Revolution, not just renaissance is driving change in industrial digital print

The Michaelangelo by Martinenghi

The Michaelangelo by Martinenghi

The revolution taking place in digital direct to container printing would have pleased even Michelangelo the iconic Italian renaissance artist. We recently met with Saverio Ardizzone from Italian based Martinenghi to discover more about the company and the development of inkjet within their business.

So Saverio, please tell us about Martinenghi…

“Martinenghi designs and produces advanced machines for manufacturing aluminium and plastic tubes, aerosol cans and aluminium bottles. Every Martinenghi appliance installed in production line is manufactured to adjust to the specifications of any kind of cylindrical container and can be further tailored to allow maximum flexibility for any market needs.

"The company itself was founded in 1945 by Luigi and Corradino Martinenghi, Martinenghi S.r.l. and they had originally begun operating in the automotive and motorcycle industry. Around 1950 the Company entered the market for flexible aluminium tubes, subsequently extending its expertise to manufacturing printing machines for aerosol cans, aluminium tubes, cylindrical containers, and plastic packaging.

"In 1982 Martinenghi became part of the “La Metallurgica” Group, which allowed Martinenghi to expand its horizons into research and technological development, with huge success in domestic and international markets. With this in mind, Technopack - our engineering company – helped us to integrate our machines into a complete set of technologies. The most recent and perhaps most exciting development for the future was in 2014, as we introduced the Michelangelo Machine into the market.

"We think that the Michelangelo machine is revolutionary, named after the Italian renowned Renaissance artist. The technology is a break-through in cylindrical container decoration. It allows customers to personalise a huge range of consumer products with maximum efficiency and minimum waste."

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So why did you create this new technology?

“5 years ago the company embarked on a new project which was born out of a series of brainstorms about the future. This new project was centred on digital printing. We believe that we were one of the first companies that successfully produced a machine that could directly inkjet print onto a metal container. Since the launch of Michelangelo this has been a great success. 

After all of the hard work that went into the development of this technology we were excited by the buzz that it generated from the industry. The output it created was amazing and we were happy and proud about it. We already have two installs working and many more lined up to be launched soon. It really excites us as we think this is the future of digital direct to shape printing.”

So this came from ideas within the company but not customers??

"Our leadership team decided that for the future we have to think different and do something in a different way. By brainstorming inside the company we created this idea. Although we did not have a lot of direct experience with print technology, this in some ways helped us. We didn't have set thoughts on what should or should not be done. However, as already mentioned, we had the benefit of La Metallurgica, who have the necessary engineering skills as well as a deep knowledge of the traditional printing process, and we put these to good use in developing a new digital solution to be installed both in existing and brand new production lines.

We know that there was opportunity to use inkjet. So we carried out a wide trial program, we invested a quite important amount of resources, time with nights and hours to try to find the best combination of devices and solutions such as an innovative machine architecture, linear motors, controllers, inks, printing heads and finally our Dolcevita printing software. And in the end we had success with it. And it really worked. The amount of success was perhaps a little unexpected but when we had the first image we knew that we had something special.

We presented Michelangelo to our customers, and we have now two machines fully installed. One for aluminium collapsible tubes in Milan and one for aerosol cans in Barcelona, in a line where the offset printer is bypassed by our Michelangelo. Before we thought that digital inkjet was the future. Now we are absolutely convinced of it.”

What kind of challenges did you face when developing the technology?

“What was clear from the start was that we needed different skills as printing is one technology and handling cylindrical containers at high production speed is the other. We already had plenty of experience in creating solutions for high level industrial output and we were able to combine this with developing the new inkjet printing for direct to container.

So, in terms of developing the technology, even though we have integrated several ready-to-use components (printing heads from  Japan, linear motors from Germany, etc), the real challenge was to combine the best elements of production together to get the best possible system. On top of which, the software itself is still in constant evolution for being always updated and ready to implement new solutions.”

What about inks?

“We really wanted our customers to have the freedom to use the inks they want but this does depend to some extent on what the right inks are for the heads and the final result on the finished product. As well as inks, also the base coating materials must be suitable in order to pass all of the quality tests during collapsible tube and aerosol cans process”

What do customers like about Michelangelo?

“From the start we placed the Michelangelo within La Metallurgica, our sister company, to assess the production value and the true cost of running the machine. As well as all of the great opportunities that digital technology gives to the manufacturing process, we have actually found that the total cost for printing when compared to any other printing process is lower!!

 “Digital technology has plenty of advantages: Photographic quality of the printing, flexibility, energy saving, output control, no scraps, personalization, variable data and the most important point: Digital printing is always less expensive than traditional printing! It means that the economical benefit is huge when we talk about small or medium size batches, and it remains considerable even for big size batches.

“This was a very pleasant surprise to us as everybody says digital printing is good but it is more expensive! The ink is more expensive, and it’s true, but frankly speaking it isn’t helpful to think about printing process considering only one component of its cost structure. We need to think of the complete picture because when all of the aspects of production costs are put together, then you discover that the cost is lower when compared with any analogue printing process.

“For instance, there is no oven with digital printing, it makes savings in time and energy usage. As well as that we have complete control of output meaning downtime is very effectively managed, there is no waste when producing and no requirement for stock. Then one must consider the manpower used for running a sophisticated analogue press. This does require skilled manpower also which is very expensive. For digital you will need a skilled graphic operator but the skill for running a digital press is different and more akin to running an I.T. Operation.”

“When you factor in and assess the complete picture then digital is cheaper. It is a misnomer to think that it's more expensive. Therefore, I think it will revolutionise production and it will replace analogue printing completely. In my opinion this will definitely happen.

“And why should it not? The quality is good, it's more cost effective and it enables more flexibility. Digital printing will surely replace analogue eventually in cylindrical container market as it has already done in many other industrial sectors,” concludes Saverio.

With a commitment to innovation and some installs running production and a confidence in their mission, Martinenghi have had a very successful InPrint Show which will undoubtedly lead to continued success in selling Michelangelo, which I am sure would have pleased the great man himself.