

GMS also supplies flexo plates. Torelief, from Toray, is a letterpress plate, also Toraflex, water washable flexo plate, set to provide flexo printers the same opportunities to process on plates in line without solvents that Toray offers letterpress.

Italian label press manufacturer Omet reports continually increasing demand for its presses, from both labels and packaging, throughout the Asia Pacific. Automation is the key demand from the market to Omet. This translates from the requirement for consistent quality, reduced waste, ease of use. The last point is particularly important in the more developed countries, where wage bills are more of an issue, as the easier the machine, the less skill needed, the lower the wages necessary.

Omet machines have an on-board ësupervisorí, which essentially is the skilled operator, but in a computerised format. It manages the press operation, including colour consistency, make-ready preparation and all other aspects. Omet presses still need an operator, but Omet reckons in 10 years or so there will be virtually no need for human operation.

The Omet machine is capable of one pass printing including hot foiling, cold foiling, UV varnishing, lamination and in-line die cutting. Tom Ralph, national sales manager at Ometís Australian distributor Edward Keller reckons all that takes around a third the time of printing labels by sheetfed and then going through each process separately.

Omet is also developing sleeve and gearless technology. The aim again is for fast makeready. All jobs are stored, both digitally in the Omet on-board computer for the setting instructions, and the actual flexo plate cylinder. When the job is required again the operator merely presses the job number for the press to set itself, and then takes the cylinders from storage, and slides them onto the mandrel, with compressed air locking it on. Mr Ralph reckons that this makes the press able to handle jobs of 500 metres of five kilometres.
Edale, the English manufacturer has three main models in its range, the entry level Alpha, the fully specified Beta, and the newly released servo-driven Sigma. The new Sigma is intended to capitalise on the growing trend among label printers to attack other non-label markets, which previously would have fitted in the packaging camp. Sigma can print on substrates from 16 to 600 micron, and Edale is hoping it will meet that requirement. Barry Macdonald, managing director at Edaleís distributor Web Graphics says, ìThere is no doubt label printers are looking at other applications for their presses.î

Alpha machines have the printing units stacked, and operates from a very small footprint, just three square metres. The Beta meanwhile in an in-line press, which not only has the inking units following one after the other, but offers a host of additional functionality in-line. The company has one installation of the Beta at a printer which produces lottery tickjets for clients across Asia. This press prints six-colours both sides, prints ink-jet variable data both sides, and prints with a rotary screen both sides, and hot foils both sides, all in one pass.

Mr MacDonald believes that the highest levels of automation are not applicable to everyone, he says, ìSome people reckon they get quicker turnaround and less waste with manual make-readyî.

While label presses are either flexo or letterpress or a combination, there is one manufacturer that has been making waves with a new printing process, Indigo, with its digital label press.

Originally the Omnius, the press is now known as the ws2000, since Indigo was taken over by Hewlett Packard. The company has also launched a bigger version, the ws4000, which operates at twice the production speed of the first machine.

Short run

Clearly Indigo is aiming to meet the growing requirement for short run work, which itself is driven by end-customers moving towards just-in-time work, inventory reduction and increased on-product promotional activities. Reduced turnaround time is also a factor. Phillip Rennell, manager of the Indigo Division with Currie in Australia says, ìAn Indigo will allow complex label printing in one pass. For instance on a clear label stock it will print the information for the rear of the label, then lay down a white layer, then print 12 colours for the graphics all in one pass. Make-ready time for the job may be around 10 minutes, which is a huge reduction compared to conventional pressesî.

Short run work is increasingly coming to the minds of label buyers. Indigo is aiming at those who may have placed an annual order of say 200,000 in the past, but now want to buy 10,000 or 20,000 at a time as and when they need it. This ordering can take place via email, with the job going straight into the Indigoís print queue. Indigo argues that while a conventional press may take an hour or 90 minutes to make-ready and print 10,000 label in ten minutes the option of taking 10 minutes to make ready and then printing the labels in 30 minutes makes more sense.

Indigo also contents that the quality of print from the liquid ink ws presses will stand up to conventional label press quality. The cost of an Indigo label press is in the same playing field as a conventional label press. Indigo believes its presses will provide a useful weapon for label printers, as it will give them profitability for short run work, something it claims that they struggle to achieve on conventional presses.

Label printers are in a time of unrivalled opportunity. If they can think outside their traditional boundaries the harvest may be plentiful, the technology is certainly there.


The French manufactured Codimag Viva 340 is distinct from the field in that it is promoted as a waterless machine. Codimag says the offset press combines the advantages of semi-rotary technology, with the advantages of the offset printing process. It claims the results are exceptional quality printing on a myriad of substrates.

Codimag says users can achieve low dot gain, and realise screen rulings that can go from solid down to zero with no problems. The press has a powerful inking train that includes two transfer rollers, three oscillating rollers and three form rollers, guaranteeing exceptional print quality and vignettes of 0 per cent, says Codimag.

The roller washing system is integrated by automatic spraying device.

Max print width 335mm
Max print speed 12,000iph

Comco ProGlide MSP
The Comco ProGlide MSP has been designed to handle a wide variety of work, printing on sustrates from 1-mil unsupported film up to 24-pt board stock. It can also process preprinted webs, or make multiple passes of the same web. The printing stations have a shuttle concept, in that the whole station, or any part of it, can be exchanged between jobs. This includes the ink pan, meter roll, anilox roll and print cylinder. The die-cassettes are also slide-out for fast make-ready. The rotary screen UV unit move between printing stations on a cart. Hot foil stamping is similarly moveable. The ProGlide MSP has automatic register control, with two sensors in each print station. Adjustments are made without rotating the impression cylinder, and web tension remains constant during register correction.

Web print width 406mmm, 457mm, 559mm, 660mm
Print repeat range Up to 812.8mm
Press speed 150 metres per minute
Register adjustment 360 degree infinite
Die cutting Rotary or flatbed

Edale Beta
Edaleís Beta press is a modular machine for printing and converting labels, packaging and cartons. It is the latest version of Edaleís B range, and comes with additional features. It can be supplied with up to 12 print stations and up to three converting stations. An interesting feature is the overhead drying units, located above rather than below the print heads, which Edale says avoids the risk of ink drying on the plates and aniloxes. Edale says that for all its functionality the Beta series is relatively inexpensive, due to its simplicity of design. It is a combination press, of flexo, screen and digital, and has three nip tension control, with quick set register. Options include a rotary screen unit, rotary slitting, full UV drying with low towers, a turn bar, laminating unwind, delivery table and video inspection.

Web print width 250mm, 330mm
Print repeat Up to 457mm
Press speed 150 metres per minute
Print stations Up to 12
Ceramic aniloxes Up to 10

Gallus RCS 330
The Swiss built Gallus RCS 330 is a modular inline printing machine using single-drive technology, which can be configured and extended as required. Changing from one printing process to another is possible without cutting the web. Gallus claims dramatic reductions in job changeover times and waste, thanks to the high degree of automation in all modules for setting web tension and register, and washing devices. There is automatic control of stored repeat orders, and low consumption of all resources for maximum ecological efficiency.

Printing processes possible on the RCS300 include UV-flexographic printing, rotary screen printing; separately or in combination.

Max web width 335mm
Max repeat width 609.6mm
Max number of print stations 12
Max number processing ops 8
Substrates PS – materials standard, paper from 60gsm

GiDue Combat
Capable of printing on anything from 25 micron polypropelyne up to 350gsm stock the Combat is as its name suggests, able to handle virtually anything thrown at it.

Technology on the press is centred around the Flower printing head, so called because the print unit opens like a flower, and on so doing each element becomes independent and immediately accessible. GiDue has a new design on the flexo print station, which means it is guide-free, enabling consistent quality performance claims the company. The print unit is held by three pressure points.

The operator does not touch ink during the normal course of events, washing is all automated. To change the anilox roller no printing pressure or anilox pressure adjustment is required.

Web print width 280mm, 370mm, 430mm, 530mm
Print repeat Up to 762mm
Press speed 150 metres a minute
Die cutting stations 3, 4 or 5
Max print stations 12

Indigo ws4000
Aimed at the short run label market Indigo reckons the ws4000 is good for runs up to 6,500 feet in terms of its economic performance over flexo label presses. The ws4000 takes digital date directly from a file, and prints. There is no film, plates, chemistry or waste, or associated time and labour costs.
Indigo claims the press prints 800dpi resolution, and says its electro inks produce offset quality, dry instantly, and match the gloss of the underlying substrate. Those substrates inclulde self adhesive papers, and synthetics such as PE, PET, OPP, PVC. The ws4000 can be supplied with in-line finishing equipment from Nilpeter and Omega, for a variety of functions, including die-cutting, laminating, UV varnishing, matrix removal and cold foiling.

Max web print width 330mm
Repeat length up to 470mm
Press speed 52.5 fpm (4-colour) 105fpm (1or 2 colour)
Max colours 7
Substrate range 60-250 microns

Ko-Pack Euro
The KO-Pack Euro is designed for high quality printing of primary pressure-sensitive paper and film labels, also unsupported film. It is available in up to nine colours, including combined processes; letterpress, rotary screen, flexo and hotfoil. There are two web widths; 250mm and 400mm.

Options include a Stack unit, an additional 1-3 colours, a rotary screen unit, a flexo print unit, a hotfoil unit with foil unwind/rewind, reverse side printing, adhesive side printing, automatic register control of stack to stack, and print to rotary. It also has conical print cylinder shafts wet laminating, a flatbed die-cutting station, a second rotary die-cutting station, sheeter unit with shingle stacker and cross-over conveyor, an extended processing section, to include three driven rotary converting options.

Max web width Up to 400mm
Max repeat length 460.3mm
Press speed 100 metres per minute
Max printing stations 6
Rotary die cutting 400mm

Mark Andy LP3000
The Mark Andy LP3000is aimed at printers operating in several different segments, including; wine, luxury and other primary product labels; functional labels and tags; health and beauty labels and tags; medical and pharmaceutical labels and packaging and industrial labels.

Functions on the press include a new quick load system for plates, with pneumatic control, and a QC quick change ink carriage, which allows users to set the meter roll and the doctor blade outside the press. There is a constant turn anilox roll, with ink pans, meter rolls and anilox rolls able to be changed while the press is running. Each dryer tunnel has independent temperature control, and the whole press is operated through one-touch electronic control.

Web print width 250mm, 330mm, 430mm
Print repeat range Up to 610mm
Press speed 230 metres per minute
Die cutting positions 2 + 1 sheeting
Max print stations 12

Nilpeter FA-2500
Manufactured in Denmark the Nilpeter FA-2500 is a fully modular press, which in its basic specification can have flexo, UV-flexo or screen printing units, with flatbed or rotary die cutting and hot foil stamping. As it is modular units can be added, or even transferred between presses if the user has more than one.

A basic two unit machine can be expanded to a nine-colour combination press with multiple unwind and die cutting stations. The press can be upgraded with GLS enhancements, which include UV curing lamps, ozone free curing. There is a new web transport system, and guaranteed gear mark free printing. The FA-2500 also has touch screen intelligent control system, with on-screen service information, as well as operations monitoring.

Max web print with Up to 260mm
Max repeat 381mm
Press speed (rotary die-cut) 175 metres per minute
Press speed (flatbed die cut) 41-100 metres per minute
Max printing units 9

Omet Varyflex
The Italian manufactured Omet Varyflex has been designed to meet a range of applications, not only labels but also flexible packaging and folding cartons. It has a new tension control system, Multitension, which the company claims ensures correct tension from 1/2mil film to 24 pt board.

The Varyflex has gearless plate cylinders, allowing infinitely variable repeats. It has offline preparation of the anilox cylinder, enabling changeover to take place in seconds. It has an automatic air sleeve extraction system, along with automated pre-register and an integrated plate register system. Two versions of the press are available, allowing printing up to either 350mm or 600mm.

Max print web width 420mm, 520mm, 670mm
Max repeat Up to 838.2mm
Press speed 150 metres per minute
Longitudinal register 360 degrees
Material range 12My ñ 600My

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