At a press conference in Nuremberg yesterday to mark the opening of Brau Beviale, we asked Niemeyer (pictured below) how long he thought it might be before such DDP technology became more mainstream, or whether it would always be a premium choice.
At Brau Beviale, KHS is showing its ‘Direct Print’ technology, which it has been developing since 2006; this allows beverage manufacturers to abandon labels for 360-degree printing onto bottles in CMYK and white, with the choice of 20-150 different patterns per hour. Click on the picture below of bottles on show at the KHS stand to see the effects.
Short run, bespoke bottle designs
The technology addresses the market trend towards short-run, bespoke bottle designs – simply for design differentiation, or to run promotions, for example, while labeling alterations to meet changing regulations will be easier. You can forget line changeovers, or the need to buy and store labeling stock or adhesives.
Acknowledging that such technology carries a cost – according to KHS rival Krones, which has a similar technology, Decotype, this is mainly due to ink price and line speed – Niemeyer told BeverageDaily.com it was ideal for co-packers or firm wanting illimitable on-line label variation.
“For companies running lines at extremely high speeds with, say, one product, perhaps it is less interesting,” he said.
“But for technology driven co-packers, or for those who want to produce lots of different types of label on the line, then it’s interesting,” Niemeyer added.
"It won’t become mainstream in the mid-term, and it certainly won’t replace standard labeling, which is clearly massively popular. But it will become more regular over the next couple of years,” he said.
Niemeyer said yesterday that although KHS first exhibited the industrial printing technology involved at a closed area of its stand at drinktec in Munich last September, it had since spent time refining its machine concept and ink development.
First system sold to beverage manufacturer and co-packer
Phil Johnson, MD of KHS subsidiary NMP Systems (which developed the technology) was present at the KHS stand. He told us that KHS will deliver the first system to a "market actor or product manufacturer and co-packer" in January or February of 2015, with the first bottles due to appear on the market in Q3/Q4 of next year.
Direct Print uses only low viscosity UV inks delivered by 'drop on demand' piezo-electric printheads in combination with LED-UV pinning and curing, which KHS claims dry in milliseconds, adhere well to PET bottles, have a high opacity and ensure a brilliant color image with an optical resolution of 1,080 x 1,080 pixels.
Images are sent by computer to the machine control unit, and the machine can print on PET bottles of 330ml to 1.5 liter with container diameters of 40-120mm, at speeds of 12,000-36,000 bottles/hour.