The world’s first ‘Direct Print Powered by KHS™’ system using Xaar 1002 printheads is in industrial-scale production and printing directly onto PET beer bottles at Martens Brouwerij in Belgium.
The Direct Print system has been developed by KHS GmbH, one of the leading global manufacturers of filling and packaging systems; and commercialised by NMP Systems GmbH, a KHS subsidiary for innovation businesses. The Direct Print equipment at Martens uses Xaar 1002 GS6 printheads to jet high-resolution (360 dpi physical and 1080 dpi optical) text and images in five colours (CMYK+W) using low-migration LED-cured inks directly onto PET bottles at the production rate of 12,000 bottles per hour. Once again the Xaar 1002 demonstrates its market-leadership through TF Technology™ and the ability to print vertically.
“Direct printing onto empty PET bottles using Xaar 1002 greyscale printheads is breakthrough technology that enables beverage companies to change graphics within minutes instead of weeks,” says Phil Johnson, Managing Director of NMP. “The use of digital technologies for micro marketing in the packaging sector to maximise consumer engagement is accelerating. The ability to create designs and print them directly onto bottles quickly virtually ‘on-the-fly’, is a powerful marketing tool which will give brands the ability to localise, personalise and customise their products to drive highly-effective promotional campaigns. Brand owners are looking for deeper consumer engagement and digital printing will make it a reality. The Direct Print Powered by KHS™ performance system, including certified low-migration ink, artwork and pre-press solutions, sampling and industrial printing, will move PET bottle decoration into the filling and packaging world on an industrial scale.”
Printhead performance and reliability are important to ensure high-quality imaging onto bottles at high speed. “KHS works in synergy with Xaar because of its market leading unique technologies and willingness to adapt according to technical requirements. Xaar’s partnership with the KHS print technology team began several years ago and has been really great,” says Phil. “Xaar 1002 printheads enable us to print high quality graphics at PET line production speeds in single-pass directly onto PET bottles with excellent reliability. Particularly important is Xaar’s TF Technology™ which keeps the inks in continuous circulation. This allows us to mount the printheads vertically in skyscraper mode on the print station carousels confident that they will jet inks, smoothly and accurately onto the bottles. The bottles are printed at maximal jetting speed with excellent registration and consistent print quality through the Direct Print industrial printer.”
The Direct Print system jets graphics up to 70mm in height onto bottles ranging from 40-125mm in diameter with fast, automatic changeover from one bottle size to another when required. Modular in design the Direct Print Powered by KHS™ system is available in configurations of 12,000, 24,000 or 36,000 bottles per hour.
‘Talking bottles’ campaign
Martens is an innovative brewery and one of the first companies to launch beer in PET bottles. While they are prevalent in Eastern Europe and Russia, PET bottles have only recently started to be used for premium brand beers in Western Europe. There are many benefits to using PET bottles – they are safe, strong, flexible, light and easy to transport and recycle. Direct Print inks were developed in partnership with AGFA Graphics, and are produced by AGFA according to GMP principles with formulations according to Swiss Ordinance and EUPIA. The Direct Print low-migration decoration application for PET is certified for food safety.
Bottles printed by the Direct Print Powered by KHS™ system are certified for recycling by the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP[i]).
Martens recently demonstrated the creative and marketing capabilities of its new Direct Print system by launching a new brand of beer in association with a well-known Belgian sitcom ‘F.C. De Kampioenen’ to promote an upcoming film ‘Jubilee Generale’. The Dagschotel PET beer bottles carry images of different actors which come to life using a special smartphone app (www.kampioenenbier.be) and interact with one another if two bottles are placed next to each other. The beer, available in 400 outlets across Belgium, has attracted national attention and Martens is in full production using the Xaar-based Direct Print Powered by KHS™ system to meet demand.
Martens Brouwerij has been an early adopter of several KHS new technology solutions through many years of working together. “KHS and NMP Systems have a great partnership with Martens,” says Phil. “It is an extremely innovative company and a pioneer in brewing and PET technology for beer. Martens clearly intends to leverage the speed-to-market and new capabilities which Direct Print Powered by KHS™ will bring to filling and packaging.”
“Direct-to-shape printing is gaining traction as brands start to realise its considerable potential,” says Mark Alexander, Director of Business Development, Xaar. “We will see more and more creative applications come to market based on the Xaar 1002 with TF Technology™ which show how powerful digital printing onto PET, glass and cans can be when it is part of an industrial filling and packaging process.”