By Cassandra Balentine
One of the biggest challenges facing the label industry is the demand for high-quality labels in shorter runs with increased flexibility. Digital print technologies address these needs. As solutions evolve, print providers and brand owners face new opportunities afforded by digital.
“The market is looking for unique, non-standard, high-quality labels,” says Rich Egert, VP, global new business development/GM, strategic technology provider business group, OKI Data Americas. “Labels need to pop, and help differentiate the product/brand, so the challenge is to deliver this sort of high-quality output in short runs.”
Admittedly, there is budding competition from many vendors that have or are emerging with digital label print systems. “There are so many choices, it’s confusing to sort and evaluate all of the changes. The challenge is finding the right system that fits the print providers’ needs,” says Mark Vanover, VP, sales and marketing, Allen Datagraph Systems, Inc. (ADSI).
Here, we feature product highlights as well as differentiating factors that digital label systems offer print providers and buyers.
ADSI offers its U.S.-manufactured iTech Series Digital Label Systems, which include complete roll-to-roll, short- to medium-run consumer-quality labels with consistent color. All iTech printers include a Wasatch SoftRIP with a full suite of color management controls to enhance print quality.
There are three complete Allen Datagraph iTech digital label systems, including the new iTech TALON Digital Label System, built for jobs of up to 1,000 linear feet. It is a complete, roll-to-roll tabletop system with an inkjet printer imaging at 720×720 dpi at speeds of up to four feet per minute (fpm) and a maximum width of 8.5 inches.
The iTech AXXIS Digital Label System is created for jobs up to 2,000 linear feet, and is a complete roll-to-roll tabletop system featuring an LED toner printer imaging 1,200×600 dpi at speeds of up to 25 fpm and a maximum width of 8.5 inches.
The iTech CENTRA HS Digital Label System is the company’s fastest device, which ADSI describes as an economical solution for jobs up to 3,000 linear square feet. It is a complete roll-to-roll system that fits between tabletop and full-scale production. Its LED toner print engine images at 1,200×600 dpi at up to 30 fpm. It features a maximum width of up to 12.9 inches.
Colordyne Technologies (CDT)
CDT offers two classes of digital label presses, the Industrial Class bench top digital color printers and the Production Class digital printing presses. All run sizes are dependent on customer applications.
The 1600-C has the ability to print in continuous roll and fanfold formats, ideal for printing carton labels with the ability to add color highlighting and pictograms. The 1600-S can be used to customize back-office and mail house documents to increase customer retention and brand recognition. Both machines print at 1,600×1,600 dpi and speeds of up to 12 inches per second.
The Colordyne 3600 Series provides the latest in proven, closed-loop tension control technology and is available with low cost, inline finishing options and configurations. The product also brings several benefits to the Production Class Digital Color Printing System, including but not limited to, enhanced print quality; increased resolution of 1,600×1,375 dpi, reduced RIP times, speeds of up to 225 fpm; and a more user-friendly interface. The new CDT 3600 Series web handling system also provides flexibility and modularity for custom configurations and future faster speeds.
The company says it’s focused on providing continued innovation, made possible through a modular printing platform designed to be upgraded as future product enhancements become available; providing a flexible and responsive long-term investment in digital color printing.
Colordyne’s Production Class presses offer pressure-sensitive label applications for retail, manufacturing, chemicals, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, food and beverage, and consumer product goods. The Industrial Class printers also offer pressure-sensitive label applications and are competitive against thermal transfer prints.
Domino Printing Solutions
Domino Printing Solutions offers the N610i UV Inkjet Printer, which features print speeds of up to 246 fpm and a resolution of 600×600 dpi, with the ability to print 600×1,200 dpi. The device offers CMYK+W and an imaging area of up to 13.11 inches and media width of up to 13.4 inches. Its inks are designed for a range of industry standard self-adhesive label stocks including coated paper, polypropylene, and polyethylene.
Target applications for the N610i include food and beverage, pharmaceutical, industrial, security, automotive, health and safety, consumer goods, and personal care.
Durst offers the Tau 330, which is a high-definition digital UV inkjet printing press designed for narrow web applications ranging from 6.5 to 13 inches. Running at speeds of up to 157 fpm in seven colors, the Tau employs the latest digital UV technology to guarantee maximum reliability and production efficiency, economically, regardless of volume.
The Tau UV inkjet system offers high-definition quality and UV ink durability, making it well suited for quality prime label applications such as cosmetics, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, food and beverage, as well as offering durability for industrial labels, board stock, foil, seals, and thin film applications.
EFI offers several narrow web UV inkjet printing systems within its Jetrion line. These products include an entry-level, four-color, eight-inch wide roll-to-roll system to more complete modular systems that include options for white ink and full, inline laser cutting, coating, slitting, back scoring, and other features. The company also offers its wider, 13-inch web Jetrion 4950LX, which features LED inkjet for lower operating costs and greater material flexibility and includes a full set of modular finishing features so users can start with a blank roll and have complete, die-cut slit rolls ready for use on the other end.
Targeted run sizes typically fall in the low- to mid-size runs. However the Jetrion 4950LX press features speeds greater than 150 fpm, which the company says is comparable to flexographic, enabling customers to print in the mid- to high-run range.
Jetrion presses are compatible with many label substrates that converters would typically use on conventional flexographic presses, without the need for special digital printing pre-treatments. Pressure sensitive is a popular application. The 4950LX prints on a range of film substrates, opening the door to flexible packaging and shrink sleeve applications.
The Epson SurePress L-4033A/AW is designed for label converters and commercial printers with approximately $5 million in revenue who are looking to expand their service offering, improve profitability, and produce low run sizes to 10,000 labels. The SurePress L-4033A/AW features a six-color standard, safe water-based ink set that prints on standard substrates as well as textured substrates with selection of matte and standard black inks. Additionally, the L-4033AW leverages Epson SurePress AQ seven-color ink technology with white ink. Offering high up-time with a simple automated system, the L-4033A/AW allows minimal operator time.
The SurePress L-4033A/AW offers pressure-sensitive label applications. The SurePress L-6043V/VW offers pressure-sensitive, glue-on, and shrink label applications, as well as in-mold labeling and flexible packaging such as pouches.
The Epson SurePress L-6043V/VW is designed for label converters investing in a digital label press for the first time or looking to expand production facilities with a reliable, easy-to-use press that produces high-quality, durable labels all day, every day, with minimal downtime. These target customers produce medium run sizes to 75,000 labels, with $5 to $50 million in revenue. The L-6043VW is the company’s first single-pass industrial press, the first to use Epson’s new PrecisionCore linehead technology, and the first to use Epson’s new LED-cured UV ink with inline digital varnish technology. The SurePress L-6043V/VW models are simple to use with sophisticated monitoring systems.
Fujifilm North America, Graphics Systems Division
Fujifilm offers the Graphium hybrid digital converting solution. This is a full production device designed for mid- to high-production operations handling job lengths from one to 250,000 pieces with its hybrid production model.
No special digital coated materials are required for the press and it supports a range of materials including most papers, PE, PP, PET, PVC, PETG, and metalized materials.
HP Graphic Solutions Business features a wide portfolio of products. For label applications, the company offers the HP Indigo WS4600 and the HP Indigo WS6800 digital narrow web presses and the HP Indigo 20000 digital mid-web press. The HP Indigo WS4600 is best used for short- to medium-run lengths, while the HP Indigo WS6800 produces a range of label work. Due to a wider, 29-inch web, the HP Indigo 20000 is effective for even longer run lengths. All HP Indigo presses are designed to handle running three shifts, seven days a week.
From labels to folding cartons, HP Indigo presses deliver the quality and versatility customers need to satisfy demanding brand requirements. HP Indigo web presses can print pressure sensitive, wrap around, shrink sleeve, in mold, and cut and stack labels. Additionally, the same web presses can print on board for folding carton applications and unsupported film for flexible packaging.
INX NW210-E is an entry- to mid-level digital label press capable of continuous operation as a full production press. With an integrated laser die cutter, lamination station, an optional Corona treating station, and user-friendly workflow software, the machine supports production runs as short as 100 labels or as long as required.
The INX NW210-E supports pressure-sensitive and adhesive-backed label media, including paper and synthetic label stock, ranging from everyday labels to the prime label market.
iSys offers the EDGE 850, which is an 8.5-inch digital label printer developed for the short-run label production market. It is designed to be compact enough to sit on a desk, and prints at speeds of up to 9.14 meters per minute, making light work of printing on self-adhesive label stock, tag stock, approved films and synthetics, media width of 6 to 8.5 inches, and print lengths up to 700 feet. The EDGE2Print Software enables users to import the label, select the exact quantity needed, and press print. Operators can stage a job in minutes, allowing customers to eliminate the need for large quantities of pre-printed labels. The solution is designed for the in-house production of labels, and is capable of printing 2,000 labels in less than 20 minutes with a finished roll ready for immediate application.
The APEX 1290 is a digital label printer for short- to mid-run production that prints at speeds of up to 9.14 meters per minute and can output to a variety of die-cut, kiss-cut, or roll substrates. The label press is easy to operate using the APEX2Print software and an auto adjusting form synchronization rewinder system. With media print widths ranging from three to 12.9 inches wide, users print, slit, and rewind 28,000 production worthy labels in less than 37 minutes.
Compatible with EDGE2Print and APEX2Pritn label software programs, iSys Variable Data provides the ability to combine static and dynamic content to create varying multi-graphic labels containing variable text, images, and barcodes. This enables users to quickly create highly targeted, professional designs, creating the ultimate workflow solution.
The key differentiating feature with iSys Label’s digital label printers is the versatility. From substrate versatility to roll width versatility, these machines are diverse in what they can do, whether it is printing water bottle labels on PET, a vinyl bumper sticker, or point of sale on tag stock.
OKI Data Americas
OKI Data presents two digital label printers to serve print shops as well as in-house printers. The pro 511DW features a duty cycle of up to 106,250 feet per month, targeting low-to-mid-/mid-size run lengths.
The C711DW features a duty cycle of up to 68,750 feet per month, targeting a run size of low-to-mid-/mid-sized run lengths.
Primera offers varying levels of label printers, based on the manufacturer or converter’s label needs. The LX-series Color Label Printers offer a desktop-size solution for small runs. The LX-Series prints pre die-cut labels.
The CX1200 Color Label Printer and the FX1200 Digital Finishing System are a good fit for converters or manufacturers that need complete flexibility of the size and shape of their labels. CX1200 and FX1200 are suited for longer runs with small- to medium-sized businesses.
These devices support pressure-sensitive label applications.
Screen USA offers the Truepress Jet L350UV for value-added labels and packaging. The inkjet label printing system features photo-realistic quality, fast job turnarounds, and stable output. The device accommodates a printing width up to 12.6 inches and prints at a top speed of 164 fpm.
The Truepress Jet L350UV delivers fine detail, true color, and smooth transitions. The printing system incorporates single-pass grayscale piezoelectric printheads with a minimum droplet size of three picoliters. Printing resolutions of 600×600 dpi and 600×1,200 dpi give sharp, well-defined images and text. Combined with advanced color management technology based on the Screen EQUIOS universal workflow, the Truepress Jet L350UV creates smooth, vivid gradients.
VALLOY Incorporation offers the ANY001 and ANY002 digital label presses, both use a LED TONER printer engine. Juan Kim, CEO, VALLOY Incorporated, notes that the benefit of these models is that they support pre-cut labels in a stable manner. He also notes the media saving option by cutting on the fly to minimize media loss when finishing a job. A 1.2 meter long label can be printed on the devices and a duplex printing option is available.
Price and duty cycle wise, Kim says ANY002 is considered low end and the ANY001 is considered mid- to low-end. The devices support pressure-sensitive labels, thermal transfer PU film, and in-mold substrates such as Teslin.
The Xeikon 3000 Series of digital label presses consists of five press models—Xeikon 3500, Xeikon 3300, Xeikon 3030Plus, Xeikon 3050, and the Xeikon 3030. They range from entry to higher capacity options. All five models deliver 1,200 dpi imaging quality and are divided into two maximum web widths, 20.3 and 13 inches. They feature three top running speeds, 63, 49.2, and 31.5 fpm. The entry-level versions are designed to be field upgraded to the wider and/or faster specifications.
The company also launched its Cheetah five-color digital color label press at Labelexpo 2014.
Xeikon technology is based on full rotary printing with variable repeat length to ensure press speeds are not affected by label size or colors used. It also uses Xeikon’s X-800 Digital Front End. Based on open standards, the X-800 can be integrated into any production environment and its modular setup allows users to manage different aspects of production in the most efficient manner possible.
Xeikon digital label offerings are capable of handling an array of label applications, including pressure sensitive, glue applied, thermal transfer, and in mold.
New solutions and continuous advancements spotlight a drive to digital in the label production market. As adoption continues, the benefit to marketers is exponential as flexibility and customization options become a reality.
For more on digital label systems, read our March feature on the topic. dps