Our review this month moves on to a hybrid press – the Gallus Labelfire 340. Why hybrid? Put simply, a hybrid label press combines the benefits of digital with the versatility, flexibility and reliability of conventional Flexographic converting.
Serious volume label printers are looking for this rather than lower productivity all-digital solutions. Label converters tend to be quite loyal to the ‘big’ Flexo brands and none more so than Gallus, now owned by Heidelberg.
At over $2 million, the investment level may be higher than an all-digital label press but the capabilities and build quality are industrial-strength and familiar to, say, owners of Gallus ECS 340 conventional converting lines. In fact, the Labelfire 340 is modelled on the ECS 340, but with the digital imaging station in the middle.
The first thing that stands out with the Labelfire 340 is the number of ink channels – eight. Unlike most digital presses, Gallus’s offering prints at the same speed – 50 linear metres per minute – regardless of how many colours are being used. The inkjet assembly is an arch of Fujifilm’s Samba printheads printing in CMYK + White + Green, Orange and Violet. Resolution is 1200 x 1200dpi which, due to the screening method, 2 picolitre drop placement and 200 grey levels, yields a perception of 2400 x 2400dpi – more than enough to be the highest resolution available.
Converting with digital
However, either side of the digital station you could be looking at a conventional Flexo press, with all the finishing options you would expect including: screen print, full and spot Flexo varnish, coldfoil, laminator, semi-rotary die cutter, matrix rewinder and slitter. Additional unit options include double-rewind stations, web cleaner, corona treater and a priming station, if it is needed, for certain substrates.
As to be expected, the web handling is first class and infeed can be from reels up to 1016mm in diameter, with print width at 340mm. Substrates can be from 50 to 350 microns in thickness and cover all popular types of monofoil, paper and composite pressure-sensitive types. The UV cured inks are often tough enough to eliminate protective varnishing or lamination on most substrates, saving further costs.
The first Gallus Labelfire 340 installed in Australia is at Rapid Labels, Melbourne. The owners Sean Kennon and David Power jumped in fast and it was one of the first in the world, installed early 2017. The main attractions cited by Rapid Labels are speed and metallic substrates, which have always been a challenge for digital. Speed is not measured in the pure statistic of 50 metres per minute but in overall productivity. An average of three conventional Flexo jobs in a 12-hour shift would consume 8-9 hours in make-ready alone. With plateless digital, it’s a matter of seconds, even with metallic inks that in some cases can reduce the need for cold foil. Rapid reports that overall quality from the Labelfire 340, as assessed by customers, is better than Flexo or their existing digital.
Second Labelfire for Sydney
It is no surprise that Sydney is to become the second Australian site for a Labelfire 340, with the name of the customer currently under wraps, but expected to be announced by Heidelberg in July.
Perhaps the main reason that high-end label converters are installing Labelfire 340s around the world is that it’s build like a Gallus. Comparisons to Swiss watches have been made – an investment for the long-term. It’s really a high-end converting system with a digital station; even Gallus refers to it as a ‘Digital Converting Line.’ The collaboration between Gallus Ferd Rüesch, Heidelberg and Fujifim-Dimatix has combined the best of three innovative companies who are the top of their game.
As was noted earlier, the $2 million + investment cost is not for everyone but for the productivity and operational gains realised, it’s a very smart investment for larger label producers and fits in perfectly towards the goal of ‘Industry 4.0.’ Heidelberg and Gallus sell this as a press with no ‘click’ charge, so users can be comfortable in controlling all of their own costs.
|The digital print module uses Fujifilm Dimatix Samba printheads||Flexo station of the Labelfire 340||Close-up of a single Samba printhead module|
Heidelberg Graphic Equipment Ltd