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    Digital 3D printing

      At Döhler, the future of digital container printing is already up and running.

      The producer of natural ingredients, ingredient systems and integrated solutions for the food and beverage industries is using a prototype of the DecoType C digital printing system as a laboratory machine for printing on the sample bottles containing Döhler’s newly developed beverage recipes. More innovative, more modern, more visually appealing – these are the salient attributes of the digital inkjet-printing process, from which Döhler is now reaping the benefits.

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      Fruity as strawberries, sweet as butterscotch, refreshing as lemonade – for Döhler, the taste is everything. At its headquarters in Darmstadt, the company not only produces natural ingredients for the global food and beverage industries but also develops for its customers new recipes and complete solutions for the trendy drinks of tomorrow. The innovative formulations are then filled in sample bottles and dispatched to Döhler’s clients. These sample bottles had hitherto been manually given simple labels by the lab staff, which provided merely the technical data involved. “Not really innovative, that, highly technical and rather boring,” comments Christian Bazlen, who works in marketing at Döhler GmbH. “We invariably attempt to create an added value for our customers and partners. We wanted the sample bottles to look more visually appealing, and we also wished to have an option for telling customers a bit more about the product inside. Not to mention that this also enables us to show them what their product might in future look like in a bottle,” adds Christian Bazlen, who is also responsible for corporate design at Döhler. So as to mirror their products’ colourful diversity on the containers’ exterior, Döhler decided to go for direct sample-bottle printing for the first time, and opted for a DecoType C digital printing system from Krones.

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      At Döhler, the future of digital container printing is already up and running. “This system renders us highly flexible when it comes to bottle design,” says Christian Bazlen from Döhler GmbH’s marketing team.

      This lab machine has been up and running in the Darmstadt plant since mid-2015. “When a customer orders a product, the staff choose the appropriate container types and place them in the DecoType’s infeed carousel, which consists of 21 infeed pockets in total. The DecoType is given the printing order for every single bottle by our materials management system, whereupon printing is started,” explains Christian Bazlen. The DecoType C lab machine can handle up to 112 bottles an hour.

      “Highly flexible when it comes to bottle design”

      The printing heads contain the four basic colours of classical 4C printing, comparable to a standard inkjet office printer: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Two additional printing heads supply white and a transparent primer, which serve to enhance adhesion.  The inks in question were developed by Krones, in conjunction with the Marabu company. “This system renders us highly flexible when it comes to bottle design,” explains Christian Bazlen, a media designer and communication specialist by trade. “What’s particularly innovative is the fact that we can print on both solid glass material and on soft, flexible PET with just one inking system – and this we can do without having to modify the machine, i.e. without any make-ready times. Moreover, digital printing is, of course, significantly less costly than screen or pad printing.

      We’re making full use of all the design options available, depending on what the bottle is required to look like later on. Here, we can give free rein to our creativity: possibilities galore, ranging from very generic to extremely specific and goal-driven.”

      Clean printed image for one-off package designs

      Döhler’s customers, who are getting the printed sample bottles, are delighted with this type of design. The wish expressed by the company’s marketing people to present clients with something really special, something visually striking, as soon as they are being sent the first sample bottle, is met to consummate perfection by the DecoType C. “The design work only has to be done once, i.e. when the marketing department creates the labels on the PC,” says an ebullient Christian Bazlen. “Except for the metallic effect, we have the same options as those offered by conventional printing methods.”

      Christian Bazlen believes in the future of digital container printing. For him, it is a path-breaking design enhancement of the digital office printer, since this process can be used for printing on three-dimensional shapes. “We wanted to break new ground in regard to sampling, and with the DecoType we’ve hit the bull’s eye. I think that it will in future be possible to use digital printing for decorating any kind of container – not just round ones but also concave, convex or thermoformed bodies; in short: any special-shaped containers. Digital printing thus provides customised package designs with a clean printed image. The technology of the kind that Krones has implemented for us in the DecoType C lab machine can also be employed for higher-speed machines, and could likewise be used in any beverage bottler’s normal production operation.”