Enter the digital age?

On a recent visit to the IMDA conference in Chicago, there was a certain buzz around the topic of digital printing. Opinions vary as to the viability of this technology, but we have to start somewhere.

Ideas are often formed at these events due to the great minds of the industry coming together to share ideas and experiences, but it seemed fairly unanimous that there is a long way to go before the industry can begin to think about replacing dry-offset printing at any great level.

Speeds are just not comparable for a business that produces cans in the billions each year, and as the average plant can operate at 2,200 cans per minute, the digital option – at 60-200 cans per minute – is not going to be making the mainstream any time soon in my opinion.

One presentation was of particular interest, however, and was made by Stolle Machinery on day one of the event. Its digital decorator is perhaps a glimpse into the future. Cans enter the decorator and are printed and cured in the same machine, removing the need for further equipment, such as ovens, downstream. However, this is in the testing phase at present and is apparently effective at the aforementioned 60 cans per minute – potentially rising to 400 as testing progresses.

These numbers are not going to compete with conventional methods just yet, but as I said, we have to start somewhere.

Could this sort of digital decorator be the future of metal decoration? How long will it be before a digital alternative will be able to compete with current methods?

Digital could well be the future, but just how far forward do we have to look? Let us know your thoughts below and let’s get a conversation started.

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4 responses to “Enter the digital age?”

  1. Evert van de Weg says:

    I remember a long discussion with one of the Ball R & D experts in their R & D Centre in Bonn some 10 years ago about the perspectives of digital printing. Agreed: much has changed since, in particular the capacity of computers which are crucial for the processing of all the digital information. I fear also after the Stolle presentation that digital printing will remain attractive only for small printing runs on cans, but from a marketing/ communciation point of view quite interesting nevertheless because the reaction time for ”action marketing” can be so short.
    Quite important after e.g. the victory of a champion at Wimbledon or at the Olympic Games and big brands like Heineken, Coca Cola or others want to have cans printed some hours after the event.
    But not suitable for long runs, I think. Regards, Evert van de Weg

  2. At Tonejet we have had a digital can printing solution for many year, and it is the Tonejet technology that Ball utilised for their digital can printing. We are now rolling out a new generation of digital can printer into North America and expect to do the same into the UK and Europe later this year. A recent article was written about the Tonejet digital can decorator in last months The Canmaker magazine, and more information can be found on our website.

  3. Well, Martienghi has a digital decorator up to 300 ppm. As matter of fact, the can industry is already used to run multiple machines as bodymakers trimmers inner lacquer.
    If you look around, in other industried the digital technology is the standard since long time and the customers are asking more and more for personalized products.
    At Cannex Guangzhou we can talk about this subject.
    Regards, Paolo

  4. Amitava Ghosh says:

    Although does not meet the speed requirement as of now, could be useful for specialized prints required in high quality and small number.

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