By Olivia Cahoon
The opportunity for digital print technology in label production is diverse in terms of markets served, application types, and volume needs. Both traditional converters and digital print providers look to the latest printing systems to enable innovation with efficiency and creativity.
Based in Cincinnati, OH, Liberty Marking Systems started as a blank labels print provider in 1988. With one employee, the company originally brokered and produced labels in a garage. It also provided variable printed labels on a Zebra printer.
As the business grew, it began offering label printing equipment and supplies locally. In 1992, it purchased a three-color Mark Andy flexographic label printer to meet customer demands for label production. Two years later, it invested in a four-color, 13-inch RotoPress to manufacture labels.
Today, Liberty Marking Systems provides custom labels as well as labeling equipment and supplies. It also offers professional design services to help clients early on in the creative process and recreate or review all label types to ensure attractiveness and production suitability. The print provider operates out of a 28,000 square foot facility and serves global clients in automotive, distribution, electronics, food, healthcare, industrial, manufacturing, and metal.
Above: A Colordyne 2800 Series Mini Laser Pro helps Cincinnati, OH-based Liberty Marking Systems produce a variety of custom labels for barcodes, high temperatures, license plate numbers, and food industries.
Solving Label Challenges
Liberty Marking Systems primary service is custom labels. These include barcode, durable, GHS drum, high temperature, license plate number, polyester, retro reflective, serialized, underwriter’s laboratory, and warehouse labels.
“We’ve primarily serviced the industrial/manufacturing and automotive industries throughout our existence, and we certainly have digital requirements from those same industries,” shares Brian Beam, president, Liberty Marking Systems.
While the print provider still uses flexographic printing equipment, it also benefits from digital printing technology. It started outsourcing digital work nearly ten years ago when Beam says the technology just started to infiltrate flexographic printing. At the time, demand for short-run, multi-color labels was growing in popularity. The company quickly found that producing labels via flexographic printing was not cost effective for the business or its customers. According to Beam, outsourcing multi-color labels wasn’t always a smooth process, requiring the company to find an in-house option.
Liberty Marking Systems continued to outsource until 2018 when it purchased the Colordyne 2800 Series Mini Laser Pro after serving as the device’s beta site.
The digital label printer is powered by Memjet technology. It produces up to 60 feet per minute (fpm) with a maximum nine-inch media width.
This opportunity provided Liberty Marking Systems with several financial benefits along with laser die cutting capabilities and high-resolution print quality. “That made this the right press for Liberty’s first digital unit,” comments Beam.
Adapting to Digital Printing
Liberty Marking Systems now has five flexographic presses, a service bureau with eight thermal transfer printers, and its Colordyne 2800 full-color inkjet printer for variable data and short runs. Five to ten percent of the company’s total label production is produced digitally in house or outsourced. The total percentage of in-house produced digital work increases weekly as the company continues to find flexographic work that can be more economically produced digitally, as well as bringing those outsourced jobs in house for its Colordyne 2800 press.
With it, Liberty Marking Systems’ primary offering is pressure-sensitive labels ranging from low-cost papers to high-end polyesters, available with different adhesive types. “Along with our upgraded flexographic capabilities, the digital press has allowed us to penetrate more of the prime label and retail markets over the past few years,” comments Beam.
The label provider pairs its Colordyne 2800 press with Memjet water-based dye inks and a variety of raw materials. “The decision is based more so on the customers’ needs and application specifics, versus what’s best for Liberty,” says Beam.
With digital printing technology, Liberty Marking Systems finds shorter turnaround times benefit production and customer expectations. “The time required to go from artwork to printed product is by far the biggest advantage,” shares Beam.
Flexographic printing requires print plates and cutting dies, which may take up to two weeks before the label provider prints a job after final proof approval. With its digital press, this process occurs in a matter of hours, if not minutes. “A close second benefit would be eliminating the cost of said print plates and cutting dies, making the overall investment for our customers much less than traditional flexographic printing,” says Beam.
Despite saving time and costs in the entire printing process, the labels provider is still adapting to digital technology. Its current challenge is the cost of raw material. When compared to flexographic material, Beam says it can be two or three times the amount, which reduces some of digital’s cost benefits. “Print speed can also be challenging when we have larger quantity runs, affecting cost from a labor perspective.”
Despite this, the company continues to grow and move forward with its digital printing technology—experimenting with which label applications are a fit for its in-house digital production operation.
Custom Shaped Labels
Liberty Marking Systems handles label projects for markets from automotive and electronics to healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. Retail clients often have a variety of requests, specific to the product’s needs. For example, automotive labels require durability while barcode labels must display product information.
In 2018, a new customer approached Liberty Marking Systems for custom-printed labels. The client recently released a new product that required 400 custom-shaped labels in addition to a short turnaround time.
To meet the client’s needs, Liberty Marking Systems printed the labels on the Colordyne 2800 using UPM Raflatac LS325A—Jet Gloss Paper with ACPO 842 Laminate. It is a high-gloss coated paper designed to be compatible with dye and pigmented inkjet inks, featuring 88 percent opacity.
The 4×9.5-inch labels were printed in full color for the retail market. After printing, the labels were finished offline on a rewinder to slit the waste and for quality control requirements.
From artwork submittal to shipping, it took the label provider less than 24 hours to produce 400 labels. According to Beam, the client’s requested 24 hour turnaround was the largest challenge. However, the label provider overcame it by using the Colordyne 2800, along with material on hand. “The custom shape would have been a challenge if it weren’t for the laser die-cutting system on the Colordyne 2800,” he adds.
Compared to previous projects, this job stands out due to its custom shape. After receiving the labels, the client was satisfied and intends to use Liberty Marking Systems’ label expertise in the future. “The client could not have been more pleased with our ability to produce the job in such a short amount of time, not to mention the high quality of the finished product,” comments Beam.
Labels Produced Efficiently
Liberty Marking Systems is well versed in label production as well as equipment. Its experience with outsourcing digital label production and bringing it in house leaves the company with a greater appetite for the market. dps
Mar2019, DPS Magazine