Major new CI flexo press launches by Soma, Uteco, Windmöller & Hölscher and Comexi have been among the big news emerging from drupa 2024, currently taking place in Düsseldorf, Germany.

All four press manufacturers have delivered slick demonstration shows of their technology, with Uteco also announcing the creation of the Flex-Converting Alliance – a binding equity agreement between itself and partners CMG, GAP (both extrusion), its SmartJet industrial inkjet printing, Vision Systems (quality control), and Bimec (slitter rewinders).

This announcement followed hard on the heels of a demonstration of Uteco’s OnyxOmnia flexo-digital press, which puts much of that alliance into practical integration, combining Uteco’s flexo with the SmartJet inkjet in a system that Uteco CEO Mario Tomasi notes for its versatility. Aimed at the flexible packaging market, it can run at up to 400m/min flexo only, and 300m/min with digital, with a maximum printing width of 1320mm. However, the OnyxOmnia is unique, Mr Tomasi said, in that the flexo decks are intended to complement the digital inkjet capability, instead of the other way round. Six flexo units allow for spots, primers and whites, with the last unit being convertible to a roto unit for overprint varnish (OPV). Vision Systems inspection is also built in and accessed through the same HMI as the printing units. The press on display at drupa has already been sold to an unnamed multinational gravure printer.

Soma meanwhile was showing its advanced Optima2 flagship press, a high-speed, 10-colour press capable of printing at up to 600mpm. It features Advanced Bounce Control technology, alongside Soma’s automation features for error-free job changeovers, which include IRIS for register and impression setting. The newly announced Proxima flexo press is a ‘synergy of simplicity and sophisticated technology’ according to Soma. It can run at up to 400m/min, with eight printing decks, a maximum print width of 1270mm and a maximum repeat of 800mm. It also features IRIS automated set up, and Soma says it is designed for short runs.

At the Windmöller & Hölscher (W&H) booth, the AlphaFlex was the focus of attention. It is an entry level press, printing eight colours at 400m/min, but featuring the company’s advanced technology. Designed for flexible packaging printing on film and paper, it has a maximum print width of 1270mm, and an 800mm maximum repeat. W&H demonstrated its stability by balancing a coin inside the press while running the drupa demonstration. Among the points of interest are that W&H has turned the unwind round by 180 degrees, giving operators two working areas, one with easy and safe access to the print decks, one for loading webs. Additional features include selectable drying nozzles so only those needed can be activated, saving energy, a 40% longer drying tunnel, and easy set up guides through the HMI. The first AlphaFlex press has been successfully tested at Leeb Flexibles, in Germany.

W&H is also showing a new concept technology for hybrid flexo/digital at its Lengerich HQ, not far from Düsseldorf. Arising from its partnership with Epson, the press has four flexo units and seven digital. W&H hopes to bring the technology forward as a viable press in 2026.

Allstein has also reportedly been showing a new CI press at drupa, but has so far not provided further information to FlexoTech about this. 

Comexi debuted its F1 Evolution flexo press, which it says is ideal for medium and long run jobs, with printing width up to 1690mm, speed of 600m/min and repeat of 1260mm. It can be equipped with a robotic arm for sleeve and anilox changes, and also has a range of other automated features through Comexi’s GeniusTech range. Among these is Genius Board, which automatically calculates the most efficient way to carry out a job change, guiding operators step by step. In addition, there was a new slitting system, the S1DT evolution, with a range of automation and inline features, including an inline laser and automatic reel handling system.

Bobst is another press manufacturer making new product announcements at drupa, although these were not of the same scale as those of the three already mentioned. Indeed, Bobst’s sizeable stand has been noteworthy for the absence of any working press technologies on display. However, it reported an update to its AccuCheck software for narrow to mid web products, including improvements to automatic quality inspection set up, and the launch of a new version of its flagship flatbed die cutter, the MasterCut 165 PER, which can now reach speeds of 7500 sheets per hour. A new digital printing and converting platform for folding carton is also available – the Digital Master 55.

Bobst also revealed to FlexoTech something of a new direction at drupa, of which more detail is to follow. It concerns the extension of its oneBarrier metallised substrate solutions to its inline narrow to mid web UV flexo press business and offering a metallising system to major CI flexo customers.  

From Baldwin Technology comes news of not a press but of UV and LED UV curing developments for a range of printing technologies, including flexo. Unity LED is a new LED-UV curing technology for narrow and wide web presses, CI presses and finishing equipment, with an ‘ultra-compact’ design for easier press integration. QuadCure Unity UV is a conventional UV curing technology that is engineered to reduce costs by requiring only one lamphead at the end of the press, following the coater unit.  

While not presenting new technology, Dr Hönle, the German UV technology manufacturer announced a restructuring of its business into units for curing, adhesive systems and disinfecting. For flexo printers, naturally, the Business Unit Curing will be of most interest. The company said this restructure is intended to ‘enhance customer focus’. The unit includes four entities: Hönle, Eltosch, Grafix and PrintConcept; and its portfolio incorporates UV and LED-UV curing, IR and IR/hot air dryers, powder systems for sheetfed printing and coating systems.

A new slitter rewinder was showcased on the stand of IMS Technologies. Under the LAEM brand, the eSlit system is designed for film manufacturers and converters looking for a cost effective but high-quality solution. IMS said eSlit has an ergonomic design and is easy to use, with a hydraulic-free infrastructure. MAIA – Machine Artificial Intelligence Application – was also on display at IMS. This cloud based IoT platform enables users to collect, store and analyse data from their converting equipment, leading to optimised operations and enhanced efficiency.  

Corona Supplies is now offering its corona system for individual sheets as a freestanding unit for the first time. Previously, the B1 sized system would be integrated between a feeder and stacker for greater automation, but can now be used as a manual feed system for 80gsm paper up to 3mm thick.

The drupa expo continues until 7 June. This story may by updated in due course.