At the end of June, around a hundred and fifty attendees took part in the Label Academy’s first online master class targeting an international audience. Prior to this, Label Academy master classes had never been held outside of Labelexpo shows.
The Digital Printing Technology master class gave attendees a unique insight into the technologies, materials, finishing, embellishment and workflow software available to converters. It was spread over two two-hour parts, on Tuesday 23 and 30 June. Labelexpo strategic director, Andy Thomas-Emans, chaired both sessions, and was joined by expert guest speakers from AB Graphic, Avery Dennison, Cerm, Domino, Durst, HP, Hybrid Software, UPM Raflatac and Xeikon. The master class was sponsored by Avery Dennison, Durst and UPM Raflatac.
Part one, held on 23 June, focused on the different digital print technologies including electrophotographic printing, inkjet and hybrid. By way of introduction, Thomas-Emans highlighted the rise of digital printing, which has rocketed from 15 installations in the 1990s to 5,044 in 2019. Today, around 40% of total press installations are digital – two thirds of which use electrophotographic technology. This was the subject of the first speaker presentation, given by Christian Menegon, global business development manager, HP, who provided an overview of electro inks and liquid electrophotography (LEP). This was followed by Filip Weymans, VP marketing, Digital Solutions, Xeikon, with a presentation on dry toner technology.
Martin Leitner, product manager Labels & Package Printing, Durst Group, then analyzed UV inkjet technology, pointing out that around 73% of recently polled FINAT converter members said that they were planning to invest in an inkjet/hybrid press, compared to 27% for toner-based presses. The final part one presentation was given by Mike Barry, key account and OEM manager, Domino, who explained hybrid technology, which combines digital and traditional flexo technology.
Part two, held on 30 June, covered pre-press systems and strategies, the importance of workflow automation, substrate selection and print quality, plus digital print finishing. Kirit Naik, director, Global Print Technologies, UPM Raflatac, began with an overview of the brand relationship to digital printing. Engagement, flexibility in creating new lines, brand protection and a lower carbon footprint were among the reasons highlighted why brands place such a high value on digital printing. Mike Agness, executive vice president, Americas, Hybrid Software, then presented on how connected pre-press software is driving Industry 4.0 and re-engineering the entire label workflow – particularly automated and secure design approval systems.
Workflow automation as the backbone of the entire converting operation was covered in the next presentation, given by Geert Van Damme, managing director, Cerm. This was followed by Paul Lender, business development manager, Digital, Avery Dennison, who covered substrate selection and the importance of matching the right materials with the right digital printing process. The final presentation was given by Matt Burton, sales director, AB Graphic. He spoke about automation in digital finishing and the possibilities presented by digital embellishment systems.
Thomas-Emans said: “We are delighted with the excellent response to our first virtual master class, with attendance far exceeding live attendance at Labelexpo shows. Fittingly, it covered the fast-growing area of digital printing technology. We are committed to keeping the international label and package printing industry connected during these challenging times and helping get it back on track as we move into the post COVID-19 recovery phase. On-the-job learning is one proven way we can do this, and we anticipate offering further virtual master classes in the coming months, which will delve into other important topics affecting the global industry today.”
Weymans said: “It has been a pleasure to take part in this educational platform and experience the broad interest of the market to truly understand the value of the different options when considering digital label printing technology.”
Barry said: “In these challenging times, our industry needs to stay connected now more than ever. As large in-person gatherings are not possible, the Label Academy stepped up to provide a virtual knowledge sharing platform via the recent virtual master class. The sessions were incredibly informative of the current technology affecting our industry, and it was a pleasure to participate in the event.”
Van Damme added: “The COVID-19 confinement circumstances have showed us that the web-ordering, back office and pre-press functions of printshops can be managed remotely and seamlessly thanks to the ‘systems’ that are in place and the interfaces and automation tools they provide. Operators do not need to stand up and walk to another office to ask about the status of products, orders, stock or jobs. It is on their screen while working from home. This very first Label Academy virtual master class was a great opportunity to demonstrate these benefits of workflow.”
Agness said: “The master class is a great method to educate others on the knowledge we gain as suppliers to the industry. In our daily jobs we meet with many companies and get to learn what makes them successful or are asked to develop software to make them more successful. The Label Academy’s virtual master class is a great way to deliver the message how our products are best adapted to make for greatest efficiencies in the industry. This cycle of knowledge will drive our technology and our industry into the future, especially as we move beyond into the post COVID-19 phase.”
Attendee Dana Charron, technical sales manager, Zschimmer & Schwarz, echoed this: “I think that these virtual master classes should be continued and expanded. This is an excellent way to gain valuable industrial information without the need for traveling. Also allows me the ability to ‘train’ my team at the same time I am getting trained.” Topics for future virtual master classes are set to include flexible packaging, among others.