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Getting smart.

Forgive the hyberbole, but it seems our industry's press OEMs are in something of an "arms race" when it comes to digital press development and launches. In particular, I'm seeing a specific focus on the entry-level press targeting the first-time digital adopter.

As we go to press, I've just returned from Switzerland, where I was attending Gallus Innovation Days. It's a wonderful event, allowing visitors an opportunity to witness several demonstrations of many of the Heidelberg-owned manufacturer's label presses. Undoubtedly, the main attraction at this year's Innovation Days was the unveiling of the new Gallus Smartfire.

In introducing the new press, Michael Ring, head of digital solutions at Gallus, described the Smartfire as an easy, simple-to-operate solution. "It's a starter model for digital narrow web label printing aimed at ultra-short runs of under 300 meters. With the Gallus Smartfire, we are also focusing on new target groups who are looking for a smart entry into digital label printing."

Smartfire ticks several of the boxes that digital press holdouts have been clinging to. First, it offers inline finishing, preventing a would-be first-time digital adopter from bemoaning the fact that his or her company now has to also make a significant investment in a separate piece of finishing equipment. The Smartfire comes equipped with an inline converting system of a plotter, a semi-rotary diecutting unit, as well as matrix removal and a rewind system.

Second, both the training and press installation process takes place in just one week's time, it was noted, and the Smartfire parts are field-replaceable by Heidelberg within 48 hours. Several digital holdouts I've spoken with are standoffish due to the fear of extended downtime. With any investment in capital equipment, converters may be put off by a lengthy installation and training process. Not so with the Smartfire. Here, Gallus is certainly leveraging its Heidelberg backing and the extensive global presence it provides.

Then there are power and electricity issues. Another benefit to the press is its compact footprint and low power requirements--only a standard outlet is needed.

Finally, and what may be the million dollar question, well, the answer is far from a million dollars. Ring said that Gallus will be shipping its first Smartfire in September at an estimated price of 150,000 euro. He added, "We are setting a new operating cost ratio--ink for this device will cost under 200 euro a liter."

It will be interesting to see how the industry reacts to this new press. If it is anything like how converters took to the Mark Andy Digital One, the St. Louis, MO, USA-based OEM, we're looking at some tough decisions ahead for first time digital press buyers.

And I would not be surprised if there are more new entry-level press launches to come. It'll be an interesting Labelexpo!

Steve Katz, Editor


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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Katz, Steve
Publication:Label & Narrow Web
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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