A brewery in Belgium has started printing directly onto beer bottles. Martens Brouwerij is using a Direct Print system developed by KHS GmbH that uses Xaar 1002 GS6 print heads to jet high-resolution text and images in five colors using low-migration LED-cured inks directly onto PET bottles. Printing in a single pass at 12,000 bottles/hour, the system jets graphics up to 70 mm in height onto bottles ranging from 40-125 mm in diameter with fast, automatic changeover from one bottle size to another.
“Direct printing onto empty PET bottles using Xaar 1002 greyscale print heads is breakthrough technology that enables beverage companies to change graphics within minutes instead of weeks,” says Phil Johnson, managing director of NMP Systems, a KHS subsidiary. “The ability to create designs and print them directly onto bottles quickly virtually 'on-the-fly,' is a powerful marketing tool, which will give brands the ability to localize, personalize and customize their products.”
Martens recently demonstrated the creative and marketing capabilities of its new Direct Print system by launching a new brand of beer in association with a well-known Belgian sitcom. The Dagschotel PET beer bottles carry images of different actors, which come to life using a smartphone app and interact with one another if two bottles are placed next to each other. The beer, available in 400 outlets across Belgium, has attracted national attention, and Martens is in full production.
Martens is an innovative brewery and one of the first companies to launch beer in PET bottles. While they are prevalent in Eastern Europe and Russia, PET bottles have only recently started to be used for premium brand beers in Western Europe. There are many benefits to using PET bottles—they are safe, strong, flexible, light and easy to transport and recycle. Direct Print inks were developed in partnership with AGFA Graphics, and are produced by AGFA according to GMP principles with formulations according to Swiss Ordinance and EUPIA.
“Xaar 1002 print heads enable us to print high quality graphics at PET line production speeds in single-pass directly onto PET bottles with excellent reliability," notes Johnson. "Particularly important is Xaar’s TF Technology, which keeps the inks in continuous circulation. This allows us to mount the print heads vertically in skyscraper mode on the print station carousels confident that they will jet inks, smoothly and accurately onto the bottles. The bottles are printed at maximal jetting speed with excellent registration and consistent print quality through the Direct Print industrial printer.”
Mark Alexander, director of business development at Xaar, explains that direct-to-shape printing is gaining traction as brands start to realize its considerable potential. “We will see more and more creative applications come to market based on the Xaar 1002 with TF Technology, which shows how powerful digital printing onto PET, glass and cans can be when it is part of an industrial filling and packaging process," he notes.