By Cassandra Balentine
Manufacturers look to digital print equipment as speed and quality rise and cost comes down. These devices offer the ability to cost-effectively produce shorter runs than traditional equipment, as well as the variability needed to attract new market segments.
Established in 1985, Schattdecor is a surface specialist headquartered in Thansau, Germany. It also has locations in Brazil, China, Italy, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the U.S., operating a total of 14 production sites worldwide and employing a staff of 2,200.
The company provides customers in woodworking and furniture industries printed, impregnated, and finished surfaces created as wood, stone, solid colors, and custom designs. Its printed surfaces division is an important aspect of the company, as it forms the basis for many of its other products. The printed surfaces are produced using either a rotogravure or digital printing process and then further processed into impregnated or finished surfaces.
Schattdecor’s products and services are driven by current market demands as well as tailored décor production. While of a majority of its work is printed using rotogravure devices, digital print was integrated in 2011 and brought to industrial levels in 2016. As a whole, the company produces approximately 2.3 billion square meters of paper globally.
Schattdecor has long understood the potential of digital print, and integrates the technology throughout its operation in several ways, including sample and color matching; a digital line of décor paper, Digital Visions; and most recently, industrial-grade digital print capabilities that can be easily transferred to a rotogravure process.
For sample and color matching needs, the company utilizes digital print within its Digital Printing Labs, which operate within several of its product facilities. Here, samples are created for customers as well as color matching. This provides the opportunity to react quickly to sample requests, utilizing the same inks and décor paper used when the customer decides to place an order printed using rotogravure.
The company further integrates digital print technologies through its Digital Visions line of digitally printed décor paper, which launched in 2011. These are created with the company’s multi-pass digital printers. This product line offers interior designers, architects, and booth constructors the ability to creatively design individual surfaces. Schattdecor supplies Digital Visions to wood products processors, where they are laminated to a substrate.
Customers can use their own designs for Digital Visions décor as well, simply by providing a high-resolution image. The team also works with clients looking to develop an idea into décor.
Digital Visions’ décors are produced with water-soluble printing inks on white 95 g/m² paper. In special cases it can be produced at 70 g/m² following testing. The inks meet lightfastness standard six. Minimum orders start at batch sizes of one and can be produced at any size.
With Digital Visions décor, a variety of creative examples are currently in use by furniture manufacturers and designers. For example, wood processing customer, Cleaf S.p.A., utilizes patterns within this line for exclusive kitchen décor. A tabletop manufacturer, Isotop, works with the collection to produce unique and funky tabletops. Furniture manufacturer, Tvilum, processes Digital Visions patterns as a laminate foil to create playful elements that enhance the look of monochrome surfaces for children’s décor.
Margie Edwards, marketing manager, Schattdecor, points out that while its Digital Visions line provides certain benefits, its capabilities are limited because it can only be produced on a small scale, at a slower rate, and at a higher cost when compared with its traditional printing processes.
Industrial Grade Digital Print
Schattdecor’s digital efforts expanded with the introduction of industrial digital printing in 2016. The goal in investing in a larger scale digital printer was to reach new customer groups—contractors, architects, and interior designers—as well as traditional customers in the wood-based panel industry.
Edwards says the company obtained its first industrial digital printer, the Palis 2250, in 2016. Several reasons led the company to invest in industrial digital printing equipment, including increased customer demand for smaller orders, high inventory costs—for both customer stock and cylinders; long changeover times; and makeready waste. “Digital printing allows for quick responses to changing market trends and individuality,” explains Edwards.
Schattdecor sees its industrial digital capabilities as a complement to its rotogravure printing, creating even more décor design opportunities for larger quantities.
The Palis 2250 is a single-pass press that produces up to 162 meters per minute—1,744 square feet per minute; with a printing width of 2.25 meters—seven feet wide. It also offers more than 80 water-based printheads that jet 25.5 billion color droplets per second at 1,200 dpi resolution. It processes up to six gigabytes of data per second. One Palis 2250 is installed at the company’s headquarters in Germany.
Because the goal is to easily move digital jobs over to rotogravure presses, consistency in ink and ink laydown is critical. The inks are the same product the company has used from the very beginning. They are produced from natural materials of water, casein, and organic pigments.
The pigments are identical to those used in rotogravure printing. “Both procedures create identical optical décor images,” says Roland Heeger, CTO, Schattdecor. “The differences are only recognized with technical devices and are not visible to the naked eye.”
Heeger adds that the machine works with four colors—red, yellow, blue, and black. The printer is configured so that a fifth color can be added if needed.
The paper is also the same used in the rotogravure presses, but features a primer to prevent natural bleeding from occurring. “In both printing styles the same colors and base paper are used. Therefore, customers in the wood-based panel industry can process digital printing products using their standard methods,” says Heeger. Additionally, pre-impregnated products can be digitally printed and followed up with common lacquering procedures.
The company finds that digital printing doesn’t limit a design to the circumference of a cylinder, meaning there is no restriction for repeat length. This leads to new opportunities especially in the wood and stone industry. Digital also eliminates challenges with color variations and mixing patterns. “Now we have the chance and the challenge to develop digital printing designs that are easy to use,” shares Claudia Kuechen, head of marketing/design and corporate communications, Schattdecor.
Digital also offers the ability to produce ultra large planks, oversized décor repeats, utilize a mixture of different materials, and create photo-realistic layouts.
When it comes to its industrial digital capabilities, the limitation is creating special effect colors such as white, gold, or pearl. These are currently unachievable due to pigment size and need to be created with the rotogravure process.
With a variety of printing styles to choose from, Schattdecor is in a position to determine what products are best suited for multi-pass digital, industrial digital, or rotogravure.
“The technology of industrial digital printing is rather new and therefore we are simultaneously working on many projects for our customers to demonstrate the capabilities as well as the seamless integration in all existing post-processing technologies,” says Heeger.
He suggests the average order size for digital prints has to be looked at from both a technological and application aspect. “We print depending on order sizes on both multi-pass printers, where a typical order size is around 1,000 square feet, and the Palis 2250, where the orders are around 30,000 square feet. The larger quantities are dominated by wood grain or stone images. The multi-pass prints in smaller quantities are mainly Digital Visions décors with individualizations,” he explains.
Investment in Innovation
Schattdecor presents an example of the possibilities digital print offers manufacturers across a variety of industries. As a provider of décor papers, the company provides fast samples, varied colors and patterns, custom designs, and moves from smaller digital runs to industrial volumes without skipping a beat.
“We are ready to expand our digital print offering at our locations around the world together with the increasing demand of our customers for new décor features,” notes Heeger. With its investment in an industrial digital printer, Schattdecor has an edge over competition and innovates without limitation.
Aug2017, Industrial Print Magazine