Locking onto the potential of industrial inkjet

Melker Ryberg, R&D Project Manager, Valinge

Melker Ryberg, R&D Project Manager, Valinge

At the recent IMI Conference in Barcelona, I met with Melker Ryberg who fizzes with enthusiasm about the innovative power of inkjet and the innovative culture of Valinge.

It appears that Valinge is the rarest of companies. Not because the company is both Swedish and innovative. This combination is more usual, but they are a Swedish company that is both an innovator of laminate locking systems (yes it was their idea) and an inkjet innovator. The new system called Ammonite Creadigit which is the result of  a new technological development in partnership with Italian single pass inkjet ceramic specialist, System Group, and it is very exciting indeed.

Melker Ryberg, project manager, explains more about the culture of Valinge. “Here (Valinge) it is like a hub for creativity and innovation. We invent, and co

llaborate with other partners that have a core expertise in a specific area and together we bring new ideas to life.”

Ryberg explains that the ideas themselves can come from anywhere, but more often than not, the new ideas come from discovering a customer’s need, assessing a problem and then collaboratively developing a solution. Together. What is interesting, and this chimes with the experience that we have with the industrial print sector as a whole, that innovation moves quickly partly through partnership, by sharing competence and energy.

At Domotex in Hannover in January, Valinge caused quite a stir. Because their new single-pass inkjet printing system creates something unique in terms of production possibilities.

Single pass inkjet decor machine offers high productivity by running CMYK and white with water based ink. This technology began in ceramics and has matured to a point that it is developing into new areas such as floor decoration.

Utilising water based pigmented inks means this system is applicable onto lots of surfaces with single pass technology for a spectrum of industries and can help industrial printers penetrate new markets.

According to Ryberg, the performance advantages are compelling. These include cost savings, efficiency gains and new production possibilities which give designers greater potential for customisation.

In terms of the technical specification, the single pass technology uses a printed powder, Ryberg explains, “One of the key effects we create using recycled laminate material by grinding down the laminate floor into sawdust until it becomes a fine powder, which looks a little like flour. This is then mixed with resin, pigments and hard particles and then placed into the machine by scattering this material onto an HDF board approximately 4x8m in area. Then this is printed utilising our single pass printing technology and the finish is simply outstanding!

The powder finish reuses existing laminate and is just one of the different surface solutions the technology is capable of printing onto. It also produces amazing effects on paper, wood, vinyl, laminate and textile giving both designers and customers more freedom and flexibility.”

The benefits are exciting. Because the printing is done onto powder instead of onto paper, you simply don’t need to impregnate the paper. It therefore saves a process, it is much faster, cheaper and the potential for customisation is therefore much more realistic.

In contrast, paper based rotogravure printing uses tonnes of paper and the set up time is considerable. As Ryberg explains, “Of course the challenge with rotogravure is the shelf life of the finished paper printed output. The resin used takes continuous curing so you need to use the paper before it goes bad. So the risk of producing a lot of something that potentially people do not want is quite high.

In contrast, with a single pass digital inkjet system such as this, it enables people and designers to experiment cheaply, fail quickly, but more importantly it liberates the designer to create something truly special as the room for artistic license is dramatically increased.”

So is the quality not as good as rotogravure?  According to Ryberg, the finish is very close to high grade quality. The system utilises CMYK and spot colours and there is a huge amount of potential for using this technology for redecoration of used surfaces. Why completely replace if you can transform an existing material? As well as wood laminate, the system works on paper, textiles and plenty of different surfaces.

For textile itself, the potential is huge. Because the Valinge technology deploys a pigment ink, the textile therefore doesn’t require pre or post treatment whilst being capable of 45 sq metres a minute. It speeds up the process dramatically.

It is exciting stuff from the Swedish innovator and it’s great to have a Scandinavian inkjet pioneer setting a new standard.

So watch this space. More news will follow as his exciting technology develops over the coming year.