By Cassandra Balentine
Part one of two
As the printing industry continues to evolve, digital print and finishing solutions continue to shake up the traditional manner in which labels and packaging solutions are produced.
An essential part of the process, it is important that optimized substrates are paired to the correct production technology. Many media and coating manufacturers are dedicated to offering products well suited for both digital and flexographic (flexo) print engines.
Several media providers offer label and flexible packaging solutions tailored to digital print processes. Here we highlight a few of them.
Arjobex’s Polyart brand of materials are well suited for various digital printing methods—including HP Indigo, UV inkjet, and laser. Polyart is a synthetic paper (HDPE) that is tear and water resistant, as well as and resistant to various chemicals. Diane Kohl, senior market development manager, Arjobex America, Inc., comments that the brand features a smooth printing surface and is also great for applications where it will be stitched or folded.
For those that do not want to add their own HP Indigo receptive coating, Polyart for HP Indigo is provided already pre-coated. “Polyart Laser is a special grade that is heat resistant to withstand the rigors of laser printing and provide great printability,” shares Kohl.
General Formulations offers many films and adhesive combinations that work well with digital label applications, whether on wide format or flatbed printers, offset and UV flexographic presses, or production digital devices using HP Indigo or toner technologies.
While most vinyl films are compatible with print methods like latex, solvent, and UV, many conventional inks, HP Indigo electroink, and toners require special coatings to be added to the film before printing. “General Formulations will utilize the same film, adhesive, and liner solution for an application and add different coating chemistries based on the print method to provide a cross-platform label solution,” notes Jay Kroll, product manager cut and craft films and wall and transit films, General Formulations.
Innovia Films features a range of BOPP solutions specifically optimized for digital printing designed to work with all the main digital technologies in the marketplace. “Most of these films are for the label market and it is important to select the correct film type for each print method. They include films that are suitable for use on HP Indigo presses. These clear and white films have already been pre-optimized for pressure-sensitive applications, meaning they are good-to-go and can be immediately used on HP Indigo presses without any need for on-press priming,” explains Patricia Potts, communications manager, Innovia Films.
She points out that UV inkjet has the highest growth rate in terms of new digital printing presses into the industry. “The printable topcoats used on Innovia’s label substrates are ideally suited for UV inkjet printing. Dry toner digital printing is also catered for Innovia’s film range. This print option includes films for both pressure sensitive and in mould labeling applications.”
Michelman provides an extensive inline and offline primer portfolio for HP Indigo printers. Michelman inline primers are optimized for use on HP Indigo presses equipped with inline priming units. And, its brand of DigiPrime primers has been designed for offline priming. “Both brands are water-based and offer outstanding ink adhesion on many print substrates for label and flexible packaging applications. Additionally, our DigiGuard Plus strengtheners enhance the performance of compatible UV-curable overprint varnishes for HP Indigo digitally printed high-performance labels. These strengtheners provide improved mechanical durability with increased abrasion, scratch, chemical, water, and thermal resistance,” shares Gianluigi Ranken, global marketing manager, digital printing, Michelman.
He adds that these primers were developed with HP Indigo and optimized for HP Indigo ElectroInk for the best possible digitally printed output. They provide excellent ink adhesion on paper or film-based substrates, including BOPP and PET.”
Nobelus provides an array of unique film laminates for the label and flexible packaging space from soft-touch BOPP to holographic films and mostly everything in between, according to Ryan Chai, strategic solutions manager, Nobelus.
In today’s supply chain with self-wound laminates, Nobelus prides itself on having a robust inventory position of UV, LED, EB, WB, or solventless compatible lamination films. “Furthermore, the label and flexible packaging space has historically not had as much access to embellishment films as the general commercial print vertical. We are changing that reality with the most exciting options for overlamination in the market today. Many of our films are specifically designed for post-laminate embellishment with cold foil, spot UV, or printing to create maximum impact with minimal operational fuss,” he adds.
PPG Teslin substrate is a synthetic paper well suited for short-run, variable data, and other customized digital print and label applications requiring durability. “Available in a variety of grades and label stocks, Teslin synthetic paper supports a range of digital printing technologies, including inkjet, laser, and thermal transfer. Teslin synthetic papers for digital are designed for specific applications and specific printers—including food grade and bio,” shares Fabrizio Mandingorra, PPG global segment manager, labels and graphics, TESLIN Products.
Teslin digital print performance substrates are digital print-ready right out of the package—no corona treatment, sapphire, or other coating is needed.
Mandingorra points out that they are well suited for laser printing. “Most synthetics can’t take the heat and may actually melt,” he stresses.
Further, the Teslin substrate dissipates static—passes ESD S.541 at 50 percent relative humidity—to reduce paper jams and increase throughput; are engineered with unique micropores that absorb inks and toners, making printed text and images nearly impervious to abrasion and other damage; and are designed to accommodate a variety of converting methods and finishing techniques.
The Teslin substrate is certified or qualified for a range of digital devices, including HP Indigo, Kodak Nexpress, Xerox iGen, Konica Minolta bizhub, Epson 3500 inkjet, and desktop laser printers.
Polysack provides plastic films for flexible packaging printed on digital printing. “Our films are mono-oriented polyethylene, designed for recycling and enabling mono-material PE structures that are fully recyclable,” offers Yair Gellis, VP marketing and business development, Polysack.
He says specific features such as stiffness, planarity, high clarity, heat resistance, and high surface energy make the product ideal for digital printing processes.
Many of the same players are rooted in the flexo market.
For example, Arjobex makes a variety of materials suitable for the flexo printing process. These include standard Polyart, which is available in a range of thicknesses and sold to the pressure-sensitive converter market.
The company also supplies Polyart TE, which is a tamper-evident product that is ideal for seals/labels on products or packages. “The product will break apart when an attempt is made to remove or tamper with the seal/label—leaving evidence for the consumer that the product has been tampered with,” says Kohl.
“Polyart is a great replacement for paper label and packaging products that don’t do the job. It is tear resistant as well as resistant to water and a variety of chemicals. However, Polyart provides these benefits without sacrificing the flexo print surface. In addition to being easy to flexo print, it also prints very well with thermal transfer when variable information needs to be added,” notes Kohl.
Kroll says many of the General Formulations’ products can be used for UV flexo label applications with custom slit widths to fit the printing operation’s needs.
Potts points out that the majority of Innovia Films’ clear and white BOPP label and packaging films are suitable for flexo printing. “Innovia Films is well known for its surface engineering expertise. It develops bespoke coatings to facilitate superior print performance across a range of applications.”
PPG’s Teslin substrate is ideal for flexo label printing as well as digital. “It can be customized for almost any label application, including security, medical-grade, food and beverage, and other specialty label applications. It also is offered in four standard varieties—General-Purpose Permanent, Ultimate Bond, General-Purpose Removable, BS 5609-Certified for GHS, and Pharmaceutical-Grades,” says Mandingorra.
“With the exception of static dissipation, all of the features mentioned above are relevant for flexo printing,” says Mandingorra.
Polysack provides plastic films for flexible packaging printed on flexo printing presses, for both CI and inline flexo. “Our films are mono-oriented polyethylene, which are designed for recycling and enabling mono-material PE structures that are fully recyclable,” shares Gellis.
Michelman offers a complete system of enabling technologies that allow for environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging solutions. “Our primers, barrier coatings, topcoats, and heat seal coatings provide increased functionality for film and paper packaging while maintaining a sustainable package, with opportunities to reduce waste, provide product protection, and use fewer raw materials,” says Ranken.
Nobelus films have wide compatibility with inkjet, HP Indigo electroink, and flexo processes. “With a corona treater and a flood coat of adhesive, printers can easily nip in our laminate while retaining high operational performance,” shares Chai. “We find our unique portfolio very important in solving brand differentiation challenges in improving the supply chain situation with self-wound and in innovating product portfolios. As many label converters are actively looking to invest in this space, our experienced team will step in and help printers navigate into the flexible packaging market,” he explains.
Many print providers and converters of label and flexible packaging products look to a variety of equipment to meet a diverse set of evolving print demands. Finding a vendor well versed in solutions for multiple technologies is an asset.
Jan2022, DPS Magazine