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Focus On

Label Like a Pro

Label printing has been one of the key growth sectors in the industry for some time, and this shows no sign of changing. Brendan Perring picks out the latest technologies

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A toast to labels

Much like its sister market, packaging, labels come in all shapes and sizes. Labels form a major part of the branding of products, and are often the first thing that consumers see when they pick up and look at a product—and not just to see the price.

As many brands and marketeers will tell you, labels do much more than simply tell the consumer what a product is or information about it. They serve as a real opportunity to appeal to consumers and make a proper impression on them, and this is where print can play a vital role.

However, to achieve an attractive label and ensure quality output, then printing companies must invest in the right sort of kit. Here, we look at some of the latest technologies available to help print firms achieve this outcome and allow them to gain an advantage in this sector.

Indeed, in an age of overwhelming product choice, the label has become the deal breaker at the shelf. In fact, studies reveal that 70 percent of shopper purchase decisions are made in store, even when shoppers have planned which category they will buy from (Huffington Post, 2017). With so many similar products on the shelf, the label has never been more important.

HP’s Indigo press range is a good example of a technology developed specifically to help brands stand out amongst their competition through products such as speciality and versioned labelling, and they are increasingly turning to print-service-providers and label converters to help them do just that.

Currently, all label markets show decrease in run length and increase in number of ‘stock keeping units’ (SKUs), which means more mass customisation and personalisation. All HP Indigo digital presses enable the printing of “each copy different”, allowing brands and retailers to engage with consumers on an individual basis through customised labels and packaging. Technology like HP’s Smart Stream Mosaic software allows brands to create truly one-of-a-kind designs. As a result, the brand can produce limitless unique designs for their packaging for great shelf appeal.

At Labelexpo 2017, HP will be showing several of its HP Indigo presses, but specifically it will highlight its Graphic Embellishment Technology (GEM), which allows printers to add embellishment to labels in one pass. This means a simpler and more efficient way to produce high-quality embellished labels. Developed with Jet FX, GEM will enable streamlined production of digital spot and tactile varnishes, special effects, digital foils, and a lot more.

Dreaming of digital

Another major manufacturer that is able to support print companies in this sector is Epson, which has a number of hardware options available. Frank Maeder, manager, product management, labels at Epson Europe, describes labels as a “huge growth market” and cites research from Freedonia that global demand in this sector is likely to expand by more than four percent a year until 2020.

Maeder comments: “Digital label printing shows stronger growth still and Epson is seeing strong demand for its digital presses and printers from both converters supplying a wide range of labels to a diverse customer base and also from manufacturers and businesses who need an in-house on demand solution.”

Although demand is generally high across the labels sector, Maeder says there are certain areas where more opportunities lie for print companies, specifically in digital printing.

Frank Maeder, manager, product management, labels at Epson Europe, says although labels is a “huge growth market”, digital is a key area at present

Maeder expands: “I see labels as a great opportunity because it is a growth market in general, but also more specifically in digital because there is a well documented transition from conventional to digital technology driven by increasing demand for shorter runs.

“However, printers need to be aware that there is a trend towards in-house tabletop label production so they need to offer differentiation, often based on quality or special effects. It is a sector that combines a highly creative and experimental approach to design and a very practical approach to fulfilment. Printers can play a key role as advisors and implementers.”

With this, Maeder picks out some of the kit on offer from Epson, which, of course, is one of the leading digital print brands in the world. Epson is rather unusual in that it can offer both aqueous and UV inkjet presses for label print.

Scheduled to launch at Labelexpo, the Sure Press L-4533 is the latest generation aqueous model from Epson. This machine has increased image quality at four- and six-pass, and uses black, uncoated black, cyan, magenta, yellow, orange, and green as standard. The model also features improved text, edge sharpness, and high colour reproduction and its accessibility means maintenance is very easy.

Meanwhile, the UV Sure Press L-6034 is a UV inkjet machine that can produce at a resolution of 600 x 600dpi. Maeder says both presses are reel-to-reel, can print on self-adhesive labels, and offer a white option for printing on films or plastics.

Epson’s UV Sure Press L-6034 is a UV inkjet printer that can produce print at qualities of up to resolution of 600 x 600dpi

In addition, for those wanting to put a toe in the water and trial opportunities for label production before ramping up, then the Color Works C7500G from Epson may offer a slightly cheaper option. Priced at less than £10,000, the machine can print at 300mm/second and deliver 600 x 1,200dpi CMYK in print quality.

Maeder adds: “All Epson equipment is supplied with the manufacturer’s own printheads and inks, meaning that all elements of production work together and are thoroughly tried and tested.” Epson will also be in attendance at The Print Show this year from October 11th to 13th and visitors can learn more about its full range of technology solutions at the event, which takes place at The International Centre in Telford.

Join the jet set

Also active in this sector is EFI, which will be exhibit at Labelexpo this year to showcase just how it can support companies that print labels. Due to feature on the EFI stand will be its Jetrion label inkjet production and also ERP workflow innovations. It will likewise be exhibiting at The Print Show focusing on software, while its distribution partner CMYUK will focus on its hardware options.

The latest Jetrion 4950LXe inkjet narrow-web inkjet label press offers a higher print quality than previous models, with users able to produce print in qualities of up to 720 x 1,260dpi. Driven by advanced EFI Fiery software for digital label production, the machine also has increased durability and gloss level control using EFI Armor UVF and UVR coatings.

Saskia Heller, manager corporate communications at EFI, comments: “This Jetrion press offers extended versatility as it includes media compatibility profiles for a broader range of label stocks, including Avery Dennison substrates used for durable labels and wine applications.

“Optional in-line finishing equipment available from EFI make Jetrion one of the only digital press brands that enables users to take in blank substrate rolls on one end and receive complete, die-cut, slit, and back-scored rolls at the other.”

EFI is also able to offer its Packaging Suite to print companies active in the labels market. This features comprehensive business and production workflows that EFI says increase “enterprise-wide profitability”.

The suite features EFI Radius as its core ERP software, and includes workflow enhancements in estimating, job planning, and shop floor data collection, as well as new digital print workflows and additional tools to enhance user productivity and collaboration.
Other improvements to the suite include online packaging procurement with EFI Digital Store Front; automated planning optimisation with EFI Metrix software; global resource scheduling with EFI Print Flow; the ability to carry out multi-channel marketing campaigns with EFI Direct Smile; and centralised, role-based productivity widgets with the suite’s Productivity Workbench.

Top of the food chain

Delving further into this market, Xeikon is another major brand that is able to provide quality and reliable solutions to print companies active in the labels sector (head to stand I03b at The Print Show to find out more from its team directly).

Filip Weymans, vice-president marketing, says based on the number of customers using Xeikon digital label press users, the market appears to be “buoyant and continuing to grow”.

Weymans comments: “From a digital printing perspective, labels offers a good opportunity for expansion. The technology required for digitally printing labels is not massively different from the digital technology being used by many commercial printers.

From a digital printing perspective, labels offers a good opportunity for expansion

“For some the obstacles would be adapting to working with reels and the finishing required for labels will be different to what they are experienced in, developments in technology are making this adaptation far easier than it would be for conventional printing.”

Featured in the Xeikon portfolio of solutions is the Xeikon 300 collection of presses, which the manufacturer says have been designed for high productivity.

The Xeikon Panther PX3000 UV inkjet label press is one device that stands out in particular, with this model able to operate at speeds of up to 50m/min. Users also benefit from output quality of 600 x 600dpi on materials up to 330mm in width, while the machine can handle media such as self-adhesive, coated, and uncoated paper. The model will launch at Labelexpo Europe this year.

The Xeikon Panther PX3000, which can run at speeds of up to 50m/min, will officially launch at Labelexpo Europe this year

Also available from the digital print giant is the Xeikon CX3, or the ‘Cheetah’ as it is affectionately known by staff at the company. This model has a top speed of 30m/min and can also print on substrates up to 330mm wide, while other features include true 1200dpi resolution, full rotary printing, variable repeat, and FDA food-safe toners, making it suitable for printing labels that will appear on food and drinks products.

Known affectionately as the ‘Cheetah’, the Xeikon CX3 has a top speed of 30m/min and offers true 1200dpi print resolution

Weymans adds: “The digital proportion of the labels market will continue to grow as it has done over the last few years. With increasing demand for multiple versions of labels and an increasing number of smaller scale producers, the demand for shorter run work continues to grow.

“As an example, one only has to look at the growth of micro-breweries, where there are now 1,500 brewers in the UK, the majority of which are all looking for shorter run lengths than would have been traditionally been required.”

The noble label may be an application that has been around for hundreds of years, but it still plays a major role in drawing in consumers. Labels can do much more than simply tell you how many calories are in a certain product or the price of something, but also help convey messages to the consumer about the product and draw them to a possible purchase.

O Factoid: Coloured labels have been in use since the mid-1880s and first flourished due to demand from the US fruit industry.  O

The power of print has enabled brands and marketers to really experiment with labels. Instead of just plain labels that tell you the basic information, retailers now tend to ‘jazz it up’ a bit with the addition of more colour and even special effects, such as foiling, which in turn capture the attention of consumers.

Some of the kit mentioned here can help you do just this; not only make products stand out on the shelf, or hanger, but also make your business shine in a crowded market.

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