Italian flexo press manufacturer Uteco has teamed up with ink supplier INX and eBeam Technologies to demonstrate a food safe inkjet press for label printing.
The Gaia is a 330mm wide press running at 25m/min in the version to be introduced at Labelexpo, but with a different set of printheads, namely Kodak’s Ultrastream heads, the plan is to run at 100m/min as soon as the heads become available.
The initial version runs with 720x360dpi piezo heads, not extraordinary for a label printing inkjet press. The key difference, however, is in the choice of inks, developed by INX, and curing technology. Gaia uses electron beams to cure the web without heat and with no photo initiators. It means that the labels will be suitable for food applications. Other benefits include wide choice of substrates, lack of VOCs, high degree of cure, no concern over curability of any colours and high gloss finish.
The unit is just 4.4 x 1.5 metres long, enabling it to fit in a small space. Nobody is talking cost as yet, but Davide Cucinella, chief marketing officer of Uteco, says: “Gaia is all about innovation and the combined technical expertise from Uteco, eBeam and INX. In addition to opening up a whole breadth of possibilities for packaging converters and label printers, Gaia offers a new business model for digital printing – no click charge.”
Uteco is best known for its standard width flexible packaging presses. It has worked with ebeam technologies on these machines and has worked with Kodak’s Prosper inkjet heads on a high speed inkjet press, the Sapphire Evo. This will be shipped to a first user before the end of the year and becomes generally available next year.
The consistency of output has been approved by Coca-Cola without a special colour. Sapphire has been developed in the US and will not be at Labelexpo. The focus will be on Gaia. “This is a first step prototype,” says Uteco ceo Aldo Peretti. “It runs at 25m/min now, next year it will be at 100m/min.”
Uteco will be responsible for sales and distribution of Gaia and subsequent presses based on the technologies.