By Lisa Guerriero
Part 2 of 2
The first part of this series on digital label printing focused on wide format printers, over 24 inches in width, that are used for label creation, in addition to stickers and decals. Not only do these printers provide high-quality, economical production of labels, they also give print service providers (PSPs) the capability to offer a host of other applications.
On the other end of the digital spectrum, narrow format devices specifically manufactured for label printing are ideal for PSPs looking to ramp up production of labels in their shop.
Cost is a benefit compared to traditional analog technologies for shorter runs. “Narrow web digital label printing gives label printers a viable solution to print labels in smaller quantities and shorter runs, which offers significant cost and time savings compared to wider web conventional technologies, like flexographic,” notes Andy Dwivedi, director of marketing and sales support – North America, Xeikon.
“The ease of handling and processing a narrow roll, integrated die cut, and finishing, and the lower cost of the equipment helps these types of systems be more cost effective for shorter runs of fixed or variable data designs,” agrees Jay Larsen, NW210 product director, digital division, INX International Ink Co.
Narrow format products represent an advantage in terms of operational expenses. “These benefits can be seen in shortened set-up times, waste reduction, and overall ease-of-use resulting in a lower cost of production and increase in profitability,” asserts Taylor Buckthorpe, marketing director, Colordyne Technologies LLC.
Many vendors point out that narrow format devices handle the most common label applications. “Much of the label industry applications fit to a 13-inch format for covering larger applications such as durable label products as well as providing a multiple-up print platform for many of the labels found on consumer product bottles, boxes and specialty applications such as foil lids,” explains Christopher Howard, VP of strategic development, Durst Image Technology US LLC.
Broad Choices for Narrow Format
Here we offer options for narrow format digital label printing.
Colordyne has multiple 8.64-inch devices. Colordyne recently gave its CDT 3600 series an Aspen Memjet engine upgrade, allowing them to run at up to 275 feet per minute (fpm) at 1,600×1,375 dpi. The CDT 3600 Laser Pro features a web handling system and LaserSharp cutting technology. The CDT 3600 Rotary Pro offers inline printing, laminating, varnishing—aqueous or UV, rotary die cutting, and rewinding. The CDT 3600 Sprint is an entry-level, roll-to-roll system capable of printing full bleed on die-cut media. Colordyne also offers the CDT 3600 Retrofit, a program for converting an existing press into a hybrid digital web press. In addition, the CDT 1600-C is for printing carton labels as well as pre-perforated labels or tickets. Options include the ability to add color highlighting and pictograms, and winding/unwinding accessories. The CDT 1600-S is designed for personalizing and branding back office documents, envelope messaging, and promotional material printing, with optional color.
The Tau product line from Durst includes three UV inkjet printers. The series offers options for web printing speed as well as high-definition print capability for text clarity and image fidelity. The Process Color addition provides “an extended color gamut, which is useful when matching brand color,” says Howard. The Tau 330 is a 13-inch device with high-definition print mode, and options of white, orange, and violet, in a low migration/low odor ink set. The Tau 200 shares these features and options, but is eight inches. The Tau LFS 330 includes a 13-inch inline laser finishing system with automatic registration from Spartanics.
EFI’s narrow format offerings include Jetrion Industrial Inkjet Systems, which feature options for white ink printing, laser cutting, and lamination/varnish. The devices are designed for short and medium label runs. The Jetrion 4950LX LED prints a web width of up to 13.75 inches. It offers throughput up to 157 fpm and close to narrow web flexographic speeds, “as well as a low cost per label that closely mirrors flexography costs,” says Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing, EFI.
Epson offers the SurePress L-4033 and the SurePress L-6034. The 13-inch L-4033 “is designed for label converters and commercial printers looking to expand service offerings, improve profitability, and produce low-run sizes to 10,000 labels,” says Michael Pruitt, product manager, SurePress, Epson. He describes the L-4033 as having a simple, time-saving automated system, as well as high print quality on flexographic substrates. It features a six-color, aqueous ink set, and the AW version includes white ink. The 13.39-inch L-6034 targets those looking to add label production to their business, or to acquire their first digital label press. These models are made to be reliable and easy to use, and to handle medium runs up to 75,000 labels. “The L-6034 is Epson’s first single-pass industrial press, the first to use Epson’s new PrecisionCore linehead technology, and the first to use Epson’s new LED-cured UV ink with inline digital varnish technology,” notes Pruitt.
Graphium is a 16-inch hybrid inkjet label press from Fujifilm North America Corporation. “It can be configured in line with flexographic units and any finishing you would typically see in a flexographic press, including die cutting, slitting, foiling, laminating, sheeting, multi-turret rewind, and laser die cutting,” explains Michael Barry, product marketing manager, Fujifilm. Graphium prints on most paper, vinyl, and common polymers, with no top coat needed for adhesion or durability. It features white ink, which can be applied in a first or last pass manner as the application requires. The device also boasts a high print quality with grayscale inkjet printheads, adds Barry. Prices vary, as Graphium is a customizable solution.
Graphtec America, Inc. offers the LCX603, a 5.11-inch label device, for an MSRP of $14,995. Designed to be a compact, all-in-one unit, the LCX603 prints, laminates, free-form contour cuts, auto weeds, cross cuts, and drops finished labels into a stacker. “The LCX603 excels at short-run labels such as hazard labels, labels for product design mock ups, new product launch labeling, serialized labels, and other free-form labels,” says Neil Zdunkawicz, director, marketing and technical services, Graphtec.
The HP Indigo WS4600 and WS6800 are two narrow web digital presses in the 13-inch production category. The WS4600 prints up to 52 fpm in four-color mode and 71 fpm in Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM). The WS6800 prints up to 98 fpm in four-color and up to 131 fpm in EPM. It allows a PSP to step into folding carton production as well as labels, and offers inline priming for media optimization, notes Roy Oomen, HP Indigo and Inkjet Press Category Product Manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
The HP Indigo 20000 is a digital press for handling web widths up to 30 inches. Oomen describes it as a versatile device that “suits flexible packaging applications due to unique features, including a reverse inspection bridge, which enables printing surface and reverse print and maintains quality control, keeping productivity high.” The HP Indigo 20000 offers an inline ink drying system and various web handling options to allow for printing on thin-gauge films up to ten microns. It prints up to 102 fpm in four-color mode, and up to 138 fpm in EPM.
INX manufactures the NW210 UV narrow web digital label press. The list price is $625,000 for the version with five-color ink and inline laser, or a lower price is offered without one or both features. Short runs are common for this equipment, notes Larsen. “Typical applications are specialty, craft and boutique product labels, barcodes, machine identification labels, and warning and safety labels,” he says. INX partnered with Spartanics to offer the system with laser converting capabilities.
Valloy Incorporation has two LED toner-based label presses, both 8.5 inches. The list price for the ANY001 is $20,000 and the ANY002 is $9,000. The ANY001 is in the low- to mid-area of the market, explains Juan Kim, CEO, Valloy, and can handle cut on the fly for precut labels as well as continuous labels, which minimizes media waste. The ANY002 is more of a low-end, compact model with an optional rewinding unit, without an auto-feeding motor.
Xeikon offers five models in its Xeikon 3000 series of digital label presses, all delivering 1,200 dpi. They range from entry level to higher capacity, and are divided into two maximum web widths—20.3 and 13 inches—as well as three top running speeds—63, 49.2, and 31.5 fpm. “Entry-level versions are designed to be field-upgraded to the wider and/or faster specifications as the user’s needs grow,” states Dwivedi. At Labelexpo 2014, the company also launched a five-color label press, the 13-inch Xeikon Cheetah, which operates at 98 fpm. Xeikon devices handle an array of pressure-sensitive label and folding carton applications. They print on a variety of substrates, including untreated and uncoated, with media weighing between 40 and 350 gsm. The presses are also compatible with Xeikon’s X-800 Digital Front-End.
Finding a Good Fit
Narrow format devices in the digital space are ideal for those PSPs looking to ramp up production on labels with a printer designated to do just that. Conversely, as discussed in the first part of this series, if a PSP wants to offer labels on top of their current application offerings, a wide format printer that offers the versatility to print other projects from signage to vehicle wraps is a good fit. A PSP must decide on its goals, and gauge the expectations of its clients, to determine which device suits their business.
Apr2015, Digital Output DODL1504