By Lisa Guerriero
Part 1 of 2
Traditional label manufacturers favor flexographic technologies, especially for large runs of similar product. The advent of inkjet has provided new, complementary devices that can cost-effectively handle variable, one offs to short runs of labels at the quality analog presses provide.
This two-part series looks at digital wide and narrow format presses used in label production. Both are a consideration for a print service provider (PSP) looking to offer label applications to customers. It depends on the level of production required and whether the demand for label orders can necessitate bringing in a press devoted to this one application.
Here, we discuss the wide format side of the market, which Digital Output considers printers over 24 inches in width. For the PSP looking to output a small portion of labels regularly, a wide format printer offers versatility to print other applications as well.
The Wide Side
Versatility is often cited as the top reason to choose wide format equipment for label printing. Larger devices aren’t limited to labels—or even labels, stickers, and decals. “That typically means a wider printer that also prints promotional materials like signs and banners, in addition to labels,” notes David Hawkes, group product manager, sign products and textile printers, Roland DGA Corporation.
Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc., believes there are opportunities presented by the diverse applications of wide format. This technology “enables the production of graphics such as point of purchase (POP) displays that might accompany the product for which a label is being produced, resulting in additional revenue for the PSP,” he says.
The versatility factor is further enhanced because special features are common for larger devices. “Many are equipped with contour cutting and variable data printing (VDP) software, making wide format printers particularly attractive for businesses looking to expand into digital inkjet label printing,” points out Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing, EFI.
Versatility affects the bottom line in other ways as well. “First of all, a greater selection of media is available since many materials are only produced in larger width rolls. Also, the ability to adapt between several different media widths minimizes waste and maximizes efficiency by allowing the user to choose the media width which best fits the job dimensions,” observes Royce Owen, director of marketing, Summa, Inc.
PSPs that offer labels as a service can stay competitive by serving all of their client’s needs. Hawkes uses the example of a Roland user who started out printing promotional garments for winery gift shop, and ended up printing the reserve labels for short-run, late harvest wine. “Label printing provides a one-stop shop for a variety of potential output opportunities, including banners, signs, t-shirts, decals, window graphics, and even vehicle graphics,” he concludes.
Flexibility, Features, and Functionality
Owen says that ultimately, “a wide format label printer is ideal for those seeking flexibility, features, and functionality.” Here are some of the features and functionality available to PSPs considering a device 24 inches or larger that prints labels, stickers, or decals.
Mimaki offers six print-and-cut eco-solvent devices. The starting prices range between $14,000 and $33,000. Between the CJV300 series and the CJV150 series, the company offers widths from 32 to 64 inches. All the models support CMYK printing as well as light black, light magenta, orange, white, and silver. Each offers a function for pre-cutting prior to printing, which addresses problems like film separation, which are common when post cutting on thin materials. The CJV300 series includes two staggered printheads per channel for high-productivity shops, while the CJV150 models feature one printhead per channel, for lighter production environments.
Mutoh America, Inc. offers the ValueJet 628, a 24-inch eco-solvent inkjet printer. It carries an MSRP of $6,495. “Price point, small footprint for inclusion in almost any size shop, ease of use, and production capability including print speeds is what makes this printer a real viable solution,” explains David Conrad, director of marketing, Mutoh. He adds that the machine is ideal for sign shops of all sizes, as well as corporate in-house print shops. For more demanding production, the ValueJet 628 features an optional take-up system to help quickly produce a roll of labels. Conrad recommends pairing the ValueJet 628 with the company’s 24-inch ValueCut cutting plotter for even greater productivity and production capacity.
Roland offers six wide format devices for label printing, all print-and-cut machines but with varying ink sets. They are the VersaUV LEC-330, with an MSRP of $49,995; the VersaUV LEC-540, with a $58,995 MSRP; the SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 at $29,995; the VersaCAMM VS-300i at $16,495; the VersaCAMM VS-540i at $19,995; and the VersaCAMM VS-640i at $23,995. Each can perform contour cutting, and the VersaUV series also completes perforation cuts and creases. Several print with metallic and white ink—the SOLJET Pro 4 and all three models in the VersaCAMM VSi series. The VersaUV LEC series handles white ink.
Summa provides two thermal transfer print-and-cut devices, the 30-inch DC5sx, which features an MSRP of $12,995, and the 54-inch DC5, with an MSRP of $19,995. Both models feature built-in cutting capability, as well an optical positioning system for more effective cutting alignment. Owen cites the eco-friendliness of thermal transfer technology, as well as its long-term outdoor durability, which “means that UV lamination is usually an unnecessary step.” Summa also notes the technology produces graphics that are instantly dry and ready to apply. The series also has options for an assortment of metallic, holographic, and specialty spot ribbons. A media take-up system comes with the DC5 and is optional for the DC5sx.
Not as industrial as a narrow digital web press, and not as wide as a wide format printer, the following two desktop products provide versatility similar to a wide format device when it comes to label output.
Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. offers the Gerber Edge FX thermal transfer printer for punched media up to 15 inches. Gerber recommends purchasing the Edge FX as a production system, with components such as a software program and a compatible sprocketed plotter for accurately cutting almost any shape. These systems fit on a six-foot table, and cost between $13,995 and $20,995. Engineered for sign, label, industrial, placard, and screenprint, the Edge FX produces four-color graphics at up to 1,200x300dpi. The system produces fast, one-color output and an assortment of more than 50 vivid spot colors are available. Gerber’s polyester materials allow for diverse uses, including high-temperature applications. “You can also select from static cling to magnetic, holographic, and a variety of removable films—ideal for promotions, events, or custom in-store branding,” points out Mike Bruno, marketing communications manager, Gerber.
Roland offers the VersaStudio BN-20, with an MSRP of $8,495. The print-and-cut device supports roll media from six to 20 inches in width. It uses eco-solvent inks, with the option of metallic and white ink.
Wide format devices are ideal for PSPs that want more out of their selection—more features, more flexibility, and more capacity. The next article in this two-part series focuses on the narrow format options for label equipment and the benefits of using these devices.
Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.
Apr2015, Digital Output DODL1504