"Digital printing will take market shares away from label printing - we are well prepared for that"
Mr. Rozsnyai, what does “industrial printing” mean to you?
Zsolt Rozsnyai: Normally, industrial printing is one step in a total chain. Therefore, the printing technology used needs to be capable of keeping pace with the possibilities of conventional applications. For example, where you used to stick preprinted labels, direct printing onto products or packages must not stop or slow down the total process. This is a real challenge above all in the high-speed processes of the beverage industry with up to 81,000 containers per hour.
In which fields of industrial printing are you active as a technology manufacturer?
Rozsnyai: Krones plans factories for the beverage industry and equips them with the total process technology: filling and packaging technology, labelling machines, inspection, intralogistics and IT solutions. For PET bottles, our offer ranges from the design to machines that produce up to 81,000 bottles per hour and, filling technology to bottle-to-bottle recycling. A used bottle is turned into a new bottle. This background is important in order to put our activities in industrial printing into perspective. We concentrate on digital printing on hollow containers. In September, we will present a printing system which will make inkjet printing in the high-speed range a real alternative to conventional decoration options.
Which concrete applications are in the focus?
Rozsnyai: As regards digital printing, we have an eye on both glass and plastic containers for the beverage industry. Till now, above all glass and PET. However, our development team is working on solutions for other plastics and metal. In future, we will print on the total spectrum of substrates using the inkjet process – in the high-speed range. We expect that digital printing will take market shares away from label printing – and we are well prepared for this development. The users still check on a case-by-case basis whether the use of digital printing will pay off. This depends on the design, print quality and print thickness. With optimized label sizes, for instance, in the no-label look, it is possible already now to achieve positive business cases compared to conventional decoration options.
How do the customer requirements differ from those in the traditional print market?
Rozsnyai: The inks differ from those used for printing on paper. The migration characteristics are very important in the food sector. Furthermore, there are strict requirements for bottle-to-bottle recycling. During use, the inks must show perfect adhesion, and then it must be possible to remove them before recycling without any residues just like the labels. Furthermore, the print quality is crucial; with tolerances for glass bottles being in the millimeter range. The printing heads must be guided in such a way that they deliver perfect print results despite the uneven substrates and the speeds mentioned. In the PET field, the challenge is to align the area to be printed exactly before the printing head. The big advantage: We can also print on areas where it`s not possible to fix labels.
Does Krones also use other printing methods in industrial applications?
Rozsnyai: No. The focus is clearly on the inkjet method. We develop the processes and most of the inks in-house and cooperate closely with partners and our subsidiary Till GmbH based in Kelkheim. We must have an overview of the total process, including recycling, because of our responsibility for the process towards our customers.
To what extent does industrial printing contribute to your total sales?
Rozsnyai: We are in the starting blocks. We will present the first series machine in September at drinktec, the 'World's Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry' in Munich. We have been working on the direct printing technology since 2006 – and now have sufficient know-how to start series production. In 2013, we presented our first prototype that was used by large customers in a field test. There are brand manufacturers who keep a close eye on our developments and have shown large interest in the inkjet technology.
Market studies forecast strong global growth for industrial printing. How do you assess the growth chances?
Rozsnyai: It`s too early for an appraisal. However, as mentioned before, the brand owners seek up-to-date information on a regular basis. I presume that we as Krones will be pretty successful in this field. The experience made by Till with three machines that have been very well accepted in the market support us in this assessment.
Does your company go ahead with developments in the future areas of printed electronics, printed bio / medical technology or 3D printing?
Rozsnyai: For us, 3D printing is of huge importance – albeit from the user side. We increasingly use these processes especially in lightweight production, and we have such printing equipment at our production facilities. Till now, above all in the plastics sector. However, we also have a close look at the metal printing processes.