Print to shape!

Digital printing is gradually making inroads into newer territories, the latest being printing directly on bottles, balls, drinking glasses, ceramic cups, flacons, tubes etc. in round, oval, square, cylindrical or conical shapes. Varsha Verma explores this new technology trend and how it will affect the label printing industry.

Labels and packaging is by far experiencing the maximum growth in the printing industry. According to Markets and Markets, a market research firm worldwide, the industrial labels market is expected to exceed 50 billion dollars (USD) by 2020.

Packaging is all about innovation as every product clamours for attention. The winner is the product that stands apart and packaging plays a major role in the selection process. Even a good quality product fails to make the first impact if it has poor packaging. Substrates, shapes, curvatures, value added effects and now personalisation – all are changing the packaging industry.

Digital printing has already made inroads into the packaging segment, with its label printing machines, corrugated machines and digital direct-to-shape printing.

Packaging demands…

Packaging industry is more demanding as it requires different pretreatment for different materials like glass, plastic, cardboard, metal, etc. Also, it is characterised by numerous shapes and curvatures. Besides, eco-friendly packaging, food-grade packaging – all make it all the more challenging. It is a constant effort to make the packaging better day by day.

Direct-to-shape: the next technology

Ever since the time digital printers were introduced, the digital printing industry has come a long way. Their quality has become at par with offset, the consistency has increased and it has become more feasible for short runs. With direct-to-shape printing, the technology has eliminated the cost of producing and applying the labels. This would result in considerable cost saving, would be faster and can be used for newer product ideas. There would be minimum changeover time from one job to another and run lengths can vary from one to many.

It can print full colour images and text directly onto cans, bottles, sleeves and other shaped containers for beverage, personal care and home care products, etc. Thus, you can use the full package for printing as there is no limit to the label size. One can print on ridged or grooved edges as well. This opens up the entire surface for printing, which advertisers and product companies can make use of.

Further, it can be personalised – one can create different designs or messages for different target audience or location, thereby engaging the consumers at a different level, enhancing brand loyalty and driving new revenue streams. It can also be used for test marketing new products.

What’s more? One can also integrate coding and marking into the printing process, which include barcodes, manufacturing dates, expiry dates, etc. One can print when one wants, thereby reducing the cost of storage.

Technology for direct-to-shape printing

Xaar 1002 is the core of the direct-to-shape printing. Xaar’s TF Technology keeps inks in constant motion and prevents sedimentation so that heavily-pigmented white ink is jetted smoothly and consistently onto clear PET and glass containers in a single pass as opaque under- or over-coat layers and for liquid labels. It also enables printing onto curved and shaped surfaces in both horizontal and vertical ‘skyscraper’ modes, making Xaar printheads compatible with many production line handling systems. They also give the flexibility to configure multi-colour units and dedicated spot colour print stations/carousels to suit specific applications. Its 1000 Optimised Geometry nozzles deliver precise nozzle uniformity and highly accurate drop placement. With 360 nozzles per inch, and up to 8 grey levels result in an effective print resolution greater than 1000 dpi/li. These combine to deliver exceptionally smooth tones and wide gamut vibrant images, alongside pin sharp text and fine detail.

While, adhos, Germany, has launched the aLITE technology (advancedLight Initiated Thermal Emission) at drupa 2016. It is based on an area-focussed, high intensity energy source, to allow instantaneous thermal processing. Thus water based or solvent based coatings can be instantly dried or even cured, which is a mandatory requirement to overcome the present application barriers to coating applications in “direct to shape printing”. aLITE also allows the performing of inline drying and sintering of functional coatings applied by inkjet or aerosol, as necessary, for cost competitive 3D-production of 3-D components. Typically these are only processed today in hot air ovens, mostly offline in standalone production units, requiring much space and much time.

Printers in this category…

Heidelberg and Fuji offer “Omnifire” 4d technology – which customers can use to personalize and individually print on objects. Be it footballs, packages or, in future, maybe cars or planes. Soon, the company will launch “Omnifire 1000” which is capable of printing on objects of up to 1 meter in size. Furthermore, they are working on a robot-mounted “Omnifire XL” as an alternative to individual coating.

Mimaki offers UV inkjet printer UJF-7151 plus, which enables high-precision ink dot placement and beautiful printing through Mimaki’s proprietary technology and at top-level productivity. It can print on media up to 28- by 20-inches – a familiar format size in the screen printing industry – and on materials up to 6 inches thick. Mimaki’s Kebab option can print on cylindrical objects such as bottles and cans, and is expected to be available in late 2016.

Roland offers LEJ-640FT UV flatbed printer, which delivers exceptional graphics that are anything but “flat”. In addition to unmatched material size and thickness capabilities, the LEJ-640FT utilizes CMYK, White and Clear Coat ECO-UV inks for stunning special effects including textures and simulated embossing. It all adds up to powerful visual impact. The LEJ-640FT UV flatbed printer has a 64”x 98” print bed that works beautifully with both thick and thin substrates - print on delicate film one job, and dense, rigid materials the next. While the LEJ-640FT is ideal for use with standard materials like foamcore, plastic, wood, glass and metal, it’s also the perfect solution if you want to print on hundreds of USB drives, smartphone cases or distinct items like guitar cases, water bottles and more.

There are many more such printers on the block, which are poised to take packaging printing to an absolutely new level. While it is still early to comment whether it will replace labels in the long run, but one thing is clear –this new technology is creating lot of interest and making headlines all over.

Monotech Systems to represent Labelmen Machinery in India

(L-R) Team Labelmen and Team Monotech SystemsMonotech Systems has recently tied up with Taiwan based Labelmen Machinery Co. Ltd. to market a wide range of products that include rotary-letterpress, intermittent offset press, letterpress and die-cut equipment in India. The association took place at drupa 2016, Dusseldorf.

Labelmen is specialized in manufacturing of Rotary Letter Press, Offset Press, Die-Cutting and Letter Press, designed for short-run printing. Labelmen designs with more humane technology such as CNC One Touch make-ready design, Ani-print inking system and remote monitoring and diagnosing which can truly meet customers’ printing requirements. Little wonder then Labelmen has become a trademark of professional label press worldwide.

TP Jain, managing director, Monotech Systems said, "Having a strong presence in inkjet, labels and packaging segment, Labelmen is the right partner in the fastest growing and never ending segment. With constant development efforts to make better, faster products for labels and packaging industry, Labelmen’s wide range of products will be a privilege for us to have in our product portfolio and offering to the Indian customers.”

While, Chin-Shiung, chairman, Labelmen Machinery Co. Ltd said, “We are delighted to be associated with a promising brand Monotech Systems who are representing us in India. Obviously, India is a huge market and with their extensive expertise and reach in labels and packaging segment will give us a way ahead to have the strong presence.”

New BOPP film for cement bag protection

Leading manufacturer of speciality BOPP films, Cosmo Films, recently launched a special BOPP film that enhances moisture resistance of cement bags. This film is used for laminating block bottom cement bags which are made of woven PP material. The product is already in commercial use and finding traction with major cement brands.

The special film launched by Cosmo, not only provides additional protection to the contents inside by adding moisture barrier, but also enhances the print quality of the printed material making it more appealing for the consumer. Being a 100% polyolefin structure, it is environment friendly and would further enhance the reusability of the bag.

Cosmo’s polypropylene based film bonds really well with the woven PP fabric and also takes micro-perforation/nano embossing well. The laminated bag has excellent heat seal & hot tack properties and displays excellent machinability. Apart from the cement bags & other building materials, these laminated bags could be used to pack variety of staples such as rice, flour, sugar etc; pet foods; fertilizers and chemicals.

Commenting on the development, Pankaj Poddar, CEO, Cosmo Films, said, “India is world’s second largest cement producer after China with production estimates of approx 300 million tonnes per annum with production figures estimated to reach 407 million tonnes p.a., by FY17. With only 15% of the cement being packed in block bottom bags, there is a huge potential in converting these bags into laminated ones and upgrading the traditional PP stitched bags as well. Laminated bags have already done well in Pakistan and Bangladesh and consumption is already on the rise in Indian market.”

Rotary punching technology from Schobertechnologies used in 100 countries worldwide

Schobertechnologies GmbH, one of the leading specialists in the development, designing and manufacturing of rotary tooling, modules and complete specialty machines widely used in film, foil, packaging, nonwovens and paper converting industries, boasts of its products being currently used in over 100 countries worldwide.

Their high performance rotary punching modules are installed in most of the well known rotary printing machines and converting lines, slitter-winders and extrusion equipment and designed to produce tea bags and tags, price tags, ATB- and ATB2-tickets, boarding passes, wallets, parking tickets, bank notes, security labels, smart cards, test strips, meat tray inserts, security documents, vegetable wrapping foils, band aids and components for solar panels just to name a few. The extensive portfolio of Schobertechnologies even includes special machines such as the RSR rotary punching machine with a working width starting from 50 mm for precise punching of films and other difficult materials.

What all it includes?

The term rotary punching technology includes, in addition to precision tools, extensive peripherals among all high capacity modules, designed for installation in an existing processing machine or supplied with its own drive motor and control system, an efficient punch waste extraction designed for maximum operating speed, and particularly necessary in high-speed units, a bearing block cooling system.

Quality and performance…

The performance of these high precision units ranges for processing speeds of up to 1000 meters/min. and tool diameters of up to 600 mm, with working width of up to 2 meters. With production speeds rising, and higher quality requirements from end users, Schobertechnologies engineers have kept up with these demands, with further developments with their rotary punching tools and modules, all tooling is manufactured using the latest CNC technology.

Also new materials and combination of materials for punches/dies, punch bars/die bars have been successfully tested. The latest design of modules also incorporates innovative approaches with regards to lubrication, heat build-up, thermal expansion, run out and unbalance. These developments have led to a clean and burr-free punching performance even on film as thin as 15 μ.


The products of Schobertechnologies have found their application in all sectors of Rotary processing. In addition to the traditional sectors of paper, film and foil processing industries, new applications fields could be acquired in the medical, automotive, security, electronic, and pharmaceutical industry.

New vector technology for producing IML

Schobertechnologies now offers the latest model of RSM-IML, which is now recognized to be the most advanced and efficient machine for the production of IML on the market. The RSM-DIGI-VARICUT represents the latest generation of fully modular RSM machines, designed to convert web width up to 850 mm and with repeat or format length of up to 1220 mm.

With the RSM-DIGI-VARICUT, Schobertechnologies has developed a new generation of hybrid drive technology specifically designed for digitally printed flexible packaging materials which combines continuous and vector rotary die cutting technology, in re-registration mode, thus a wide range of formats can be processed with a single tool, and offers great advantages for the production of short runs.

Short make-ready times with minimum waste and cost-effective cutting technology with maximum lifetime are additional significant benefits of this converting technology.

Group Publications