An EcoLeaf prototype was first demonstrated at drupa 2016, before ACTEGA acquired Landa’s Metallography and created its MetalPrint division to further develop Landa’s patents and preliminary work.
As explained by MD, Jan Franz Allerkamp, during a recent online seminar, the basis of EcoLeaf is a silver pigment that can be overprinted, resulting in a rainbow of metallic colours. Integrated inline on analogue or digital presses, or on finishing equipment, EcoLeaf consists of a metallisation unit that applies the precise amount of metal to the trigger image via a donor roller. The trigger image is UV cured immediately after application.
EcoLeaf is designed to replace the use of hot and cold foil, reducing both waste and costs of metallic embellishments as printers no longer have to wait for the production of foil blocks or embossing tools.
As this technology is geared to allow the finishing of large metallised surface areas – which hot foil can’t easily handle – it presents opportunities for label converters to expand their range of embellishment options.
Testing and developments
ACTEGA MetalPrint’s beta programme – started during Covid-19 lockdowns – includes four EcoLeaf units installed on machine platforms in different European countries.
According to Jan Franz, these beta sites are producing high-end embellishments among customers committed to sustainability credentials. ‘These sites have been generating great results, allowing for long-run speed tests, application development and qualifications for paper and filmic substrates. A stable production speed above 80m/min has been achieved,’ he reports.
In addition to the rainbow of metallic colours achieved, ACTEGA MetalPrint has done extensive tests with German beta customer, Kolbe-Coloco, and produced gold samples with an in-house flexo UV spot colour printed on an EcoLeaf unit.
In parallel to the beta programme, ACTEGA MetalPrint has developed EcoLeaf Digital via a modular print bar equipped with Ricoh Gen5 printhead. ‘EcoLeaf Digital allows true digital metallisation from 330 to 520mm print widths and a resolution of 1 200dpi. It also enables variable drop sizes that support fine details and tactile effects. For ultimate production flexibility, the print bar and the EcoLeaf unit can be installed in any conventional, hybrid or digital printing equipment,’ he explains.
The first EcoLeaf Digital system has been set-up on an AB Graphic International (ABG) web transport system in the company’s Competence Centre in Lehrte, Germany. Interested parties can request a virtual live stream presentation to see the system in operation.
Additionally, new applications for EcoLeaf are being continually developed. One example is refining the reverse printing capability for transparent substrates, allowing metallisation without the need for a gravure unit.
Partnering with ABG
In May, ACTEGA MetalPrint announced its global partnership with ABG, to manage direct sales, marketing and customer service for the EcoLeaf technology, starting in the EU and UK.
When sold through ABG, the EcoLeaf unit will be installed on new Digicon Series 3 digital finishing presses or retrofitted to existing presses in the field.
‘The appointment of ABG is a key component to our roll-out plan. With over 65 years of print finishing expertise in the labelling industry, 11 000 product installations and 2 500 customers, ABG is a great partner for us. What’s more, we’re thrilled that ABG not only sees a big opportunity with EcoLeaf but shares our vision for a more sustainable print market,’ Jan Franz comments.
Earlier this month, ABG retrofitted the first EcoLeaf metallisation unit to an existing Digicon Series 3 machine at Vollherbst, Germany – the first joint beta site between the partners.
Asked to comment on this first EcoLeaf order, ABG sales director, Matt Burton, says: ‘Vollherbst has been a lighthouse customer for many years now, and is a perfect ambassador for our products. Given EcoLeaf’s sustainability credentials and cost-competitiveness for high-end decoration, we expect this to be the first of many orders.’
ABG is represented in South Africa by CSM Machine Sales.