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This all in one entry-level digital production line is Gallus’ offering for anyone entering the short run labels market, Words by Barney Cox

What does it do?
The Smartfire is a narrow-web digital label line that combines aqueous inkjet printing with inline laminating and semi-rotary die cutting and includes an easy to use Human Machine Interface (HMI) to handle costing, pre-press and production in one.

Specifications
Max resolution: 1,600x1,600 or 1,600x800dpi
Max speed: 9m/min or 18m/min depending on resolution
Max print width: 220mm
Colours: CMYK
Printing technology: Memjet water-based thermal inkjet
Configuration: Printer plus inline lamination and semi-rotary die cutting

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
It was launched in the summer of 2018 at the Gallus Innovation Days. The target market for the 220mm print width machine encompasses a wide range of businesses, from printers through to brand owners, who need short runs, with a “sweet spot” of up to 300 linear metres. “I don’t think it is possible to pigeon hole this product to label printers,” says Heidelberg UK product executive labels Chris Jackson. “We have seen interest from sheetfed press users wishing to complement their existing offerings and to add labels to their portfolio. Additionally, because of the simplicity of the equipment and the small footprint, it may be used in-house for some brand owners.”

How does it work?
At the heart of the Smartfire are Memjet’s water-based single-pass heads, which are integrated into a Gallus transport system with inline finishing including laminating, a plotter cutter for proofs, semi-rotary die-cutter for production and a matrix rewind. As a CMYK only machine it is limited to reflective stocks only. Control of the machine is via the HMI (PC) used to set up the hardware and also includes the job preparation and pre-press software, which is from Caldera. According to Jackson given the target market and price point Caldera was considered a more appropriate software platform than Heidelberg’s Prinect Digital Front End.

How does it differ from previous products?
“For Gallus this is the first truly digital only label press and is not to be confused with the Labelfire,” he says. In fact, there are significant differences in capability, technology, format and throughput between the two machines, as well as price, with the Smartfire a fraction of the upfront cost of its heavy duty bigger sibling. Compared to many other Memjet-based machines the Smartfire is a heavier duty machine with greater inline production capabilities, whereas other offerings in this segment use either UV inkjet or toner imaging.

How fast is it?
It has two speeds. In productivity mode it runs at 18m/min with a resolution of 1,600x800dpi and in high-definition mode it runs at 9m/min with a resolution of 1,600x1,600dpi.

What is the USP?
“The ‘plug and print’ simplicity with the ability to produce fantastic quality from file to finished label in one pass,” Jackson says.

How easy is it to use?
“It’s incredibly simple with an intuitive HMI,” he says. “Training is two days recommended but dependant on the individual operator you could be up and running after one day’s training.”
The system arrives on two pallets and can be installed and in production within a few days. One standard electrical source (three pin plug 240V/50Hz) is all that is needed to power it as there is no need for heavy duty drying kit. As it uses water-based inks there are no VOCs, so no venting. That said, you do need to use substrates with a coating suited to Memjet inks, of which there are currently in excess of 200 certified label stocks. Standard training is two days on site after installation. The vast majority of parts are classed as ‘operator-replaceable units’ (ORU’s) meaning that there is little or no need for engineer visits. Spare parts are held at the Heidelberg World Logistic Centre.

How much does it cost?
€160,000 for the hardware, with additional costs for installation and training of circa £9,000. “It’s a low-cost low risk investment,” Jackson says. “It may be entry level but it’s got very good quality.”

Alternatives
Dantex Picocolour
A British developed and manufactured UV inkjet press that prints at up to 25m/min with a print width of 210mm. CMYK with optional white and a choice of inline or offline finishing. Dantex is currently reviewing its pricing.

Epson SurePress-L4533
The SurePress-L4533 is an aqueous ink, seven-colour press which prints reel to reel onto standard label stocks. Its colour options include CMYK plus orange and green and an opaque white.

Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 190
This second generation press is based on toner technology and features more robust materials handling, including inline finishing interface. Max web width of 350mm and speeds of up to 19m/min.