Experience the Future of Printing at drupa 2024 -- drupa - May 28 to June 7, 2024 - Messe Düsseldorf
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Experience the Future of Printing at drupa 2024


















By Stelios Manousakis printing technology evangelist and Dr. Anastasios Politis from HELGRAMED – The Hellenic Union of Print-Media Engineers

drupa, the world’s largest printing technology exhibition, is set to take place in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2024. This highly anticipated event offers compelling reasons for everyone involved in the printing industry to attend. Those of us who have been attending the show for many years are well aware that drupa is one of a kind in the world of printing, showcasing all types of developments and innovations for the industry. In addition to witnessing the latest technological advancements, drupa 2024 offers a platform for networking, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration. Engaging with industry experts, staying updated on trends and developments, and exchanging ideas with fellow professionals, can foster innovation and drive the industry forward.

Inkjet Printing Technology

Among the many highlights, visitors will have the opportunity to explore the remarkable advancements made in inkjet technology, particularly its impact on digital printing. Inkjet has undergone significant developments in recent years, making it a game-changer in the printing industry. While inkjet has been prevalent in transactional and trans-promotional printing, it has now matured to become a vital printing technology for labels and packaging, where quality, media compatibility, and application complexity are paramount.

The maturity of inkjet technology lies not only in its ability to precisely jet billions of micro drops but also in its capacity to perform reliably under the harsh production requirements of industrial printing. Applications such as cosmetics, which demand perfect resolution and color-to-color registration, or those requiring adherence to brand owners’ stringent tolerances for Delta E values, and applications necessitating excellent mechanical or water resistance, have greatly benefited from inkjet technology.

As inkjet technology is still quite young, it is crucial that we pay attention to the details of each technology offering. In the early days of inkjet, multi-pass printers could be paused during printing for servicing and maintenance of the printheads. In single-pass printing, inkjet systems do not have this opportunity and jetting sustainability needs to reach very high standards! In addition, new inkjet printing speeds have pushed ink chemistry to the edge. Furthermore, the pandemic and chemical supply shortages have increased the need for inkjet providers to adapt quickly to new regulations, raw material changes and new business models with the integration of digital technologies to enable a circular economy.

Inkjet and Sustainability

UV inkjet digital printing technology has proven itself in terms of printing speeds, print quality, color gamut, mechanical resistance, and applications compliance in most common applications in label printing. UV piezo inkjet technology has made significant strides in environmental sustainability and most UV-curable inks used in digital printing are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and do not release harmful emissions during the printing process. Additionally, the instant curing eliminates the need for additional energy-consuming drying units, reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint.

Many inkjet ink manufacturers now provide Swiss Ordinance certificates and adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards. We clearly see that inkjet is on target to penetrate the flexible packaging market, which is going to be an exciting new challenge in terms of application and regulation compliance. This is the perfect opportunity to explore the current evolution of UV inkjet and also discuss the future plans for water-based (WB1) ink development. Most of the leading digital manufacturers will present their technology plans for folding carton and corrugated applications at drupa, and it is very clear that the future of inkjet printing for packaging is Water-Based.

Hybrid Printing Technologies

Since inkjet technology is advancing to mainstream applications, drupa 2024 will serve as a platform to witness the seamless integration of inkjet technology with analog printing and finishing processes. A key issue in print innovation is hybrid printing technology which constitutes a fundamental – yet remarkable technological advancement. In hybrid processes, which are a critical step towards higher efficiency, there is a need to adapt to complex workflows, with production and inventory management systems, advanced digital prepress and the integration of inkjet technologies into the printing system. In addition, the integration of inkjet technology with traditional printing methods has positioned digital printing as a mainstream production tool. It empowers brand owners to create applications with shorter time-to-market, while staying connected and relevant to their end users’ needs.

This technological breakthrough not only enhances the quality and productivity of the printing process but also brings forth a more connected and evolved workflow, which is absolutely required in these complex printing and finishing environments. As part of the digitalization process, all new inkjet manufacturers are now offering their own solutions for production monitoring and performance management. One critical factor will be the open architecture of such connectivity with existing market solutions, in order to make sure that the current ERP/MIS2 systems are compatible with the new printing machines.

By combining digital and analog printing and finishing processes in a so-called “All-in-One solution”, manufacturers can offer the best of both worlds. All-in-One inline printing machines encompass finishing such as lamination, varnishing, die-cutting, and embossing within the process itself. This single production run capability saves time, reduces costs, and increases productivity. The benefits of All-in-One machines extend beyond their ability to print a wide range of products, from short-run pure digital labels to mid and long runs of combined flexo and digital SKUs. These machines are also more environmentally friendly, reducing energy consumption, waste, and the overall carbon footprint of the printing industry.

At drupa 2024, visitors will witness the versatility of inkjet printing systems that can seamlessly print on various substrates such as paper, plastics, and films. For example, the ease of integrating a flexo unit for inline printing and the possibility of utilizing traditional cold foil or digital embellishment solutions further enhance the potential applications, particularly in the cosmetics industry. These advancements provide unique value to the final product and have the potential to replace traditional analog foiling processes.

drupa 2024 will be an ideal opportunity to understand how each manufacturer has developed their inkjet systems in order to be able to adapt to ink viscosity changes, reducing or eliminating ink mist before it becomes an issue of bad jetting in longer runs, how they control pressure and meniscus,3 and how they develop custom-made waveforms,4 which are the heart of the system.

In conclusion, drupa 2024 is an event of immense significance for the industrial printing sector. The rise of inkjet technology and the development of hybrid printing machines are revolutionizing the industry. Visitors will have the opportunity to witness these technologies in action, understand their impact on high-quality label and package printing, explore their transformative potential for supply chains and time-to-market strategies, and learn how brand owners are utilizing these advancements as core foundations for their products. Importantly, the exhibition will showcase sustainable solutions for production environments, emphasizing the industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of the future of printing at drupa 2024.

Footnotes

1WB: Water-based or aqueous inks are inks that use water as their primary solvent. Although modern piezo inkjet heads can handle both UV and WB inks, the complete printing process will be changed as the WB inks require completely different processes, from priming chemistry to drying (instead of UV curing). In addition, WB inkjet systems require completely different cleaning, washing and capping processes to ensure jetting sustainability in longer runs.

2ERP/MIS: Enterprise Resource Planning/Management Information Systems are responsible for controlling the job workflow – from quotation to shipment. As job lengths are getting shorter and the complexities are increasing in terms of applications and materials, good connectivity between the production floor and the ERP/MIS system helps to minimize human errors and speed up the production process. Most solutions are moving to Cloud-based services, which are easier to integrate between different suppliers and most importantly, easier to integrate in the supply chain and logistics management.

3Meniscus (from the Greek «Μηνίσκος»): In inkjet printing, this is the curved surface of the ink at the outside of the nozzle when it is not being fired. The curve is caused by the combination of the surface tension of the liquid and the difference in pressure between the liquid and the outside air. This is one of the most critical quality control issues for maintaining a good drop formation and accurate firing.

4Waveform: In industrial inkjet printing, the waveform is the electrical signal sent to the inkjet nozzles inside the printhead, which causes the nozzle to fill and fire. Drop Watcher is a high-speed camera and software algorithms used to develop and optimize the signal. This delicate and sophisticated process requires a lot of expertise.

About the Author

Professor Politis (on the left) & Stylianos Manousakis (on the right)

Stylianos Manousakis has dedicated his career in digital printing, having served over 27 years in various roles and responsibilities with companies like XEIKON, XEROX, HP and BOBST. An electronics’ engineer, enhanced with marketing studies, his focus is application analysis and workflow process improvement on all production aspects, from job flow and media to color management and ink application. Holder of multiple patents on 2D and 3D digital printing, he can be reached under LinkedIn

Professor Politis has 46 years of experience in strategic analysis and development for the Greek and European printing, media and packaging sector. He has a notable presence and close cooperation with the graphic arts with scientific and educational organizations. He is the author of numerous books, scientific papers and articles. He also acts as a member of scientific committees in research conferences, on editorial boards of scientific journals and as a reviewer of scientific papers, books and studies. He can be reached under politismedia@gmail.com or under LinkedIn

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