• Printers listen: Heidelberg expounding packaging opportunities at the PackagingDays event
    Printers listen: Heidelberg expounding packaging opportunities at the PackagingDays event

Press giant Heidelberg invited select members of the international trade press to its PackagingDays in Germany, where it expounded its digitisation of the packaging print production process concept. Print21 editor Wayne Robinson was there for ANZ.

Packaging printing offers a whole lot less volatility than commercial printing – you can’t eat your cornflakes from the internet – so it is naturally an area that many commercial printers are looking to; after all, their commercial presses can print on both paper and board.

Projections for packaging print growth are all positive, and they may increase even further as the world increasingly recoils from plastics.

The world’s biggest press manufacturer, Heidelberg, sees packaging as a great opportunity for printers, and has just held its PackagingDays event at its main factory in Wiesloch to share with the global print community what it sees as pathways to profit.

“While the packaging sector is growing in emerging markets, we are seeing consolidation and productivity increases in industrialised countries,” explained Stephan Plenz, member of the Management Board responsible for Heidelberg equipment. “The packaging market is of great interest to us. We meet its needs with appropriate press and postpress products and also with our Prinect Postpress Packaging print shop workflow.”

At the event Plenz told Print21 that “digitisation of process is key to achieving optimum productivity in packaging”. Plenz is not referring to digital printing – although that can be included, and there was plenty on the Primefire during PackagingDays – but to the digitisation of the workflow.

Plenz says there are three options for printers looking to enter packaging to make money: through differentiation, operational excellence, or new business ideas. The second, operational excellence, is where the digitisation of process comes in. Plenz says, “It is the smart print shop workflow that communicates, one data stream. Our new Push to Stop process means we only interrupt if necessary, otherwise it is all go. The new navigated, or autonomous, printing means no wastage and make-ready times always less than five minutes.”

Plenz says Heidelberg is ideally positioned to take printers into the digitisation of the production process, as it manufactures the hardware – press, die cutters and folder gluers – as well as the software, Prinect workflow. Its new subscription model is essentially Heidelberg managing the press to achieve optimum results for the printer. Plenz expects around a fifth to a quarter of Heidelberg printers around the globe to opt for subscription in the years to come.

The Heidelberg PackagingDays comprised a whole series of seminars, workshops and educational sessions, along with machine demonstrations across the range of Heidelberg offset and digital print solutions and its folding carton and folder/gluers from partner MK Masterworks, all under the Smart Printing banner. Among the jobs Heidelberg was printing were sheets with inline embellishing including foiling and embossing.

Plenz says, “The printshop today can benefit from full digitisation, whether the output is to an offset plate through CTP or a digital press like Primefire. It is important that today’s printer automates and digitises the workflow as much as possible, to achieve the highest operational efficiencies.”


Heidelberg presented several new solutions for folding carton production at the PackagingDays.

The event was aimed at folding carton producers that require optimum quality and reliability for short to medium runs. The new Promatrix 106 CS die cutter and the new Diana Smart 55 and Diana Smart 80 folding carton gluing machines being showcased by Heidelberg are designed for this target group. 

The Promatrix 106 CS, which operated in conjunction with the new Speedmaster CD 102 at the PackagingDays, performs die cutting and embossing at a speed of 8,000 sheets per hour. It is intended for manufacturers of folding cartons in short to medium runs, and also for commercial print shops that occasionally produce packaging. Thanks to the die cutter’s short make-ready times, users benefit from high productivity and excellent costefficiency. It can handle a wide range of materials – from 90 all the way up to 2,000 grams per square metre – and also processes corrugated board up to four millimetres (0.16 inches) thick.

More than 5,000 folding carton gluing machines from the Diana family have already been installed across the globe. Two new additions – the Diana Smart 55 and Diana Smart 80 – are now joining the Diana X 80 and Diana X 115 in the product portfolio. The figures forming part of the product name refer to the maximum carton width in centimetres. The Diana Smart 80, which is primarily of interest to folding carton manufacturers that produce cartons in short and medium runs, was on show at the PackagingDays, and is used for straightline and lockbottom cartons. Equipped with the Diana Inspection Control and Diana Braille modules, it will be producing pharmaceutical cartons.

The new Diana Smart 55 folding carton gluing machine replaces the Diana 45, and is suitable for folding carton manufacturers that produce small cartons for the pharmaceuticals or cosmetics sector in short and medium runs. The Diana Smart 55 now also optionally offers the latest technologies for this small working width in the shape of the Diana Braille and Diana Inspection Control modules.

Although the focus of the day was not on its presses, Heidelberg made the point that its new XL106 can achieve complete job changeover in less than five minutes, thanks to the combination of Prinect software and newly developed components which automate the most productive press in its format class even further, making it even more productive.

Heidelberg says the intelligent interplay of the automation components enables cost-effective production for all applications, whether the runs are long or short. The key element here is the patented process- and job-oriented assistance system Intellistart 2, which acts like a navigation system to show the fastest way to achieve the desired result for print.

First will be first: the Heidelberg Primefire 106 at ColorDruck
First will be first: the Heidelberg Primefire 106 at ColorDruck

B1 digital inkjet Primefire in series production

The world’s first digital B1 inkjet sheetfed press, the Heidelberg Primefire 106, is now in series production, with 25 packaging printers around the world already in the queue to receive one, and more orders soon to be signed.

The company has been running beta machines for the past year, but has now installed its first series machine in Colorado, with its second currently going into a Chinese printer.

Speaking to the world’s trade press at the PackagingDays event at the Heidelberg’s sprawling manufacturing centre in Wiesloch, company board director Stefan Plenz said, “Projections for packaging print continue to show growth, and that is really before plastic became such a big issue, any trend away from plastic will boost carton packaging even further.

“Digital packaging will grow fastest of all; it has barely begun, and we predict it will treble in output over the next five years, a 300 per cent growth. Digital packaging is a bit of a chicken and egg situation: there is only a small market at present as the technology has not been developed; however, the launch of the Primefire will give brand owners new options for short run and variable data packaging.

“The Primefire 106 is the first B1 inkjet in the market. It uses water-based inks for food safety compliance. It is an industrial scale machine. Its design principles were for a reliable, repeatable, robust digital print.”

Plenz says the Primefire 106 is suited to the Australian and New Zealand markets, with its capability to print short runs and variable data. He is dismissive of the concept of runs of one, but says mass customisation is a likely application. He says, “Consumers will drive brands to personalisation, to short run and to quick turnarounds. The same trends that are impacting Europe and the US are seen in Australia, and make the Primefire a clear choice to meet the market.”

Heidelberg then took the trade press to the site of the first Primefire, family owned $70m turnover ColorDruck deep in the Black Forest, which has been running a beta machine for the past year. Its joint managing director Martin Bruttel said it decided to install the Primefire and at the same time launch a web-to-pack service, for which it commissioned a company to develop the software.

He says, “We went with Primefire because we have trust and confidence in Heidelberg. Since we installed the machine we have found that the print quality, the registration, the reliability have met our needs. We are using the machine to create a whole new business with our web-topack solution of short runs in short time frames, and with personalisation. What Coca Cola and Nutella did with labels we can do with cartons.”

The Primefire 106 combines the Heidelberg paper transport with Fujifilm print heads. It prints in seven colours at 2,500 sheets an hour, and its initial application is in the packaging sector. Heidelberg says the gamut of seven colours means there is no need for spot colours for the printer to achieve brand colours. 

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