As 2019 comes to an end, Bobst is taking time to look back at the past 12 months and define its expectations and predictions for the year ahead.

In spite of a soft economic downturn and overall pessimistic predictions, 2019 was a good business year for BOBST. Throughout 2019, a consistent theme in conversation with our clients – both brand owners and converters – was the need for greater automation to enable faster product launches and better customization. The word “workflow” has been gaining importance as all the stakeholders involved with packaging production recognize the need to improve packaging production. Today, it is a linear process with disconnected control points. In the future, it will become agile and flexible, fully controlled, connected, secured and designed for a sustainable & circular economy.

Sustainability continues to grow in importance, and is now fully integrated into packaging design principles: shape, substrate, color, sustainability and costs. Furthermore, the unmet needs around workflow and connectivity are on the table, and solutions – largely linked to the digitalization of the process – will form a major element of discussions at drupa 2020.

Labels and Flexible Packaging

In 2019, the year could be defined by three key phrases: digitalization, color control and sustainability. Major BOBST product announcements showcased how an entire industry is becoming more agile, supporting brand owners needs effectively.

BOBST launched several innovations. The Ink-On-Demand TM (IoD) and DigiColor technology solutions embedded in the MASTER M5 are transforming the dynamics of the label industry in terms of color consistency, repeatability and sustainable operation. The BOBST MASTER DM5 hybrid press, launched at Labelexpo 2019 with Mouvent Inkjet technology inside, sets a new benchmark. This is the most digitalized label press to date, capable of dealing with almost any job. This press delivers the highest print quality, along with a full range of added value capabilities, including coating, varnishes, tactile effects, cold foil, embossing, die cutting, flexo and digital Variable Data Printing (VDP) in a single pass with non-stop productivity. It was the star of Labelexpo and represents the rebirth of flexo printing.

At K 2019, the announcement of high barrier solutions designed for recyclability very tangibly demonstrated BOBST’s commitments around sustainability. The VISION CI Flexo press was announced at K 2019, offering flexible packaging production, suitable for all run lengths from ultrashort to long, with solvent-based or water-based inks. Compact, ergonomic, easy to operate, it includes exclusive smart technologies for enhanced machine productivity and sustainability benefits.

After having tried and tested the Mouvent digital printing solutions for labels, the first two customers testified their full satisfaction for the new LB702-UV 6 color and seven-color label press with in-line finishing. It prints up to 100m per minute cost effectively, helping them to enter into new applications that they could not address with their existing equipment

Engaging with customers directly was at the core of 2019 and maximizing use of the BOBST facilities was instrumental. Four Competence Centers have evolved to help carry the new industry vision. The new Competence Center in Bobst Italia features the Coating Excellence Line, the only one in the industry that can replicate real production conditions with 30 different coating methods, four different drying technologies and a fully equipped laboratory. The new extended Competence Center and REVO Academy in Bobst Firenze provides an in-house pre-press facility showing end-to-end turnkey solutions and customer tests. Bobst Bielefeld’s redesigned Competence Center is a one-stop-shop to develop and demonstrate CI flexo printing, including plate making for solvent-based, water-based and E-beam printing. Finally, the modernized Bobst Manchester Competence Center offers the most advanced coating solutions where metallizing trials, testing of barrier and adhesion levels can be performed in the on-site laboratory.

Engagement with customers has been reinforced in 2019. Bobst deployed its first Packaging MASTERCLASS aimed at brand owners, which was attended by 100 participants in our headquarters in Switzerland. This success confirms brand owner interest in finding new solutions to support the new roles of packaging, notably sustainability and greater customer engagement. A new edition is planned for October 2020.

Looking forward to 2020, Bobst foresees a growing demand for sustainable flexible packaging production. The company expects some plastic-based packages to move to folding carton and others to use thinner and more advanced flexible material. The move to replace non-recyclable multi-material packaging structures with recyclable mono-material alternatives will grow significantly. Bobst says it will continue to invest  to develop new solutions to help brand owners fulfill their commitments around greater recyclability. The demand for printing applications and processes using water-based and EB ink printing will grow. The label market will drive towards full digitalization and demand for more embellishment. The use of Extended Color Gamut will accelerate, with the potential to make spot colors a less critical element in the future.

Finally, and obvious for many readers, 2020 will be the landmark for drupa – the world largest trade fair for printing and packaging technologies – where Bobst will present its vision for the packaging industry. Bobst states that the entire production chain needs to be redefined leveraging the Industry 4.0 principles. The packaging factories will evolve with more connectivity, more digitalization and more automation – impacting machines, processes and humans.