Israeli technology developer Velox, Ltd. announced recently its first installation of a production-level direct to shape (DTS) printer at a major packaging manufacturer in Israel. The news marks the first commercial installation of Velox IDS 250 printer, a UV inkjet-based system that Velox says will print plastic and aluminum tubes at up to 250 containers per minute with seamless, photorealistic images, and offer other embellishments such as tactile effects. Most importantly, Velox says the new system’s capabilities and costs will allow it to replace analog decoration systems even for the printing runs of many thousands of cans or tubes.
Velox, based in Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel, has placed this first IDS 250 at another Israeli company, Lageen Tubes, a packaging supplier to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals companies worldwide. Velox and Lageen note that the IDS 250 is now in operation printing full runs of tubes that will soon be on retail shelves globally.
For readers unfamiliar with “direct to shape” (DTS) printing, this type of imaging uses jetting technology to decorate curved and other surfaces directly, with full process color. Direct to shape images are essentially label images, but with no intermediate label media—the printed image is placed directly on the surface of the package or the product itself. For manufacturers of cans, bottles, and other packaging, DTS thus enables rapid response to customer needs, for customization, for short runs, even for personalization, an attractive alternate to screen and other analog decoration. DTS systems can be placed near line or, if the DTS printing is fast enough, even in-line with manufacturing; the Velox IDS product is clearly in the second category.
About a dozen companies globally offer or aim to offer DTS systems that can decorate cans, bottles, tubes, and products at speeds appropriate for high volume print runs. Other printers besides Velox IDS 250, though, range widely in what they can actually do. Most print no more than 10 items per minute, and only rare ones print more than 100 items per minute. DTS as a production print application in 2018 is thus still a virtuoso use of digital printing for packaging, and still fairly obscure. Placements for true production DTS printing are fairly rare, and an unknown share of them are unpublicized, proprietary units at manufacturing facilities.
That said, the Velox IDS 250 is clearly a spike in chart of DTS printing. Partly that is because its productivity (250 units per minute or 15,000 per hour) is at the top of the speed range of existing DTS printers. Partly it is also because the print quality looks so high (see pictures), and it can even include the printing of caps and closures. Besides its speed, Velox IDS 250 is notable for the range of inks and fluids that are standard; Velox cites “15 simultaneous colors” (the full list includes CMYKW, gamut extenders, and fluids for tactile and other visual effects).
Velox credits two proprietary technologies for the speed and imaging capabilities of the new printer. One is the company’s trademarked “Adaptive Deposition Architecture,” which Velox says achieves ultra-accurate drop placement, ensuring high resolution and precise color matching. The other, also trademarked, is “Variable Viscosity Ink,” which Velox says enables efficient ink use, controlled opacity, substrate independence, and enhanced curing.
Velox and Lageen report that the IDS 250 is now operating commercially at Lageen’s plant in Israel. Velox’s press release about the installation contains a short, helpful video about the installation. While close specifications are not cited, the video alone gives a sense of the size and power of the new system, which clearly is in the “big iron” segment of the young DTS print technology segment.
Most digital printing for packaging serves as a complement to analog systems, but the claim for Velox IDS 250 is that it will instead be a replacement technology. On that, Velox managers say total costs in labor and materials for dry offset, flexo, silk screen, and label technologies make analog printing of cans and tubes more expensive than IDS 250 for runs into the tens of thousands of units, depending on the technology chosen. While for very long runs analog decoration will still have a cost advantage, for both average runs and for short runs, Velox says that advantage disappears; meanwhile the print provider with Velox IDS 250 has radically higher operational efficiency, and the ability to mass customize all packaging decoration.
While some important considerations are still unknown, Velox IDS 250 has the potential to be a true breakthrough development in the digital printing of packaging. The system’s purchase price is unstated but likely at least in the low millions of dollars, so placements for the next few years will be tiny. That said, installed systems will print huge volumes, pull jobs away from analog systems, and add a big new option for customization. Finally, if its costs and performance are as good as Velox says, IDS 250 could even be installed not just with packaging suppliers, but in the operations of individual manufacturers, shortening a key supply chain and advancing the career of digital print for packaging.
June 13, 2018 at 05:55PM https://ift.tt/2qJu0CO