This means converters now require the flexibility of offering flexo varnishing, primer, die-cutting and inspection, as well as added value screen applications for tactile and olfactory sensorial effects. Some examples of the customisation required to meet the highest level of label quality and innovation include effects that require combined drying and curing solutions or lamination to apply special glues or protection film.
According to Southern African representative, Beswick Machinery, SMAG’s modular ICON line platform evolves with converters’ needs and enables them to mix processes and to implement new modules ranging from printing to finishing and inspection, within the same machine. Each servo module incorporates a range of smart customisation features such as independent repeat size management, automatic length registration, cross foiling rotating heads for hot stamping, and contact waste matrix stripping. The modules can be ordered in 350mm, 450mm or 530mm web widths.
Traceability tag technologies
MD Bruce Beswick notes that one of the latest trends to ensure brand integrity is RFID/NFC/EAS tag insertion for anti-theft, anti-counterfeiting, traceability, logistic and marketing purposes.
‘As value-added digital printing and the internet of things (IoT) are becoming more present in mass consumption, labels have to connect products to digital networks. SMAG’s ICONNECT RFID/NFC inserter and encoder lines pay special attention to the encoding process to match the end-user RFID/NFC environment,’ he states. ‘Furthermore, many medical packaging converters insert and print RFID/NFC antennas, as well as other flexible printed electronic components, such as sensors. The latter reacts to touch and temperature or luminescent labels when consumers interact with the labels.’
Bruce explains that the ICONNECT Converting line consists of two modules, the first handles RFID/NFC roll feeding at a rate of 120m/min with high-accuracy and in-register inlay insertion onto the backing. The second takes care of master roll feeding, delamination and relamination of plain or printed labels over RFID/NFC inlays and rewinding of fully-tagged master rolls.
Print inspection, encoding the RFID/NFC tag with the relevant information, tag and encoding verification, and inkjet printing of variable data are carried out on the ICONNECT Encoding line at an output rate of 60m/min. The latter operation can link the tag information to an individual datamatrix code plus a second inkjet head to ‘void’ faulty labels, which are removed on the built-in splice table.
Automated and versatile
According to Bruce, another notable development is SMAG’s ICONTACT reel-to-reel printing with alternate, continuous or combined web transportation that enables any printing and converting process. ‘It is simple to set-up and productive to run, thanks to the high levels of automation and interchangeability. Configuration choices include infeed drum and dancing rollers for alternate to continuous web transportation, and an infeed drum with nip rollers or vacuum for alternate web transportation without touching the top printed surface. The benefits are reduced risk of scratches on the printing and contamination before continuous and in-register lamination of conductive printing and sensitive materials,’ he states.
ICONTACT’s drying systems are integrated on each printing module with the possibility of combining or interchanging the cassettes, which include hot air, infrared, near-infrared, UV and LED curing. Additionally, chilling plates and air extraction ensure accurate web temperature control.