Labelexpo Europe 2017 celebrated its biggest-ever edition at the Brussels Expo, occupying nine exhibition halls – 12% bigger than 2015 – and attracting 37,742 visitors (up 5.6%). Apex International tapped into all major trends that headlined the show, welcoming the audience to its Knowledge Center in Hall 11 – close to Labelexpo’s Automation Arena.
As labels remained central to the overall Labelexpo experience last September, the show’s organizers emphasized that the show floor also reflected its continued diversification into flexible package printing. And while inkjet technology made a real breakthrough at this year’s show, there was also the latest hybrid press offerings from major conventional press suppliers as well as a wealth of new conventional flexo press developments with enhanced features for automation, package printing and increased efficiency for short runs.
The Automation Arena feature made its debut in Brussels, enabling Labelexpo to highlight the latest automated label and package printing technology: “As Industry 4.0 becomes a reality for label printers, the Automation Arena was put on to show the complete automated workflow in action from job creation and prepress through to finishing and customer invoicing.”
Apex’ smart solutions enable innovation
Apex International is well known in the industry for its innovative approach to the flexographic printing process. Labelexpo Europe provided the ultimate platform to show a worldwide audience how Apex addresses the major trends in the industry.
• New levels in automation: Smart Anilox
The introduction of an RFID-equipped anilox roll will enable Apex customers to reach new levels in automation and process control. Remco Snik, manager R&D at Apex International, explains: “This ‘Smart Anilox’ is able to automatically share status information with intelligent systems. The Smart Anilox data will be integrated into the MIS. This will simplify scheduling jobs on various presses and shorten make ready times. And the system will be able to provide feedback that enables preventive anilox maintenance to take place in time.”
“By teaming up with press manufacturer MPS – already one of our technology partners for over 20 years – and its ground-breaking ‘talk to me’ connectivity technology, Apex is once again expanding its offer to printers to become more efficient and more productive.”
• UV inks: opportunities in packaging
Labelexpo set the stage for a new industry initiative, FoodSafeUV, to promote the safety of UV inks and varnishes for indirect food contact packaging. According to the group, “UV opens up new opportunities for short run flexible packaging with the added benefits of in-line UV decoration technology and a more environmentally sustainable profile”.
Next to the opportunities and advantages, however, UV inks are known to cause problems such as ink spitting, due to their high viscosity. By reinventing the very concept of anilox ink-to-plate transfer with its patented GTT Open Slalom Ink Channel anilox geometry, Apex is providing a unique solution to prevent this problem from occurring.
• Bellissima: quality and efficiency in flexo
To improve both quality and efficiency in flexo printing, Apex has always been a strong promoter and enabler of fixed palette printing. Also, Apex is a dedicated member of the REVO-project, supporting the aim to ‘digitally’ standardize and automate the flexo process from pre-press to print delivery, as was demonstrated at the Bobst booth during Labelexpo.
Stepping up its efforts in this field even further, Apex used Labelexpo to announce the formation of Aniken Graphics International, a joint venture with UK-based prepress expert Hamillroad Software to bring Bellissima Digitally Modulated Screening into the flexographic mainstream. Nick Harvey, the newly appointed Managing Director of Aniken, explains the importance of this partnership: “Bellissima was developed and fine-tuned using GTT aniloxes, so not only can our customers consistently see print quality results that exceed gravure and offset, but they can do so for a fraction of the cost allowing flexographers to gain significant competitive advantages especially with shorter runs.”
As a result of the partnership, Apex International has been granted distribution rights to Bellissima worldwide.