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Tonejet Cyclone inkjet direct-to-can printer takes off

Driven by strong demand for short-run beverage and craft beers cans,  Bevcraft Group, has ordered the UK’s first Tonejet Cyclone direct-to-can digital printer. This marks the third Cyclone installed in a production environment globally - and there is an interesting Australian connection to the technology.

 

Tonejet Cyclone
Tonejet's Cyclone - the charged liquid toner is inkjeted onto a can's surface, a process developed at Research Labs Australia, Adelaide

Able to produce short runs of premium quality 330ml cans whilst eliminating waste, shortening supply chains, and reducing production costs, the new digital can printing system will provide Bevcraft with a completely new revenue stream.ToneJet cans Soulcan

The introduction of the Tonejet Cyclone to its portfolio will provide Bevcraft with a flexible short run option for decorating beverage cans, complementing its existing can decoration processes. Bevcraft’s new digital capability will give craft brand owners the ability to develop a market presence without the minimum order constraints of traditionally printed cans.

Darren Fenton, COO at Bevcraft comments, “Given the current climate, it might be considered a brave time to invest in new technology, but our objective is to support our partners as they work to return to normal trading conditions during the pandemic. In achieving that, the Cyclone will provide them with the flexibility of production to cost effectively get back-up and running, with smaller batches.

"The Cyclone end-to-end system is a total game changer in terms of can decoration for the craft market. It will provide us with a cost effective, environmentally sustainable alternative for decorating small can batches from 1 to 50,000 units – still small quantities for the can industry,” says Fenton.

Ciarán Gorman, CFO at Bevcraft says: “We believe that this is the right investment at the right time. Indeed, everything about Tonejet’s approach, from the ink specification through to the logical integration of quality controls, has demonstrated to us that this was the solution we wanted for digital can printing.“

Due to its commitment to customer service and continued innovation, Bevcraft has been investigating digital can decoration for some years. Imperative to Bevcraft was a partner focused on a purpose-built solution with sustainability, food safety and reliability at the core of its offering.

The Tonejet Cyclone can printing system comprises all the equipment required to decorate necked beverage cans, including a depalletizer, a can inspection system, can cleaning and printing units, an over-varnish bake oven, a repalletiser and all associated can transports and conveyers. Blank cans can be decorated in any combination effortlessly before they are palletised for filling or shipping.

According to Rob Day, Tonejet’s CEO, the UK’s first Cyclone installation at Bevcraft is another milestone for Tonejet. “BevCraft’s Cyclone installation will open up a whole new packaging supply option for European craft brewers. Crucially, it allows craft beverage producers, many of whom strive to be carbon-neutral, to cost-effectively can small batches without the use of plastic labels or sleeves which can be problematic to recycle.”

Headquartered in Mullingar, Ireland, Bevcraft has additional facilities in Merseyside (UK), Peterborough (UK) and Breda (Netherlands). The Tonejet Cyclone is expected to be installed at its Peterborough facility, representing an opportunity for significant growth.

The other two Cyclone installations are at Soulcan, Quebec, Canada and at Tonejet's Melbourn, Hertfordshire facility where, as well as serving as a demonstration machine, it produces short-run cans for BrewBoard, a Cambridge-based craft brewer. The Cyclone prints CMYK grayscale at 600dpi, at a rate of around 60 cans per minute, with full variable data capability. The ink film is ultra-thin and does not compromise can recyclability.

Australian core technology

Just as HP Indigo's core liquid toner technology had its origins in South Australia (via Ken Metcalfe & Bob Wright at the Defence Standards Laboratory), the electrostatic ink used in Tonejet's Cyclone was developed at Research Laboratories Australia, Adelaide.

Research Laboratories of Australia Ltd, was a low-profile organisation established in South Australia in 1959 by the Daw family and more recently presided over by Dr Owen Crees and Alexander Daw.

Miyakoshi, the Japanese company behind many of the high-volume inkjet web presses in the world today, was funding research at RLA and an experimental Miyakoshi press was installed there. Miyakoshi showed an electrostatic ink press at drupa 2008.  RLA’s Alexander Ozerov was granted a patent on a new high-speed electrographic printing process using high-viscocity toner carried in a liquid. Another patent related to the imaging technology used byTonejet and first disclosed in Patent Cooperation Treaty publication WO 93/11866 dated June 24, 1993, with the inventor named as Luis Lima-Marques, and assigned to Research Laboratories of Australia Pty. Ltd. Mr Lima-Marques is currently engaged by the University of Adelaide.

We contacted Mr Lima-Marques who told Wideformat Online:

"The Tonejet technology was indeed invented in Adelaide, South Australia. Out of interest, so was liquid electrophotography in the 1950s. I invented the Tonejet technology while working for RLA in the early 1990s. The Tonejet technology uses a unique nozzles ejection system and special electrostatic pigment based inks. RLA was highly specialised in the development and commercialisation of inks, but to assist in the development of the hardware, RLA formed a partnership with The Technology Partnership (TTP), a technology and product development company from the UK. This partnership was the basis for Tonejet Ltd, headquarted in Cambridge, UK. By the mid 2000s, Tonejet had become a wholly owned subsidiary of TTP."

Tonejet Corporation Pty Ltd is still a registered company in South Australia, with Alexander Daw listed as key principal. Tonejet Limited UK is a subsidiary of TTP plc, a technology company that also own the Melbourn Science Park where Tonejet is located.

At drupa 2016, Xeikon showed, with great fanfare, its 'Trillium' electroststic ink technology, also based on the RLA's invention. This programme, commercially-print focused, was subsequently terminated in favour of dry toner and piezo inkjet.

More information & videos at:

www.tonejet.com