Zeller+Gmelin sees opportunities in digital printing

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Digital printing has made gains in many printing segments, including packaging, and further packaging growth is expected. Keeping an eye on this trend, Zeller+Gmelin GmbH & Co. KG, specialists in UV inks, started the development of digital inks in 2019. The company brought in inkjet specialists and a new laboratory inkjet printing facility was built at its headquarters in Eislingen, Germany.

In 2022, this R&D work came to fruition when Zeller+Gmelin launched its first digital inks, UV-curable and water-based inkjet inks for labels, packaging and molded parts.

Andreas Koch, Head of the Printing Inks Division at Zeller+Gmelin GmbH & Co. KG (Germany), says it is an obvious step for Z+G to direct its product diversification towards printing inks digital.

“Almost all printing press manufacturers with which Z+G cooperates in conventional printing processes are developing digital printing units or complete printing presses,” notes Koch. “This applies to the narrow web segment, rigid plastics and all packaging printing for film and fiber-based substrates.”

“The great challenge in the development and production of inkjet inks is the perfect selection of raw materials, their precise processing, the adjustment to the appropriate printhead specifications and the incorporation of physical properties and chemicals required of the final ink film in ink systems almost as thin as water,” adds Koch.

Koch said Zeller+Gmelin is focusing on the label and packaging segment.

“In the development of inkjet printing inks, we are clearly focusing on packaging printing,” he adds. “Here we develop UV inkjet inks for non-sensitive and water-based inkjet inks for sensitive applications. In addition, our expertise in the development of inkjet inks gives us access to all kinds of industrial decorative applications. Since inkjet is a non-contact printing process, it can be used to decorate or coat almost any object imaginable, giving us access to a wide range of industries.

Currently, digital labels and narrow printing inks are primarily purchased from OEMs. Zeller+Gmelin sees opportunities to offer alternatives to OEMs.

“Zeller+Gmelin has been comfortable with these applications for many years and knows the requirements and regulations,” observes Koch. “It goes without saying that Z+G will also provide press manufacturers and printer users with innovative digital printing inks. In addition to our many years of experience printing packaging with conventional inks, we have built a team at Z+G that can look back on over ten years of inkjet experience. This allows us to be at the forefront of inkjet ink technology.

Glass and polypropylene are difficult substrates to print on and Zeller+Gmelin has developed inks for these applications.

“One of our first products is a UV inkjet ink with excellent adhesion to difficult surfaces such as glass and polypropylene,” says Koch. “The innovation is that adhesion is achieved without priming or pre-treatment. The ink is used for example in interior design, automotive and display advertising. We are in the process of introducing the ink to the global market for various applications.

“With water-based inkjet technology, we are developing inks for industrial applications for decorating non-woven materials and printing on absorbent and non-absorbent packaging materials,” adds Koch.

Koch says the time has come for Zeller+Gmelin to enter the digital printing segment.

“People often ask me if we started inkjet development too late,” comments Koch. “My answer is that we started at exactly the right time. The big learning curve has already been paid for and we are accessing market-ready technology knowledge from the start and adding to our innovation. Additionally, the market urgently needs another player with the agility and development strength to take inkjet to the next level. We look forward to translating customer requirements into inkjet solutions with our usual professionalism.

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