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Some 37,000 label print professionals walked through the doors of this year’s Labelexpo, the biggest in its history, and the first since 2019, which took place for the last time in Brussels following a 40 year run, with a total of 637 exhibitors taking part.

Biggest ever: Labelexpo 2023
Biggest ever: Labelexpo 2023

Spread across nine halls and covering 36,500 sqm of floor place, this year’s show featured 250 product launches, focused particularly on flexible packaging, digitisation and automation. Visitors came from 138 countries, including a sizeable number from Australia and New Zealand.

Equipment manufacturers announced multiple sales across the four days, with virtually all exhibitors rebooking for Labelexpo Europe 2025, which will run in Barcelona.

Demonstrating how Labelexpo Europe is evolving into a package printing show, digital printing of paper-based flexible packaging materials was evident on the show floor, with paper-based packaging printed by Xeikon on the new TX-500 Titon toner press and Screen on the Truepress Pac520P – seen for the first time at a Labelexpo.

HP launched the 200k mid-web digital press, successor to the HP Indigo 20000. The company also ran a ‘digital pouch factory’ ecosystem demonstrating pouch manufacture and finishing of other unsupported films including shrink sleeve labels.

Flexo made a major comeback at the show, with Nilpeter, Lombardi and Bobst demonstrating printing of flexible packaging and unsupported label film materials on 670mm mid-web UV flexo press lines on the show floor. Omet, supplied in ANZ by Currie Group made the show debut of its KFlex modular flexo platform, while Mark Andy, supplied here by Aldus, launched the Pro Series flexo press, upgradable to a hybrid machine.

Jade Grace, managing director, Labelexpo Global Series said: “We’ve just delivered Labelexpo Europe 2023 after a four-year break, and what a show it has been. The feedback we have received from visitors and exhibitors alike has consistently shown the high quality of leads, enquiries and contacts made at the show, with a number of sales secured on the exhibition floor. We have also secured a rebook rate of 96 per cent for Labelexpo Europe 2025, which bodes well for our first show in Barcelona.”

Grace continued, “I would like to thank all our exhibitors for your partnership and commitment in supporting the diverse and exciting industry of labels and package printing, together with us. Thank you to all who visited from 138 countries, and to our association and media partners.”

“It has been the hardest show yet for us to deliver, but the most rewarding. We are looking forward to the next chapter in 2025, where we will be bringing Labelexpo Europe to its new home at the Fira in Barcelona, with many plans to stimulate growth and collaboration in the industry.”

Echoing this sentiment, Jules Lejeune, managing director of trade association Finat said: “Finat was once again proud to be the lead association partner of Labelexpo Europe this year. In spite of the heat at the beginning of the show, there was a vibrant mood and general state of pleasure, especially among the overseas visitors to reconnect with the global label community after such a long absence.

“For us, Labelexpo is always an excellent opportunity to meet with members, potential members and other interested parties and to engage in conversations about our current and future programmes, and to recruit members and enlist volunteers for our working groups and taskforces. This year, we featured our efforts to facilitate value chain collaboration on sustainability such as Celab-Europe, UV FoodSafe and Product Carbon Footprint, and to act as spokesperson of the label industry towards European legislators and stakeholders.

Lejeune continued, “We will miss the Atomium and the World Expo 1958 building as the background images for many selfies taken during the show, but we are convinced that the Fira and its Olympic Montjuich will be a worthy replacement in 2025.”

Noam Zilbershtain, VP & general manager of HP Indigo & Scitex said: “It’s through trade shows like Labelexpo, industry leaders have the opportunity to connect, network and discuss the trends driving our industry, such as digital innovation and sustainability. I love being in the thick of it all connecting with our customers and partners.

“This year, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the leading LEPx-based HP Indigo V12, and HP Indigo 200K digital presses, for the first time in Europe. This was also a key moment for us to showcase the HP Indigo First mindset, and how it can deliver flexibility at speed for converters.

Zilbershtain continued, “It was also a pleasure speaking with peers within the print industry, discussing how we are committed to making bold moves that push innovation boundaries and deliver value for customers. The label Industry is now poised to become the first fully digital industry, and it is through digital print solutions we will transform businesses globally.”

Steve Flannery, senior vice president at Avery Dennison said: “We were thrilled to be back at Labelexpo for the first time since the pandemic and connect together. Our booth was buzzing with conversations around a linerless future, the benefits of EcoDesign, digital innovations and so much more. Thanks for an amazing turnout.”

Robert Rae, managing director of Sales, GEW said: “It was fantastic to return to Labelexpo Europe for the first time since 2019. The exhibition was exceptional for GEW, with a record number of visitors to our stand, and a healthy order book to show for it. We displayed our full product range but UV LED was top of the agenda for most of our visitors.

“Our air-cooled AeroLED UV curing system was the subject of particular interest, and our ability to demonstrate this technology in action, live on OEM presses at the show, meant that we could clearly demonstrate the huge energy and cost savings that printers can expect with a switch to UV LED. We measured and published our energy consumption live, and were able to repeatedly demonstrate a 77 per cent saving when compared to conventional UV arc technology.

“To see Malcolm Rae, my father and GEW’s founder, being honoured at the Label Industry Global Awards made it the perfect end to the Brussels era,” he added.

Other major show features for Labelexpo Europe 2023 included the Automation Arena which drew in large crowds to every one of its ten live demonstrations. Visitors witnessed a fully automated workflow from file creation to turret rewind with automated inspection and MIS integration, without any manual intervention. The participants included Cerm, Esko, Xeikon, Kurz, Grafotronic and Fedrigoni Self-Adhesive.

Another key show feature was the Flex Pack Trail, where visitors could deep dive into digital and conventional press technologies, flex pack material constructions, coating, laminating, ink and curing requirements, in-line and near-line decoration options, QC and migration testing.

Also well received was Flexo’s Future – ECG, a series of presentations on Expanded Color Gamut printing led by Dr Kai Lankinen. This was supported by guided tours across the showfloor.

A joint presentation by Graphimecc and Avery Dennison on setting up a track and trace operation was also well attended.

Two expert-led Label Academy-hosted master classes covered the hot topics of flexible packaging and sustainable labels.

Pierre Dogliani, R&D innovation manager, NW Europe, Flint Group, who spoke at the sustainable labels and packaging master class said: “Engaging in this educational platform has been a truly enriching experience, and it's been very inspiring to observe the immense enthusiasm among participants when exploring the realm of sustainable inks and coatings. I believe these insights offered attendees a broader and more informed perspective on sustainability in the label industry.”

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