The UV-cured inkjet narrow web Jetrion 4000 press has many applications in its sights. The self-adhesive and unsupported labels that can be produced on the device are being adopted by sectors including automotive, chemicals, electronics, industrial and pharmaceutical. Having been showcased to the masses at last year’s Drupa, EFI is pushing the durable message, based on its inkjet technology.

“The key word for us is durable,” says Jetrion European sales director Jason Oliver. “UV-cured print is very durable. It can’t be scratched and it is resistant to chemicals, including petroleum. Digital previously meant toner. To be durable that would need lamination or varnishing, and converters don’t want the extra cost.”

Oliver defines the sweet spot for the machine as jobs of up to 1,500m – or 20,000-30,000 labels – although some customers produce much longer runs. “We have customers running the same die, but different printed content, in applications such as water bottle labels,” he says. “Realistically, it’s a load of back-to-back runs of 10,000.”

For these jobs, Oliver claims inkjet’s non-impact print process is a benefit, allowing the label stock to be die-cut prior to printing. “That can’t be done with any contact print process, whether toner-based digital, litho, letterpress or flexo,” he says. “You wouldn’t take the risk of a pre-cut label detaching inside the machine and causing damage. With our contactless system you can run die-cut stocks and finish the rolls right off the end of the press.”

Significant savings
It’s changing the way clients work, according to Oliver. He cites the example of a European pharmaceutical firm that installed two 4000s to bring label production in-house; it has slashed the cash tied-up in pre-printed inventory and significantly cut the amount of obsolete labels. Previously, it had thrown away up to 50% of its stock.

The 4000 claims to score highly when it comes to reducing waste. It produces just 1.5-2m of waste, compared to 100-300m for flexo, according to Dean Haertel, Jetrion director of worldwide sales. “In a year, that may be €50,000 ($66,210) of waste material. Not only is there less waste, there’s less landfill tax too. A digital press fundamentally changes your business model,” he says.

With a maximum linear speed of 30m per minute, and a typical production speed of 24m per minute, the 4000 may seem slow compared to flexo, but Haertel argues the discussion should be about efficiency rather than speed. He quotes the example of a 1,500m job (which with a typical substrate would be one reel of the maximum 610mm diameter supported by the 4000). Running at 25m per minute, it would take an hour on the 4000 with a two-minute changeover. “A flexo job might take two-and-a-half hours to run the same job including makeready, even at 100m per minute,” he says.

Simple pricing policy
At current exchange rates, the Jetrion 4000 costs €325,000 ($430,366), a price Oliver claims is “the same as, or less than, most of the equipment on a label converter’s floor today”.

It’s also less than most rival machines. As for running costs, there are no plates and virtually no makeready, which leads to significant time and materials savings.

Jetrion differs from toner-based rivals in its pricing policy. It charges for ink by the litre (around €100 /$132 per litre), rather than a click charge. And, estimating the ink cost per job and per label is simple via a feature in the RIP.

“The click charge is a simple model, but it flies in the face of how label converters work,” says Oliver. “Jetrion is more like the conventional model and there are no limits on the substrates and no need for coating or laminating. We just sell the ink.”

He claims that, as a result, it can be 20-80% cheaper than digital rivals. “In the example of a simple two-colour automotive label with 20% coverage, the Jetrion works out 60-70% cheaper.”

In terms of substrates, EFI has identified a range of conventional options that work with the 4000. Oliver says any that have ink adhesion problems can be treated with a Jetrion or third-party UV coating to make them printable. He also claims nothing previously served the market for robust, graphically simple jobs that use variable data for batch numbers and barcodes.

At the centre of the 4000 are the inkjet printheads. Jetrion opted for Xaar’s latest technology, the 1001 heads. These are optimised for single-pass machines like the Jetrion and Nilpeter/FFEI’s rival the Caslon, rather than the multi-pass scanning approach common in wide-format machines.

While multi-pass machines can tolerate and compensate for blocked nozzles, in a single-pass machine, a blocked nozzle would cause a blank stripe in the print. The 1001 heads use a technology called Hybrid Side Shooter (HSS). In this configuration ink is pumped continuously around ink lines under pressure with the printhead a branch off to the side. This reduces the risk of debris or air bubbles blocking a nozzle, and can heal itself should there be a blockage, increasing uptime and robustness. The resolution is 360dpi. It sounds low, but with eight grey levels, EFI argues the “visual resolution” is more like 1,100dpi.

Roll-to-roll options
UV-curing is done in one hit after the four colours are printed. After curing, the web is rewound. The design of the chassis allows for visual inspection and closed-loop measurement to be fitted before the rewind, but so far no customer has taken that option.

It’s possible for the machine to be integrated into subsequent finishing processes, but Jetrion believes running roll-to-roll with offline finishing is a more flexible and cost-effective approach. “Running roll-to-roll means the post-press kit can run at rated speed, but one operator can still run both,” says Haertel.

Despite showing a six-colour (CMYK plus orange and green) prototype, based on market feedback, the commercial machine is an extended gamut four-colour machine, which due to the stability of the digital print output is claimed to be able to handle 90% of special colours out of CMYK. “A lot of customers only use spot colours because flexo can’t reproduce those out of process,” says Haertel.

For the remaining 10% of colours, Jetrion suggests pre-printing in flexo; it suggests the same approach to white.

“We’ve tested white [on the 4000], but the majority of white print is flood-coated squares,” he says. “We recommend people print flood white flexo, it comes down to cost. Digital white is expensive.”

Colour control
Colour management, including converting colours specified as specials into process, is carried out by EFI’s Fiery XF RIP/workflow, which combines ColorProof XF proofing and technology with the production power of the Fiery server.

“The best thing about EFI’s acquisition of Jetrion was getting its workflow,” says Haertel. “A lot of labelmakers would previously not have a RIP or a workflow, they’d either have put out platemaking or used Illustrator. For clients that have a system such as Esko’s, Fiery XF slots right in. It’s an enabler for people who don’t have anything and complementary to people who do.”

Future workflow plans include support for labels in EFI’s Digital Storefront web-to-print platform. “It’s the biggest thing that’s coming,” says Haertel. “There’s not much e-commerce in labels today, this will help customers make the transition and strip out costs.”
the alternatives

Agfa Dotrix Modular
With its wider web, the Dotrix can produce more than 900m2 per hour. Like the Jetrion, it uses UV-cured inkjet, with an earlier generation of Xaar techology heads. It can also be integrated into flexo machines.

Print technology                            UV-cured inkjet
Web width                                      630mm
Speed                                               24m/min (907m2 per hour)
Contact                                   Giffin Graphics +971 6 5436 222

Mimaki CJV30-60
A solvent rather than UV-cured machine, and one that cuts to boot. The CJV30-60’s price makes it an attractive option for ultra-short run production. Cutting options include kiss-cutting and die-cutting.

Print technology                            Solvent inkjet
Web width                                      610mm
Speed                                              12m2/hr
Contact                                            Signtrade +971 4 2681 828

Nilpeter Caslon
Wider and faster, the Caslon is designed to fit onto Nilpeter’s flexo press chassis, either integrated with printing, coating and finishing units, or standalone. At the heart of it are the same Xaar 1001 heads as the Jetrion. Inter-colour UV ‘pinning’ is said to improve output.

Print technology                            UV-cured inkjet
Web width                                      330mm and 420mm
Speed                                               50.7m/min
Contact                                       Nilpeter ME +971 50 458 1583

Xeikon 3300
This toner-based web is a five-colour machine with a choice of white, special colour or security toner alongside CMYK. Conventional substrates can be imaged without treatment. Xeikon’s X-800 front end takes care of colour and personalisation.
Print technology                            Toner

Web width                                      330mm
Speed                                              19.2m/min
Contact                                        Image Mart +971 4 2851 573