Are inkjet labels registering a blip on the digital print radar? Indeed they are, according to Bob Leahey, industry analyst at InfoTrends. “There were nearly 300 production-level, color inkjet label and packaging presses operating globally in Q4 2012,” Leahey told MyPrintResource (MPR) in...
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Are inkjet labels registering a blip on the digital print radar? Indeed they are, according to Bob Leahey, industry analyst at InfoTrends. “There were nearly 300 production-level, color inkjet label and packaging presses operating globally in Q4 2012,” Leahey told MyPrintResource (MPR) in early April. “That is far less than the installed base of color electrophotographic [EP] presses used by label and packaging converters, but inkjet is much younger in the converting marketplace.”
Leahey went on to explain that most inkjet label presses have been available for less than five years while EP presses have been marketed by HP Indigo and Xeikon for at least 15 years. “The EP vendors have a big head start, but inkjet vendors are improving their products,” Leahey explained. He identified three areas that are helping inkjet to be embraced more by label converters:
- the availability of gamut-extending colors
- variable droplet size
- low-migration UV curing inks
Other developments, including increased widths, have been helpful in improving inkjet’s acceptance in the label space. Eighteen months ago at Graph Expo 2011, INX International Ink Co. showed for the first time its NW140 UV (5.5-inch) digital narrow web press with UV LED-cured, single-pass output of up to 80 feet per minute (fpm) on any label stock. INX engineers and chemists are working overtime to have a wider version ready in time for the quadrennial PRINT 13 show come this September, reported Jim Lambert, VP and GM of the firm’s digital division. Adding to the 14 Xaar piezo print heads in the design could put the new model’s width at somewhere around 210 mm, or more than eight inches.
“We are hoping to be ready to bring the new press to Chicago,” said Lambert. “It will definitely be ready by year end.” In addition to Spartanics laser-diecutting capabilities and the Xaar heads, it will be interesting to see with whom else INX is partnering on this product endeavor.
“We believe inkjet technology represents the future of label production,” he added. “Toner-based presses, such as the HP Indigo, have their place with high quality and respectable speeds, but the cost of entry for inkjet is more palatable.” Plus, inkjet has at least two other advantages over EP, Lambert noted: a) The ink set has better durability and fastness and b) most inkjet OEMs do not charge per click.
A year ago, Durst Image Technology introduced the Tau 330 - Digital UV Inkjet Label Press designed for short- and medium-run narrow web applications covering web widths from 6.5 inches to a maximum of 13 inches and running at a printing speed of up to 157 fpm. Also, its Tau 150 8C - Digital UV Inkjet Narrow Web Label Press is a high-speed, short-run model featuring proprietary Single Pass UV Inkjet Technology with up to eight dedicated color modules.
Labeling fruits of the vine
Last month in Paris, at the annual Digital Label Forum, Stork Prints BV of the Netherlands was awarded a trophy for digital label printing in the category of Wine & Spirits. The jury praised Stork Prints’ digitally printed wine labels for their photographic quality, digital white, and versioning possibilities. The firm’s DSI UV inkjet label printer features a modular concept. The DSI is a cost-effective, UV inkjet label printer, offering sublime printing quality at amazing speeds, said Stork Prints. Its combination of photographic quality and a rotary screen “look and feel” makes it suitable for everything from short- to medium- and even long-run jobs.
“Volume wise, the DSI offers an increasingly attractive alternative to flexo and other printing technologies,” stated Mark Huisman, sales manager for Stork Prints. “The economies of scale are clearly visible for smaller, straightforward jobs. However, it also makes sense to use the DSI for more complex and higher-volume jobs.”