At its headquarters and largest engineering and manufacturing center in Dortmund, the KHS Group has provided approximately one thousand square meters of new space for the ever-expanding Direct Print innovation team.
“With our expanded facility, we will continue to innovate and to grow our team which is fully-engaged in bringing digital print disruptive technology to the filling and packaging environment”. Martin Schach, head of Printing Technology at KHS GmbH, explains. Because of the modularity of the Direct Print industrial platform and our location in the largest KHS manufacturing facility, we will apply latest KHS equipment design and assembly practices in order to scale our industrial platforms to market demand in real time”.
Technology testing laboratory
The Direct Print space includes a dedicated area for sample printing, as well as space for industrial validation platforms for confirmation and extended testing of new features such as bottle orientation, print inspection, ink management, specialized design materials and verification of controls and new components. The engineering team has the ability to fully test each new parameter industrially before taking them to the field.
Marketing focused technology
The software engineers are completing the Direct Print artworks management software platform which will enable brand owners to change decorations within minutes, and also leverage impressive variable image capability at industrial speeds of 12,000 up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Katrin Preckel, who leads the printing team, comments: “Our technology will not just be transferring decorations from our customers’ design agencies. Direct Print dedicated artworks specialists are finding new ways to implement printing techniques to PET bottles which are only possible with digital inkjet. Those capabilities will be key parameters of our artworks management platform, with dedicated customer specific space in the cloud for each Direct Print Powered by KHS customer”.
Move to digital to bottle
The Direct Print solution is a combination of specially co-developed low-migration LED-UV cured inks from AGFA Graphics which are jetted by specifically implemented print heads to bond to the untreated PET bottle surface, yet are approved for PET bottle-to-bottle recycling. Direct Print Powered by KHS is a combination of inks, print heads, software, sample printers and industrial scale technology. Martin Schach adds: “Developing digital print specifications and guidelines, as well as training programs for first Direct Print implementers build a big part of our focus. Our technology will enable beverage customers to shift from traditional labeling to digital decoration over the coming years. Thereby, they are greatly reducing time to market, packaging materials and changeover downtimes on their line. Direct Print is giving customers a new brand engagement tool to grow their brands”.
The Direct Print team will implement the next generation ‘Pilot Series’ industrial printer at MARTENS Brewery in Belgium within the next few weeks. Higher quality printing, image variability and integrated print inspection will enhance MARTENS’ ability to respond to markets, and even to potentially print PET bottles for other brand owners.