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Canon comes late to the digital labels market, Words by Simon Eccles

What does it do?
This is the first inkjet narrow-to-medium width inkjet web press from Océ, Canon’s industrial-scale printer wing. The LabelStream 4000 series is described as “an industrial-scale UV inkjet conversion platform for self-adhesive labels and selected flexible packaging with optional flexo printing, embellishment and finishing units.” It’s aimed at the high productivity end of the market thanks to its speed and the wider 430mm width option. Océ doesn’t make the hardware, software or inks (yet). The print engine is made by FFEI and is basically a new engine that builds on its older Graphium, but with all-new printheads, electronics, software and inks. The latest Xaar 2001 printheads give significantly faster speeds with a greater laydown of ink densities. An Edale chassis handles the media transport, with a wide choice of inline flexo and finishing configurations. So all the important bits are British made.
Canon says: “The specifications were defined by Océ. Our partners developed the product accordingly, building on their tremendous knowledge and experience in the label printing sector.” This isn’t a new concept for Océ – its larger JetStream high-speed inkjet webs are mainly made by Miyakoshi in Japan.

What market is it aimed at?
Crit Driessen, vice-president & head of digital packaging, Canon Production Printing Products (PPP), says it’s targeted at self-adhesive label and some flexible packaging converters. It’s already a crowded market though and Canon is a latecomer. How will it compete? “We see a growing demand for high-productive inkjet label presses, therefore we put special focus on productivity and flexibility in various ways,” says Driessen. He says the LS 4000 offers “enhanced print quality, increased speed, improved makeready and better serviceability” over previous options.

Specifications
Lamps: UV-LED pinning and mercury vapour final cure
Colours: CMYK plus white
Web width: Up to 430mm
Digital print widths: 330mm or 410mm
Flexo print width: 420mm
Substrates: Coated/uncoated paper, white or transparent film, PP, PE, PVC, POPP and metallised film
Max speed: 68m/min

How does it work?
The print engine is a single-pass inkjet with five print bars, for CMYK plus white ink. There’s a choice of 330mm and 410mm print widths. “It is too early to make a statement on which option and print width will be most popular,” says Driessen. “We await market feedback. We expect customers who demand maximum throughput to choose a print width of 410mm.” Wide-gamut CMYK inks can reproduce the majority of Pantone colours. “Colours outside the digitally reproducible gamut can be easily covered by an additional flexo unit,” adds Driessen.
There are two white ink modes: true white (67% opacity) and alpine white (80+%). It’s the same ink with different laydown densities and press speed remains the same. Curing is dual mode, using UV-LEDs to pin between colours, with mercury vapour lamps for the hard cure.  The chassis can be configured as roll-to-roll, or with inline finishing options. Web cleaning and corona treatment is available on all versions. There are also hybrid configurations with one or more inline flexo units. 
A single point control system handles all digital, flexo and finishing functions, with extensive automation for setup and repeats. An AVT camera system can aid setup, register and running functions, making changeovers very fast. This is based on Edale’s own AIR (Automatic Impression & Registration) system, extended to the inkjet print engine as well.  Driessen says that LS 4000 “is compatible with industry-standard Esko workflows and others,” FFEI’s software accepts and colour-manages TIFF seps from any source.

What’s the USP?
“The combination of two print speeds – up to 68m/min – and two print widths enable an industry-leading productivity of up to 1,672m²/hr,” says Driessen. “A high degree of integration and automation of a custom mix of additional flexo, finishing and embellishment units allow for short make-ready times resulting in higher throughput. On top of that we can offer a high opacity white mode at standard press speed of 48m/min. This is backed up by our world-class service organisation globally.”

Alternatives
FFEI Graphium
Originally introduced in 2013, FFEI says Graphium is still being developed with new versions planned. Compared to the FFEI-built LabelStream 4000, Graphium uses older Xaar 1003 printheads with lower performance. There are configuration differences, notably the option of six ink channels that can deliver white both over and under print. Fujifilm sells Graphiums in the US.
Print technology: Single-pass inkjet with Xaar 1002 greyscale heads
Ink type: UV-cured
Lamps: UV-LED pinning and mercury vapour final cure
Colours: CMYK plus white (over and under)
Resolution: 180x360dpi (eight grey levels), 360x360dpi (six greys), 360x360dpi (eight greys)
Web width: Up to 430mm
Digital print widths: 330mm or 410mm
Flexo print width: 420mm