By Olivia Cahoon
Shrink sleeves are popular in markets like beverage and consumer products for the ability to provide a 360-degree canvas for sales graphics and branding content. Print providers invest in digital print technology for shrink sleeves and labels to offer customizable graphics with short-run capabilities and value-added features like metallic ink.
Over 120 Years in Labels
Established in 1896, Gamse Labels & Packaging Co., Inc., started in Baltimore, MD. The company originally produced lithographic B&W commercial work such as letterheads, checks, and deposit slips using engravings made on a smooth stone with diamond pointed needles that operated at 300 sheets per hour.
By 1910, Gamse Labels & Packaging printed beer and liquor labels, eventually entering the mail order liquor catalog business. During prohibition, its efforts were redirected to food and drug labels. In 1983, the label provider merged with The Creative Label Company—a label maker for the soft drink industry—allowing for entry into new markets and products.
Today, it produces digital, flexographic, and lithographic labels worldwide with 150 employees. From a 70,000 square foot facility, Gamse Labels & Packaging offers pressure sensitive, straight cut, die cut, shrink sleeves, lidding, embossing, and foil stamping on a variety of substrates including paper, synthetics, films, metalized, and in-mold for beverages.
Over the years, a growing number of customers approached Gamse Labels & Packaging for shrink sleeve labels in short runs. However, the majority of its short-run label jobs were not cost efficient for the print provider’s flexographic printing capabilities.
As a result, Gamse Labels & Packaging started digitally printing shrink sleeves in 2013. The company now produces over ten million shrink sleeves a month. According to Alan Roe, technical sales, Gamse Labels & Packaging Co., Inc., digitally printed sleeves make up a small percentage of the company’s overall work, however, that number is growing.
“Gamse produces pressure sensitive, paper, and shrink sleeve labels on our digital presses and offers hundreds of substrate options and an unlimited amount of die cutting options,” he comments.
For its shrink sleeve production, the print provider uses the HP Indigo 20000 and HP Indigo 6900 with HP digital inks. The HP Indigo 6900 was installed in 2018 to replace the company’s HP 6600 while also providing metallic ink capabilities. “It gave Gamse the capability to apply metallic silver ink in digital, adding a multitude of metallic colors for our customers,” shares Roe.
The HP Indigo 6900 is a narrow-web digital printing solution for labels and packaging production. It operates up to 196 feet per minute (fpm) with a 13.39-inch maximum width. The press offers several solutions for labels, flexible packaging, shrink sleeve production, and wrap-around labels including digital embellishment HP Indigo GEM, HP SmartStream Mosaic, and Pack Ready for Labels.
“Gamse and our customers like the quality of the HP Indigos and the products they produce,” says Roe.
Shrink Sleeve Printing
During the ordering process for shrink sleeve work, Gamse Labels & Packaging supplies customers with a template based on their product’s measurements or measurements the software calculates using the desired container. This helps the print provider avoid challenges with calculating the correct lay flat and cutoff length.
“If a customer does not have that information, Gamse Labels & Packaging will calculate it, but they must have the actual container the sleeve will be applied to,” says Roe. With this information, customers and the design team then create the artwork for the sleeves. “We encourage customers to create their art on the template created by Gamse for the best results.”
Customers also have complete control of the material selection process with the majority of Gamse Labels & Packaging’s digital shrink sleeve work printed on PETG and PVC shrink materials. “We can recommend materials based upon the client’s needs, application processes, and products,” says Roe.
After printing, the shrink sleeves require trimming to the final slit width and seaming to the final lay flat. For this process, the print provider uses two AB Graphic Digicon devices and a high-speed seamer capable of producing seamed sleeves at 1,350 fpm.
“If we print shrink sleeves on our HP Indigo 20000, we can take the master roll to one of our full-sized slitters and trim the sleeves to their final width,” comments Roe. As a final quality control step, all of Gamse Labels & Packaging’s shrink sleeves are inspected and put on the final core/roll size as requested by customers.
While a large portion of the label provider’s shrink sleeve clients are drawn to digital printing for high-quality customizable graphics, Gamse Labels & Packaging benefits from the ability to offer short runs. According to Roe, smaller quantities were previously not available with flexographic printing, which often intimidated clients starting out in shrink sleeves. “The printed detail of the digitally produced sleeves with perfect registration and great color consistency is a superior product to flexographic printed sleeves,” he adds.
Craft Beverage Demands
Gamse Labels & Packaging handles digital label and package printing for several markets including consumer products, beverage, food, and pharmaceutical sectors. Shrink sleeves are especially popular in the beverage marketplace as craft beers, juices, teas, and energy drinks now take on a number of unique shapes and packaging options—each requiring perfect label design and application.
A large number of the print provider’s shrink sleeve work is from repeat customers, some dating back to the prohibition era. It produces jobs in quantities of 1,000 to over 20 million labels. “Our goal is to make the process of obtaining labels simple, quick, informational, and pain-free,” shares Roe.
Recently, a repeat craft beverage customer who prints labels with Gamse Labels & Packaging approached the print provider with a new project. The client requested 50,000 shrink sleeves featuring a custom design for a recently launched product.
The craft beverage customer provided an Adobe Illustrator file containing the product’s measurements and graphic. Gamse Labels & Packaging printed the shrink sleeves on the HP Indigo 20000 using Indigo inks. The HP Indigo 20000 offers a 30-inch maximum web width and operates up to 55,118 square feet per hour in four-color mode. It complies with industry-standard definitions for low-migration inks and meets FDA and EU guidelines as well as safe printing primary food packaging.
From art submittal to shipping, Gamse Labels & Packaging completed the shrink sleeve project in three weeks. It took one week for art approval and two weeks for printing, finishing, inspection, and shipment preparation.
The finished 50,000 shrink sleeves totaled just under 6,000 linear feet of shrink material. The sleeves were applied to 12-ounce craft beverages with a 108 mm lay flat and 123 mm cutoff.
According to Roe, this job stands out from others because it incorporated a partial white, which allowed the can to add a metallic property to the inks without under-printing white. “The client was thrilled with the metallic looking areas of the inks over the bright can and Gamse’s ability to create the partial white separation.”
The craft beverage customer was happy with the printed labels and continues to use Gamse Labels & Packaging’s digital shrink sleeve services.
Shrunk to Perfection
Digital print technology helps print providers like Gamse Labels & Packaging produce customizable shrink sleeves in short runs. With the ability to handle a variety of materials and job sizes on demand, label providers overcome traditional printing challenges to keep clients satisfied.
Jun2019, DPS Magazine