“More and more customers understand the competitive advantages of digital printing”


CATEGORY: Cover BRAND: SCREEN Graphic Solutions

Interview with Juan Cano, Business Development Director of Screen Europe

The opening of a spectacular new headquarters and Inkjet Innovation Centre in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, just a few months ago drew our attention to the company, SCREEN Europe, a leading manufacturer in the digital inkjet printing equipment market and subsidiary of the Japanese multinational group, SCREEN. To learn more about the current situation of this increasingly important key player in digital printing technology, we spoke with Juan Cano, its Business Development Manager.


INFOPACK: We know that SCREEN is a Japanese group, based in Kyoto, and is dedicated to the design and manufacture of high-tech equipment and machinery for a wide range of high-tech markets and applications. What else can you tell us about its origins and arrival in Europe?

JUAN CANO: The company dates back to 1868 as a small workshop for image processing. But we began our current path as SCREEN in 1943; so we have been on this journey for 80 years. We have been through various stages manufacturing prepress equipment and have continued to diversify. Today SCREEN Holdings has over 60 subsidiaries throughout the world.

At the moment, the machinery division for the manufacture of semiconductors (chips) is the most important in terms of sales volume. The SCREEN Group's turnover is around €3.8 billion annually and we have around 6,000 employees worldwide. The graphic arts division, which includes the digital inkjet printing presses, is the second most important and we have a third division which makes machinery for manufacturing flat screens for televisions and tablets, etc.


IP: Truepress JET inkjet printing equipment is possibly the best known range of the portfolio of services offered by SCREEN, but there are many more.

JC: In the Graphic Arts Division, SCREEN is the world's leading supplier of Computer-to-Plate (CTP) prepress systems, with over 20,000 devices sold on the market, and is the most consolidated part. However, for more than 20 years we have focused on the design and manufacturing of high-tech digital inkjet printing equipment.

The Truepress JET range is the widest in terms of models and the best established. These high-speed (up to 150 m/min) and high-resolution (1200 dpi x 1200 dpi) digital printing systems are intended for the commercial printing of books, direct mailing, catalogues, pharmaceutical brochures and promotional marketing, etc. The inks are water-based and compatible with a wide range of standard papers.

Then, around 12 years ago we started developing our range of Truepress LABEL digital printers with UV inks for the label and packaging market. They are very compact, narrow web devices but offer high versatility and flexibility for label converters who want to print digitally and lead the market with innovative solutions.

SCREEN is a company with unrivalled R&D skills and is always looking for markets with high growth potential to develop new digital inkjet printing solutions. Along these lines, one of the markets where a high development of digitalisation is expected is the flexible packaging market. Consequently, SCREEN has developed the new Truepress PAC range of industrial inkjet digital printing equipment with water-based inks which are safe for food use, to print both classic plastic substrates (PET, BOPP and MDO-PE) and paper packaging. The latter is a highly attractive growing sector, due to increased demand from consumers and brands for more sustainable, recyclable packaging.



IP: What position does SCREEN occupy in the Iberian and European market for digital inkjet printing equipment and what are your expectations in the short/medium term? What volume of business does the packaging-label industry represent for SCREEN?

JC: The European market is of great interest to us. It demonstrates great growth potential both in sectors where our technology is already well established, such as commercial printing and labels, and in emerging sectors such as packaging, where SCREEN has developed custom equipment for these types of applications.

In Spain, we have had CTP equipment for many decades, and since 2015 with single-pass inkjet equipment. Spain is a very important market for us, due to the rapid consolidation of major label manufacturers looking for innovative digital printing solutions to accelerate their market share in a very competitive industry with increasingly tight margins. The use of our UV narrow web digital presses (Truepress LABEL 350UV SAI) allows the customer to optimise label production and offer value-added solutions, with flexible and fast delivery times. These qualities mean they can offer a clearly differentiated service with more attractive margins. Undoubtedly, we want to enhance our presence in the Iberian market, as well as expand our supply of printing equipment for the flexible packaging sector.


IP: What would be the typical profile of the customer-user of SCREEN technology in our country?

JC: Our digital printing equipment offers great versatility in use and configuration, so it can be adapted to a wide range of customers who may have very different growth strategies. It is easy to transport and install, thus meeting the needs of both a small label manufacturer and book printer, as well as a large multinational with several plants in the market. The variety also affects the type of strategy when it comes to printing technology. We have customers who have been 100% digital since they started as well as companies with a long tradition in analogue printing equipment (offset, gravure and flexo), where the incorporation of a digital inkjet printing press gives them total flexibility to work alongside existing analogue presses.

More and more customers understand the unmatched competitive advantages that digital printing offers.


IP: What is SCREEN's vision of the flexible packaging digital printing market? Where is this market headed and where are the opportunities, if any?

JC: Digital printing for flexible packaging is not new. There is already some toner-type digital printing equipment in operation, but it works at extremely low speeds (<20 m/min) and with productivity levels that are not profitable for runs beyond 1,000-2,000 m. This low-performance equipment has solved the needs of ultra-short runs and limited editions; but we believe they will be replaced by inkjet equipment with the same versatility as toner but much more productive and consistent. In fact, the volume of flexible packaging currently printed digitally represents less than 1% of the total worldwide. This gives us a glimpse of the potential for opportunities for growth in the flexible segment.

The solution inexorably involves digital inkjet printing, faster and more reliable, with aqueous inks which are food safe, which has emerged as the technological solution to significantly improve digital productivity levels; and these are increasingly approaching those of traditional analogue presses. SCREEN has recently presented the new Truepress PAC 830F for digital printing with industrial productivity of plastic films (PET, BOPP & MDO-PE) working at a speed of 75 m/min, a width of up to 830 mm and a 100% digital printing engine with CMYK+ heavy white printheads.





The market is constantly evolving and runs are increasingly shorter and with more SKUs. Flexible packaging converters and brands have understood the numerous advantages of working with digital printing and are now looking for digital industrial equipment with high levels of productivity to allow them to grow in this market with great potential, with an optimal return on investment.


IP: SCREEN opted for digital printing back in the early 2000s, predicting a growth that time has confirmed. How has the company innovated in this area over the years? What are your most innovative solutions?

JC: Graphic arts, digital image reproduction and pre-press services have been part of SCREEN's DNA since our beginnings and it is something that our R&D engineers have in their blood. When the company decided to make the leap to the design and integration of digital inkjet printing equipment, SCREEN continued applying that DNA to the basic principles that characterise Japanese engineering; such as rigour in the selection of components, the exhaustive search for perfection, high quality standards, simplicity of use, reliability and consistency of processes.

Our engineers have complete freedom to choose the most suitable, reliable inkjet print heads for each application. We know how to formulate the inks that offer the highest resolution, ease of drying and durability. We have also developed and expanded our electronics and software department to make all the process variables, which make digital printing possible, work in perfect synchronisation and harmony.

This highly qualified organisational structure has given us constant improvement in our equipment in terms of printing quality, increased speed and productivity, efficient ink drying, reduction in energy consumption and, above all, equipment reliability. We are constantly pushing the boundaries of digital inkjet technology to continue to stay at the forefront of innovation.

SCREEN's most innovative solutions can be found in the new digital printing equipment for flexible packaging (paper and film) and a revolutionary new platform for commercial printing and direct mailing, the new Truepress JET 560HDX, that will be presented to the public at drupe.


IP: Not just converters, but brands and designers are also learning to take advantage of digital printing technology. What advantages does digital printing bring to the flexible packaging industry?

JC: Digital printing allows us to carry out work and designs that are impossible in the analogue world. When working with a PDF file, the EQUIOS software developed entirely by SCREEN allows you to accelerate pre-press adjustments and digital colour calibration. Packaging designers understand this perfectly, as digital printing opens up a range of possibilities in the creation of unlimited graphic design. This translates into more effective campaigns for a brand, with more attractive and innovative designs so they can reach high levels of relevance in a continually evolving market; where being up to date and on message is increasingly important, due to the use of social networks and the rapid exchange of consumer information. In some cases, viral.

Digital printing equipment also allows packaging customisation to improve the segmentation of consumer groups and connectivity (Connected Packaging), due to the use of variable data printing that can give a direct dialogue between brand and consumer through unique QR codes.



But, perhaps the main advantage that digital printing gives is the speed of reaching the market with packaging delivery times: days, and not months, as with traditional analogue printing. Drastically shortening delivery times and facilitating last-minute design changes, without the need to make flexo plates or gravure cylinders, makes packaging converters and brands more responsive, with total flexibility to change the packaging design to the consumer's needs quickly, preventing the waste of obsolete packaging.


IP: I mentioned it previously: we have observed in recent times that flexible packaging manufacturers are incorporating paper as a packaging material into their products, increasingly committed to sustainability. SCREEN has also foreseen this scenario…

JC: There is indeed a growing consumer demand for the transition from flexible packaging towards more sustainable, eco-friendly and recyclable formats. There is a clear consumer and brand perception towards paper-based packaging as a more sustainable form of packaging to reduce the environmental impact of packaging when it comes to disposal and recycling.

Paper has a number of properties that make it ideal for use in packaging with already well-established collection and sorting systems and high recycling levels (82%). However, paper manufacturers and converters need to add functionality to paper with barrier coatings (OTR, WVTR, mineral oil, grease, scent, etc.), heat sealing, and other processes such as lamination. The preference in the European market is to use uncoated papers to maintain that clearly distinctive and natural visual appearance that the paper communicates; so the consumer disposes of the packaging with paper waste.


At SCREEN, we have been printing digitally on paper for more than 20 years and have a lot of knowledge of how to treat this substrate. Our innovative solution is Truepress PAC520P, a compact digital printing machine for uncoated paper of 45-250 g, working at speeds of up to 80 m/min, with a maximum width of 520 mm and a digital CMYK print engine using food-safe aqueous inks.



Finally, I would like to clarify that, at SCREEN, we maintain an agnostic position regarding the selection of the substrate for each application since we also have printing presses for plastic films. The selection must be made by the brand with the help of the packaging converter using tools based on data and scientific methods (LCA type) to ensure an appropriate choice of packaging for the sustainability objectives desired in each case.


IP: And, as you point out, one of the crucial issues for both the present and future is sustainability and the minimisation of environmental impact. What are SCREEN's proposals and progress in this regard?

JC: SCREEN digital printing equipment produces sustainable and recyclable flexible packaging, as well as minimising the environmental impact of the printing process. Our digital presses require no flexographic plates or gravure cylinders with the consequent advantages that this entails in terms of reduction of emissions, disposal of polluting chemicals and handling/storage of these components. They also allow a significant reduction in electrical energy consumption compared to analogue printing systems.

Aqueous inks are harmless to operators and have led to a drastic reduction in the emission of volatile components (VOC), compared to solvent inks.

Digital printing facilitates a “Print-On-Demand” production model for the delivery of the packaging that the customer needs at each moment; thereby avoiding the waste and deposit of tons of obsolete packaging for brands at the end of each year. This, without a doubt, makes it easier to achieve sustainability objectives in terms of resource and raw material efficiency.


IP: We have gone through a pandemic crisis that affected supply chains and are still suffering the consequences of the war in Ukraine, with the accompanying increase in material and energy costs. Has your customer profile changed because of all this? What are the main needs or demands that your customers convey to you?

JC: Indeed, we live in a period of constant change, with crisis after crisis (Brexit, Covid, energy crisis, Ukraine, escalating transport costs, high inflation and rising interest rates) and this dynamic does not seem as if it will change in the long term. Brands are finding it increasingly difficult to predict and effectively plan their campaigns and investments, so the trend is to reduce risk with increasingly shorter flexible packaging orders and runs.

In turn, packaging converters have conventional printing equipment optimised over the years to improve efficiency and be cost competitive. However, these processes are rigid and are not adapted to continuous material and design changes.

This is where digital inkjet printing provides the production flexibility needed to quickly adapt to changing market needs. Converters can respond quickly to last-minute changes by producing just the precise amount of packaging that brands need, thus maximising efficiency regarding warehouse inventory.

To successfully navigate through the cyclical uncertainty of the market, you need the ideal combination of printing equipment: analogue, to produce efficient and inexpensive medium and high packaging runs with long delivery times (weeks or months), and flexible digital inkjet printing equipment, to produce short runs at competitive costs and fast delivery (days) to the market. The right tool for each job is needed. Our EQUIOS software system facilitates the interchangeability of printing systems (analogue to digital, and vice versa) without a significant effect on the print quality on supermarket shelves.



IP: One of the factors that most helps to capture and maintain the trust of a customer-user is the support and accompaniment the supplier is capable of providing if there is a problem or incident. How does SCREEN provide this in our country?

JC: SCREEN is known worldwide for the reliability of its “Made in Japan” equipment. It is our seal of guarantee. All our devices have a remote monitoring system (TRUST) which helps us resolve 60-70% of incidents remotely. We provide the first level of assistance with local technicians in Spain, which allows us to be very efficient and fast in responding. However, the number of technical incidents is small if recommended maintenance measures are taken, due to the reliability of the equipment manufactured in Japan. If there is a bigger problem, we can also rely on highly specialised technicians from anywhere in Europe. In any case, the objective is to maximise the OEE of the equipment and for our customers to have stop their production lines as little as possible.


IP: As an eminently technological company committed to improving production processes, both its own and its customer-users, do you think that the advantages of digital tools are being efficiently taken advantage of to act as an industry 4.0?

JC: One of the advantages of digital printing is the ease of integration into automation processes to reduce manual steps and avoid human errors and costly waste. More and more customers have integrated our digital printing equipment into their complex automation processes to provide faster response through “Web-to-Print” business models. These highly automated processes allow the user to place an order through an internet portal and receive the printed material with a high quality resolution and desired finish in a matter of days.

Without a doubt, there are insurmountable barriers that prevent analogue printing methods from automating printing. Meanwhile, digital printing is very advanced and is the appropriate solution to mitigate a crisis in the availability of qualified operators for analogue printing.


Last September, SCREEN launched an Inkjet Innovation Centre (IIC) in the Netherlands.


INFOPACK: The company's commitment to R&D is beyond doubt...

JUAN CANO: The recent opening of our new Inkjet Innovation Centre shows our strong commitment and represents our confidence in the future of the digital printing industry in the coming years. This new modern, spacious building on the outskirts of Amsterdam creates the foundations for SCREEN to grow and consolidate our position in both existing markets and new emerging segments within the digital printing market in Europe. While leading the industry in our traditional inkjet markets, we continue to develop innovative next-generation equipment and digital printing solutions for new markets and new applications.



This new building also allows us to test new substrates for new applications and improve our relationship with suppliers of raw materials and other auxiliary equipment and be up to date with new innovations on the market.

Here, we can offer a demonstration service for our customers in Europe where we test the high quality printing capabilities of our equipment with our specialised staff. This way, the customer can observe first-hand the simplicity of use and operation of our software and make adjustments in colour calibration to ensure the colour fidelity of brands using their own substrate and design.


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