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Put a Label on It

Whether sold online or in brick-and-mortar stores, most non-virtual products are packaged in some form or another; and all packages, in turn, are hard-copy labeled. The global packaging industry is early in its adoption of color digital printing technology, according to industry research firm InfoTrends. The label segment leads all other packaging categories in its use of color digital presses, generating some $2 billion in gross sales of labels to print customers in 2011—and still leaving many times that revenue to conventional and flexographic presses.

The upcoming, biennial Labelexpo Americas show (September 11-13, see sidebar) offers a glimpse into the future of this young and dynamic market for color digital printing. MyPrintResource presents a sampling of what will be shown in Rosemont/Chicago, IL, in two month’s time:

WTO WerbeTechnik Rothstein GmbH, headquartered in Wiehl, Germany, is Europe's first company to install an EFI (Booth 6423) Jetrion 4900 for digital label production. The UV inkjet press brings print-and-cut capabilities to label convertors in a fully integrated narrow-web device that caters to shorter runs and greater levels of flexibility. This digital label production machine features CMYK and a highly opaque white ink, plus powerful laser cutting, resulting in a complete production line ideal for the lean manufacturing of high-quality durable labels on a wide variety of substrates.

WTO, a medium-sized printer, chose the Jetrion 4900 system because it is a completely integrated digital label solution that offers a high level of efficiency across the entire label production process. The firm also runs EFI VUTEk printers. Günther Hinzel, procurement manager, explained how the 4900 is opening up entirely new market opportunities for the company. “We can now handle complex, low-volume orders in different versions with no additional work,” he said. “This is also opening up whole new markets for us.” Hinzel referred to markets where identification tags are required with many different types of information. With the Jetrion 4900, the organization can fulfill customer requirements quickly and flexibly, on the fly, he noted.

For Sascha Rothstein, managing director at WTO, the benefits also are clear: “Doing away with the need for prepress stages and the option to intervene flexibly into production enables us to shorten our delivery times significantly,” he added.

WTO considers 3M another important partner. Its wide range of label materials, ideally suited for permanent identification applications, are resistant to all environmental influences.

Fujifilm North America (Booth 5621) has hybrid label producers covered with various products and services, including CTP engines, digital plates, high-tech mounting tapes, proofing, and color management to help digital printer match flexo output.

Label Traxx (Booth 6017) Tailored Solution is automated job management software for the label and converting industry. The suite includes modules for estimating, order processing, invoicing/accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, job costing/data collection, stock products, quality control, and E-Traxx for e-business. Label Traxx runs on Macintosh or Windows computers, and provides label printers with a complete software package for managing business, streamlining communications and maximizing productivity.

OKI Data (Booth 1350) will display what it says is the future of commercial-grade printing: the proColor. This new generation of printers that will change the game in digital color output—delivering all the speed, accuracy and productivity of commercial-grade digital presses—without the commercial-grade price tag. From full-color labels, cut sheets, transfer media and embellished envelopes, they’re not just printers. They’re producers.

INX International Ink Co. (Booth 6451) is the third largest producer of ink in North America (with more than 20 facilities in the U.S. and Canada) and is part of Sakata INX’s worldwide operations. It offers a full line of inks, coating solutions, and technology for packaging and commercial print applications. Product solutions focus on metal decorating, flexographic, gravure, web offset, lamination, corrugated, sheetfed, inkjet and UV/EB inks and coatings.

The firm says it has had success with the NW140 narrow-web label press, which delivers single-pass printing with brilliant color at speeds up to 80 fpm on any label stock. First shown at GRAPH EXPO last September, it also provides for easy separation of printed labels. The unique press employs an air-cooled UV LED pinning system developed by partner Integration Technology Limited (ITL); it also features Spartanics laser die-cutting capabilities.

ITL’s LEDZero Pincure Plus 080-6 pinning system is a cost-effective solution for low-dose curing applications delivering an 80 mm x 5 mm effective cure area per UV LED array. The Pincure Plus 080-6 arrays are mounted independently of each other with each array positioned immediately after each printhead. “INX wanted to incorporate pinning to improve the image quality of the label,” said Jennifer Heathcote, GM of ITL’s North American operations. “They felt recent advancements in UV LED technology would allow them to successfully integrate pinning into the NW140. Our UV LED products are based on core technology that can easily be scaled up in size or configured as needed,” Heathcote noted. “UV curing applications are extremely diverse and a one-size-fits-all UV LED solution just isn’t possible. We worked closely with INX to determine what UV LED technology was needed most by the market.”

The Pincure Plus 080-6 offers instant on/off UV output and limited or significantly reduced heat transfer to the substrate when compared to traditional curing systems -- and a more compact form fact that allows the arrays to be mounted close to the media and the print heads.

Xeikon (Booth 6135) featured live demos of its self-adhesive and folding carton suites at drupa 2012, and Labelexpo visitors to the Chicago are can expect to see more of the same in September. Since the successful launch of its 3000 Series of digital color label presses four years ago, Xeikon has developed a strong position in the label and packaging markets. Two years ago, the firm’s non-commercial print emphasis became crystal clear as it exhibited at Labelexpo but not at GRAPH EXPO. Key to its success has been a strong partner network with leading providers of substrates, workflow solutions, and finishing equipment. In addition, Xeikon has developed a number of production solutions for specific market segments, including the aforementioned self-adhesive suite for the label market as well as the heat transfer label suite for the decorating market.

“By working closely with our customers since our inception, we’ve learned that they aren’t just looking for a digital press from us,” said Filip Weymans, director of marketing for the label and packaging segment. “The full production solution is what enables printer service providers to make a finished product. All the different production solution elements that a printer needs are available in the market. However, to make it easier for our customers, we have built a strong partner network to enable us to bundle specific elements together based on their requirements,” Weymans explained. “This offers our customers the highest level of comfort. They know that the solution will live up to their expectations. Plus, they won’t have to spend time and effort in building the network themselves.”

In Dusseldorf this past spring, Xeikon showed how its new Trillium High Viscosity Toner (HVT) can enable printing at high speeds and lower costs, while maintaining image quality and eco-sustainability. The 3030Plus, a new, entry-level press for the label and packaging market, also was shown. It handles media widths up to 330mm with a top speed of 15 meters per minute, which is 50 percent more productive than other entry-level machines.

A trio of application-specific suites were highlighted for self-adhesive labels, heat-transfer labels, and folding cartons. The self-adhesive suite was demonstrated using a five-color Xeikon 3300 with an inline DCoat 330 finishing unit. In addition to experiencing 1200-dpi image quality, visitors had the opportunity to see how the 'one-pass' opaque white toner can create the much desired 'no-label or label-less look' on transparent films. The full rotary technology incorporated in the 3300, combined with its variable repeat length, also was at work. Labels are printed at maximum speed, regardless of their size or the number of colors used.

Xeikon also is promoting ThermoFlexX, a new product line of reliable, high-quality imagers for the flexographic and letterpress markets, and Xeikon Color Control, a cloud-based professional color-management service that enables printers to offer their customers repeatable and predictable colors and the best simulation of custom spot colors. Additionally, the next generation of basysPrint UV-Setters, in four-up, eight-up, and large-format format, for the commercial CTP market, round out the offering.

Labelexpo Returns to the Americas

Launched in 1989, the largest label converting tradeshow in the Americas returns this September 11-13. Supported by the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TMLI), the biennial Labelexpo show is the place where label converters and printers from across North and South America come to source suppliers and see and purchase new technology. The show’s 2012 edition features more than 400 suppliers and manufacturers, including 67 new exhibitors since 2010, as well as a digital printing master class for converters looking to invest in digital printing for the first time.

In addition, the popular technology workshops return with a live demonstration and comparison of four machines in the Laser Die Cutting Workshop (Hall F). Sei Spa, Spartanics, AB Graphic International, and Delta Industrial are taking part in four workshops, run by a neutral moderator, with their machines each testing a different cutter profile: blank office product labels, prime product labels, and industrial labels.

Dozens of exhibitors will showcase new technologies as part of the new Package Printing Zone in Hall C. The conference program also features a dedicated stream for getting started with cartons and flexible packaging. 2012’s edition also will introduce Ecovillage, which will showcase the latest environmentally friendly products and services designed to support a better performing, more environmentally conscious label industry.

Labelexpo Americas will also play host to the ninth prestigious Label Industry Global Awards on the first night of the exhibition. The awards program honors and rewards companies and individuals for excellence and best practice in the labeling industry.

“As the continent’s leading show for the industry, Labelexpo America is the must-attend event for label and package printers/converters and suppliers,” said Roger Pellow, Labelexpo managing director. “Nowhere else can you network, find the latest innovations, experience the newest technology and hear about the ways in which you can stay profitable and keep your business ahead of the competition.”

Expo-only passes start at $55 and conference session tickets from $135. Further discounts apply for TLMI/FTA/AIMCAL members.