• Hybrid digital carton printing: KBA and Durst in JV which will see a press at drupa.
    Hybrid digital carton printing: KBA and Durst in JV which will see a press at drupa.

Heavy hitters KBA and Durst are teaming up to launch a hybrid digital carton press, reports Wayne Robinson. 

German press giant KBA and inkjet solutions developer Durst are creating a 50/50 joint venture to produce a hybrid digital corrugated and carton printing press.

The first result of the joint venture, the new VariJet 106, will be shown at drupa next year, when it will become available on the market. Specifications are not yet available, but it will be a B1 sized press, and will be a complete inline production system.

The companies say that ‘to further advance the development of futureoriented digital printing solutions, with added value for customers in the folding carton and corrugated printing markets’, they have agreed to pool their know-how and strengths.

Dave Lewis, managing director of KBA Australasia says, “What will set the VariJet apart is that will be a hybrid press. It is essentially a Rapida 106 with digital inkjet that can run with any number of offset units, with coating or double coating, with foiling, with screen. This makes it ideal for packaging, with its need for spot colours and coating.

“It is far from easy, for instance, to create brand colours with digital process colours, but an offset spot colour can of course do the job perfectly. And coating is essential in many packaging applications. The new hybrid press will do everything inline, combining the best of both digital and offset worlds.”

Matt Ashman, sales manager for Durst in ANZ says, “This is a great deal for the packaging industry. Durst has the inkjet expertise, while the KBA engineering is second to none. The resulting press will present brand owners and packaging print businesses with tremendous opportunities.”

The new joint venture, which will be based in Germany, will assume responsibility for the development, integration, manufacturing, and worldwide distribution of waterbased, single-pass digital printing presses for folding carton and corrugated board.

Ink and service businesses relating to the presses sold jointly through the global networks of the two parent companies

are also to be handled by the joint venture.

According to KBA, the modular concept of the VariJet combines the opportunities of digital inkjet with the acknowledged printing and inline finishing capabilities of the offset process for folding carton printing.

For KBA, the JV gives it the proven Durst inkjet technology used in wide format printing, labels, textiles, ceramics, and now corrugated. For Durst, the JV means it can use the KBA chassis and sheet transport systems, eliminating the need to develop its own. It also gives Durst access to the entire package printing market through KBA, which essentially knows everyone.

KBA did have a partnership with Xerox at drupa 2016 for a prototype VariJet based on the Impika inkjet technology that Xerox had acquired, but that partnership is now assumed to be over. At the same show, Durst showed a prototype two-metres-persecond digital carton printer.

Digital folding carton printing is likely to be one of the key features of drupa next year. Solutions will be available from HP with Pagewide, EFI with Nozomi, and Heidelberg with its Primefire 106. Benny Landa is hoping his nanographic technology will finally be ready by then, with the S10 single sided carton press set to be the first version available. Among other major players, Screen is also developing a digital carton press with BHS. Konica Minolta and Memjetpowered New Solutions will also have digital carton printing systems, as will others powered by Memjet.

The vendors and print businesses that install digital carton presses will be engaging in a serious educational communication with the market, which at present tends to use wide and grand format flatbed UV printing systems for short run, sample, and promotional work on carton.

Clearly, with so many vendors investing so much money to develop their digital carton presses, they believe the market is ready and waiting for them. For packaging printers, digital carton could represent a tremendous opportunity to exploit a nascent market which will allow brands to engage more deeply with their customers through personalisation, targeting according to demographic, region, or topic.

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