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Xeikon In-Mold Label Suite illustrates game-changing potential of digital production
Customer aL Printing recounts how it moved into digital In-Mold labeling at Xeikon Café on Packaging Innovations
In-mold labeling (IML) is rapidly gaining popularity for the decoration of plastic containers. With in-mold labels the decoration is an integral part of the container, applied during molding and not added on at a later stage in the production process. While this complicates the production and limits its flexibility, the result definitely makes up for it with an eye-catching no-label look that stands out on the shelves. Conventional printing technologies struggle to provide an affordable solution for today's demands for product launches, short runs and personalization. "Digital printing of in-mold labels can overcome the issues of conventional technologies and will enable further growth of the in-mold label market," says Filip Weymans, Xeikon's Director of Segment Marketing Labels & Packaging. "Together with our Aura Partners we have developed the In-Mold Label Suite, an integrated solution that enables you to use digital printing as part of an automated in-mold label production process."
Like any of Xeikon's label and packaging application suites, the In-Mold Label Suite consists of a Xeikon 3000 Series press, complemented with four supporting components: (1) software, (2) consumables and tools, (3) print media and (4) pre- and post-printing equipment.
Live production of labels for butter tubs and Clics buckets
At the event, a Xeikon 3000 Series press equipped with ICE CMYK and opaque white toner will be printing label designs in roll-to-roll mode for thin-walled as well as thick-walled in-mold applications. Michelman primer will be used to precondition the substrates. Running inline with the press will be a MiniUCoat in which the prints will be coated with a water-based varnish from Actega Terra before being rewound. To prevent the buildup of static charges, the MiniUCoat will be equipped with Meech antistatic bars. The reel with the varnished prints will be mounted onto an offline Rietstack converting machine that will die-cut the labels into their final shape.
This configuration will run two applications: a label for a thin-walled container - a butter tub with matching cover - printed in CMYK on EUH 70, a cavitated film produced by Treofan; and a label for a thick-walled plastic container - a two-liter bucket for Clicks Toys - printed in CMYK and opaque white on ETR 57, a transparent solid film from Treofan. There will also be finished products on display, including IML labels converted by in-mold label technology from Schrobertechnologies. In addition, during technical seminars, Aura Partners attending the event will describe their contributions to the In-Mold Label Suite in detail.
Meet the customer: aL Printing
"Digital in-mold label production is a game-changer. We are therefore extremely pleased that one of our pioneering customers, aL Printing, has agreed to come and provide more details about their move into digital in-mold label production," comments Weymans. "This Xeikon Café offers visitors the unique opportunity to learn from first-hand experience, from a company that has successfully started up digital production of in-mold labels. If anyone is still looking for a reason to attend, this is it!"
Based in the Netherlands, with also branches in Germany, aL Printing (www.alprinting.com) provides services to customers throughout Europe. Founded in 1938 as a dairy business, aL Printing became a specialist in innovative packaging solutions. Using digital printing technology since the 1990s, the company decided at the end of 2013 to invest in a new digital platform, opting for a Xeikon 3500 Digital Press.
This choice was determined by several factors. One particular important one is the Xeikon digital printing technology's fit with in-mold labeling: PET dry toner does not deform during molding and meets FDA standards for indirect food contact as well as being CPSIA compliant. The combination of a 508 mm imaging width and unlimited repeat length supports any size of label and the 1200 dpi resolution combined with four-bit variable-dot density enables matching offset printing quality. aL Printing sees huge potential, especially in the decoration of thick-walled buckets. Many of these are decorated using conventional techniques, such as direct screen printing, which fail to meet brand owners' requirements in terms of image quality. The volumes sold of these larger containers are also lower than those of common consumer goods. So, conventional techniques are simply not cost effective for in-mold labeling of this type of packaging.
About the Xeikon Café on Packaging Innovations - easy and free registration
The Xeikon Café will take place at Xeikon's production site in Lier, Belgium. It will run from May 20 till May 22, with basically the same program each day so participants can choose the date that best suits them. Attendance is free but registration is required online at www.xeikoncafe.com.
The Xeikon Café is hosted in collaboration with the following Xeikon Aura Partners, who will all attend the event: 3M, AB Graphic International, ACTEGA Terra, Advanced Track & Trace, Argos Solutions, Bograma, CERM, CHILI Publish, Diamond Photofoil, Grafisk Maskinfabrik, Highcon, Hybrid Software, Iggesund, Kama, Label Traxx, Meech International, Michelman, OneVision, Rietstack, RotoMetrics, Schober Technologies, Siliconature, Stora Enso, Squid Inks, ThermoFlexX, Treofan, Tronics and UPM Raflatac.
About the Xeikon 3000 Series
The Xeikon 3000 Series comprises five simplex presses, differing in maximum printing speed and imaging width. They have several unique features that make them a perfect fit for digital in-mold label production:
- All presses are full rotary with variable repeat length and always print at top speed, regardless of the number of colors used. Labels of different dimensions can be printed in one and the same run, without any adjustment to the press, thereby maximizing productivity.
- Depending on the model, the maximum imaging width is up to 508 mm (20"). The larger width increases the scope of applications as well as productivity.
- True 1200 dpi combined with four-bit variable-dot density offers the image quality the market has come to expect, while automated quality control ensures perfect color registration and maintains color accuracy and consistency throughout print runs as well as between jobs and across presses. This resolution also makes it possible to print fine details, enabling the addition of bar codes and security features, such as microtext.
- Xeikon's ICE toner for heat-sensitive substrates contains no harmful chemicals, meets FDA and ISEGA standards for food packaging applications and is CPSIA compliant. It also offer a high degree of lightfastness.
- When printing labels on transparent media on a Xeikon press, one pass is all it takes to produce a perfectly opaque white base layer, offering a better opacity than 'flexo white'.
- All Xeikon presses are equipped with the X-800 digital front-end, combining prepress, data processing and press operation functionality. It comes with several add-ons especially developed for label production, such as VariLane enabling the printing of labels with different SKUs and different sizes in the same run. Integrated into the X-800 are all the necessary tools to efficiently implement color management, ensuring consistent and reproducible results. The X-800 further offers seamless integration and connectivity with any market-leading PDF, design and production workflows. As a result, it enables the implementation of fully integrated heat transfer label production workflows.
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