Records broken in Brussels: increases in both visitor and exhibitor attendance made the 2015 edition the largest Labelexpo to date.

Author:Katz, Steve
Position:LABELEXPO: Post-show

Labelexpo Europe reported record-breaking results as it posted new visitor, exhibitor and exhibition space figures for its 2015 edition. Held at Brussels Expo September 29 through October 2, the show enjoyed its largest edition as it marked its 35th anniversary.

Attracting 35,739 visitors, attendance figures were up 12.4% on 2013s total of 31,795. Visitors came from 146 countries, with most attending from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the UK. The show also posted an increase in visitors from outside Europe with 19.6% of the total visitors traveling from elsewhere including Asia, North and South America and Africa. Covering 34,566 square meters, the show's footprint also increased by 11.65% over 2013, while exhibitor numbers rose from 600 to just over 650.

Held every two years, Labelexpo Europe is the world's largest event for the label and package printing industry. Dominated by new product launches, the show again saw many major new developments being unveiled including some modular hybrid digital converting systems from several of the industry's leading press manufacturers. Digital was a hot topic, with more than 50 exhibitors showcasing digital printing equipment--there was seemingly something for every budget and scale.

Labelexpo Europe 2015 also included several new feature areas. The Packprint Workshop was well attended, with live press demonstrations given by Xeikon using its 3500 for digital folding cartons and Nilpeter showing its FA* flexo press for flexible packaging applications. The Smart Packaging Lab covered some current developments in active and intelligent packaging. The show also hosted the first Linerless Trail, which promoted the benefits of linerless labels. Lisa Milburn, managing director of the Labelexpo Global Series, commented: "We would like to thank everyone who took part in this year's show. The feedback has been genuinely phenomenal, and our exhibitors have been extremely pleased with many of the press manufacturers experiencing record sales and lead generation. The main trends coming out of this year's show are the continued move to package printing as we see more manufacturers bringing short run production printing presses, which backs up our strategy going forward, and the ongoing dominance of digital as more and more hybrid digital printing presses flood into the marketplace."


Calling the show a "resounding success," Mark Andy showcased a broad range of presses in Brussels. The new Digital Series, a hybrid system, displayed a robust integration of flexo and digital printing, foil stamping and converting with multiple die changes. The Digital Series ran at 225 fpm (74 mpm), making it one of the fastest inkjet performers, with job changes in only 10 minutes, including a substrate change. Also at the Mark Andy booth, the new Performance Series P4 made its global debut. Visitors were able to see how the platform can adapt to the varied tooling available in the industry, and advance converters' productivity with full servo technology. Five machines had been sold prior to the show, and Mark Andy is predicting sales activity will continue to be strong in the months to come. Commenting on the event, CEO Kevin Wilken said: "This year's Labelexpo was tremendous for Mark Andy. Our Digital Series was an impressive front-runner to the many digital options shown at the exhibition, and so many customers gave us positive feedback about its speed, quality and versatility. This just reaffirms that our platform and technology are on target, and reaching our goal of driving productivity and profitability for the converter. I'm very proud of the dedicated team that has envisioned the right digital solution for the future."

UPM Raflatac introduced its Vanish range of ultra-thin, clear PET label faces to the European market. At 23-microns, these thin and robust materials featuring a no-label look are designed for rendering innovative, seamless and high quality imagery. For food labeling on rigid plastic and glass packaging, Vanish labels allow consumers an excellent view of the product together with the brand, instilling the confidence to buy. For beverage labeling, UPM Raflatac touted Vanish as a suitable replacement for screen-printed bottles and a preferred choice for cans. "Vanish films are a tremendous step forward in seamless 'no-label-look' labeling with support for highest quality and innovative graphic design," said Stefano Pistoni, end-use manager at UPM Raflatac EMEIA. "We're leveraging the latest material advances for packaging material reductions and higher productivity while offering brands a fresh level of differentiation and enhanced perception of quality."

Martin Automatic displayed two of the company's most popular machines for the narrow web market, the MBS automatic unwind butt splicer, and the LRD turret rewinder. Both machines, which are designed and built with the rugged simplicity required for reliable performance in today's hardworking commercial environments, feature the latest software and operator interface that moves them towards being a "set and forget" stage in the production cycle. One innovation on the MBS that caught the eye was the "laser assist package." which provides an optical guide for operators when preparing a splice. Available on new machines and as a retrofit, the laser beam aligns the web edge with the splice tape for more accurate positioning on the reverse side of the substrate. According to Martin's vice president, Gavin Rittmeyer, "The laser assist package typifies the way that we continue to innovate and bring practical solutions to the market that improve productivity and show a fast ROI for the converter." Also attracting attention was the space-saving stacked festoon accumulator on the MBS splicer. Designed to facilitate installation where floor space is in short supply, it is one of a number of tailor-made configurations offered by Martin to converters who need the added productivity of automation, but have an already crowded production area.

AB Graphic International recorded its busiest Labelexpo ever, reporting numerous orders from customers worldwide, with particular focus on automation features. "The trend for automation continues and customers were very impressed with our auto Plate Load, Autoslit and auto Iscore," said Tony Bell, sales director, adding that the company took many high value orders for the Digicon Series 3, the new Digicon-Lite 3 and the German-manufactured SRI machines. Bell also stressed there was keen interest in AB Graphic's laser cutting system, which at the show was changing jobs on the fly and also producing a 900mm long "rocket" that can't be printed or cut on conventional machines due to repeat length.

Sun Chemical debuted its Polare ink dispenser, adapted specifically for the demands of the label and narrow web market. Polare is a versatile and fully automated ink dispenser, optimized to deliver the exact amount of ink required, especially for the use of lower volume spot inks, thus minimizing waste and limiting inventory while maximizing production and cost efficiencies. Catering to low viscosity inks such as water-based or UV flexo, as well as high viscosity UV offset inks directly from their original containers, Polare enables efficient on-site blending of special colors, offering a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative to manual blending for on-demand availability while allowing the reuse of press returns. It also gives printers complete control over the workflow by eliminating the need to order specialty colors, therefore reducing lead times to further increase production efficiency.

Xeikon launched the CX3, the first press featuring its Cheetah technology, and the entire stand had a Cheetah theme in its honor. "We are very pleased with the market reception to this exciting technology," said Filip Weymans, Xeikon's director segment Labels & Packaging. "With the addition of the Xeikon CX3, we now have six digital label presses, the largest digital label printing portfolio in the industry. And the industry is excited about the Xeikon CX3 as well--by the end of the year, we will have sold 20 units." Visitors to the Xeikon booth also learned about Fusion Technology, a concept based on the promise of fully automated, unattended label and packaging production from customer order to delivery. Explained Weymans, "Fusion Technology combines full color production printing with digital embellishment of labels and packaging in a single, one-pass and fully digital production process. It will consist of a series of embellishment modules released over time that are not just put inline with the press, but are components of an entirely new modular system with the digital front-end taking care of prepress, data processing, color management and press operation as well as full control and operation of all modules without manual intervention." Potential digital embellishment modules include hot/cold foiling; screen prints; matte, gloss and structured flood and spot varnish and a digital Braille module.

Bluestar Silicones launched several new products in its Silcolease range and showcased the entire product family, including some new members. Among the new products is Silcolease POLY 371, a polymer that combines excellent controlled release at low speeds, minimizing the need for high doses of RCA while delivering easy high-speed delamination of labels. Also, Silcolease XL 315 has been designed to complement this new polymer perfectly and gives robust long-lasting anchorage and offers fast cure.

Label Traxx gave an exclusive preview of its MIS software Version 8 at Labelexpo. The release marks the launch of three newly-anticipated modules, as well as a host of other new features. "The new modules have been developed to address key customer and industry demands," explained Label Traxx president Ken Meinhardt. "We are helping our customers face the challenges of a modern business. They...

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