by Melissa Donovan
Digital printing influences manufacturing more than ever before. On industrial scales, it continues to make inroads with production facilities by matching speeds and qualities of analog counterparts for short, custom, versioned runs.
The manufacturing of decorative surface components like flooring papers that mimic hardwood and tile flooring is one segment benefiting from digital print. Big box stores and boutique home décor businesses looking to source specialized flooring need to search no further than traditional manufacturing houses for these designs.
Heberndorfer Leistenfabrik GmbH (HLF) of Wurzbach, Germany is a well-known profile coater in business since 1991. According to the company website, it offers over 450 different profiles and over 3,500 different standard décor items to its customers, many of which are flooring companies.
In April 2011, HLF purchased a Hymmen GmbH Jupiter Digital Printing Line and based on the success of the first, added a second in 2014. The Hymmen Jupiter Digital Printing Line is available in a number of configurations, including edge band and roll-to-roll printing. HLF chose roll options for its facility.
An industrial single-pass digital printing line, the Jupiter’s printing station covers the full working width of the substrate and prints the board or web material passing underneath the printheads at a speed of up to 50 meters per minute. Several printheads per color—CMYK—are operated in a series to achieve the required working width.
Flexible drop on demand inkjet means that there are no limitations to the number of print motifs available. The ultra-fast digital design change eliminates makeready times and enables versatile and cost-effective production, while simultaneously ensuring reliable color consistency and outstanding line availability. Activation of a piezoelectric material in the walls of the ink chambers within the printhead creates a pressure pulse, which causes the controlled ejection of a drop from the nozzle for precise placement on the surface of the substrate.
Key advantages include the ability to print on a range of materials such as paper, veneer, and plastic. Limited material waste is possible due to the ability to print several different decors on a single roll. While simple reproductions of customized products and designs are possible, the machine also handles industrial-scale production capacities starting with a batch size of one.
The impetus for the initial printer purchase was in response to flooring customers of HLF asking for the quality of flooring décor and the profiles to exactly match, and this was increasingly becoming more important. This is because the demand for specialized décor was growing and consumer and commercial interest in mass produced designs was waning. In addition, clients requested these designs in very short turnaround times.
This affected HLF’s costs. “Due to the minimum purchase volume, our stock of décor paper was between 1,000 and 2,000 square meters and thus always rather high,” explain Christian and Sascha Horn, managing directors, HLF.
Coincidentally, higher paper prices were becoming a challenge. HLF’s process for creating designs is printing the décor paper on the laboratory machines of its analog printers and then processing them into finish foils. Each year it destroyed mass amounts of inventory either because a customer’s portfolio had changed or the paper was too old to be effective.
To meet its customers’ requests as well as participate in industry advancements, HLF’s team recognized digital printing as the solution. Reaching out to various industrial digital printing providers it finally landed on Hymmen. Not only because of the Jupiter machine technology, but also because of its color management, support, and training.
“Everyone can print colored fancy décor digitally. But thanks to the outstanding know-how of Hymmen, it is possible to reproduce exactly the décor of our flooring customers. A clean color management ensures the highest quality of print image and color matching,” notes Christian Horn.
Since implementation, the company experienced great success in expanding its service portfolio and retaining customers, as well as attracting new ones. Customer reaction—or even lack of—is promising. “On the one hand, there was no feedback. That is good, since the customers obviously have not noticed the change from the analog method to digital printing. On the other hand, customers reacted positively to the new product development cycles, which are ten times faster now,” explains Christian Horn.
Realizing the Hymmen Jupiter’s potential early on in development, HLF made sure the device installed into the Wurzbach facility was modular. The capacity is extendable to a 600 millimeter printing width by adding more printheads. This aligns with the company’s plans to extend its décor database further with the addition of white, light cyan, or light magenta.
As aforementioned, HLF decided to add a second Hymmen Jupiter to its production facility in 2014, proving just how successful digital printing has been for the company. IPM
Oct2020, Industrial Print Magazine