Chatting to exhibitors elicited a universally positive response – they enjoyed interaction with visitors whose serious intent was to listen and learn about digital label and packaging production, in contrast (to quote one) to ‘the time-wasters we generally encounter at large exhibitions’.
Given the universal approval of OEMs and the clear message of satisfaction from visitors, it’s not surprising to learn that Xeikon now intends staging this event annually (except for drupa years).
From Xeikon’s point of view, the focus was on its dry toner digital technology for printing a number of products from self-adhesive labels, in-mould labels and heat transfer labels, to folding cartons and paper cups.
Among the line-up of Xeikon presses in action were the 3500, 3300 and 8800, with products then being converted directly by Xeikon’s partners. For instance, in-mould labels were printed on a Xeikon 3500 and then die-cut and stacked on Dutch company Rietstack’s IRS 440 system; and on a Digicon Series 2 converting line, AB Graphics demonstrated the addition of UV varnish, screen printing, foiling and embossing to preprinted wine labels.
Other suppliers represented other points in the label printing supply chain.
Among examples was Michelman, promoting its new DigiPrime 4453 primer, designed for use on Xeikon digital presses when producing in-mould labels.
In-mould labelling was a much-discussed topic, too, at the concurrent technical seminars. Michelman, Treofan and Xeikon all directly addressed this topic, while other suppliers such as Meech, Highcon, Hybrid Software, RotoMetrics and UPM Raflatac spoke about their specific areas of expertise in the label supply chain.
Converter testimonials ‘the icing on the cake’
A lively programme of business seminars also provided some real-world examples from converters using Xeikon technology. Of particular interest from a folding carton production point of view was a presentation by the management team of the UK’s Colebourne & Partners, who highlighted their positive experiences in moving to digital production of folding cartons.
So far as Xeikon’s Filip Weymans is concerned, testimonies from such converters was ‘the icing on the cake’.
‘Nothing,’ he avers, ‘beats listening to and exchanging ideas with someone who knows from personal experience what it’s like to move into digital production and turn it into a success story. This event provided visitors with any information they could possibly need to understand how digital production could also work for them.’
A South African view
Among the South African label converters at Xeikon Café was Richard Laroque of Label-it.
He had this to say: ‘We have been looking at digital printing with interest. With all the different technologies available it can be a bit confusing. While attending large expos such as Labelexpo is informative, it can be difficult to get quality time with vendors.’
Richard’s challenge was to try to separate facts about the commercial viability of digital printing from marketing hype, and he felt the Xeikon Café would be a great forum to meet all players in the digital supply chain.
‘And I wasn’t disappointed,’ he declares.
‘The format was flexible and the conference programme provided a valuable overview of the various subjects, which I was then able to discuss in depth with the vendors at their stands.’
Richard notes advances in areas such as converting in-mould labels.
‘Companies like Actega provided good insights into the problems encountered in production and how its coatings can help,’ he adds.
From Richard’s viewpoint, the presentation by Advanced Track & Trace was particularly interesting. ‘While I’ve previously dismissed this kind of security as being too sophisticated and expensive for our relatively small market, we’re receiving an increasing number of enquiries for security labels. Isn’t it amazing that a merchandiser or consumer can take a photo of a bottle of wine and immediately establish whether it is genuine or not?’ he queries.
He also describes a presentation on lead generation and nurturing ‘as a good reminder that it’s not enough to please our customers, we need to delight them’.
Summing up, Richard shares this thought: ‘What excites me most about digital is the niche markets that simply cannot be served using the flexo process. One needs to be creative in identifying new markets. The challenge is to find enough of the right kind of work to fill the press, as it is a substantial investment to make.’
[Ed’s note: If you want a first-hand taste of the Xeikon Café event, here’s the link to a wrap-up video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKwcGEZN1AM.]