As digital printing technology continues to grow and expand within the label industry, so too does inkjet. The market's growth has ushered in the emergence of a number of industry suppliers that offer inkjet machinery for a wide range of needs as well .is budgets.
"Globally, there are about 15 suppliers of narrow web inkjet presses for process color label printing," states Bob Leahey, associate director at InfoTrends, a market research and strategic consulting firm for the production print and digital media industries.
Leahey points out that while inkjet is still far behind electrophotography (EP) in terms of market acceptance in the label world, inkjet is much unproved, though, in just the last two years. "The products are more reliable, the ink set is wider, and the users are more experienced," he says, adding that several vendors now have good white inks.
In the label industry. Leahey says, the appearance and resolution of output from EP label presses--for now--are often considered superior to output from inkjet. "EP generally has somewhat higher resolution. Also, most inkjet presses are UV curing, and while that speeds drying time and increases durability. UV cured images have a slight shine and a slight thickness that cut their usefulness for some brand owners. Also, the important food vertical is timid about UV cured print, out of concern for possible toxicity."
Like EP presses, inkjet presses are most often used in tandem with Hew or other conventional web presses. Both types of digital presses are highly capable of printing short runs of labels, and are competitive with flexo up to a fairly high level, generally at least 10,000 linear feet. And both types of presses are able to take over short runs in converters' shops, leaving to flexo the jobs that it excels at--the longer runs.
Info Trends, which just completed a new digital label press forecast, estimates that inkjet systems accounted or $39 million in sales worldwide in 2011, and that sales will grow to $91 million in 2016. "Inkjet has a faster growth rate than ER because it's developing quickly and because it generally has lower first cost and running costs than EP presses do. A key part of the story fir the next four years, though, will be the commercial placements of at least a few new, high end inkjet presses.
Today, in the label market, inkjet printers are a viable, affordable and profitable digital printing option. What follows are descriptions of inkjet products from sonic of the label industry's key suppliers, and the converting advantages the machinery provides.
Allen Datagraph attributes the success of its iTech AXXIS Digital Label System to its ability to manufacture labels or any shape without dies. "This makes the machinery highly profitable with such a minimal investment, and has been a major key to the success of the iTech AXXIS Digital Label System in the market." says Mark Vanover, vice president, sales and marketing.
The US-made iTech AXXIS Digital Label System is comprised of both the iTech AXXIS Digital Label Printer and the iTech AX XIS Digital Label Finisher. The printer is a high-resolution, roll-fed CMYK print engine, featuring variable-droplet technology. Printing on a variety of pressure sensitive substrates in widths from 4" to 8.5" with an outside roll diameter up to 11", the system images labels at 720 x 720 dpi, up to four feet per minute. The ability to print variable data is an option.
Vanover says the finisher is the key component to finishing on-demand labels of any shape. "The finisher laminates, integrates die-less diecurting (any vector shape designed in Adobe Illustrator), strips, slits and rewinds to finished rolls of labels," he says. "No other label system. can offer the features of the iTech AXXIS Digital Label System for anything close to the low cost of acquisition," Vanover adds. "We believe it enables every converter to never have to walk away from their customers' short-run label production needs again."
Vanover emphasizes that most of Allen Datagraph's customers are using the iTech AXXIS Digital Label System for runs of 1,000 feet per job. "That's our sweet spot, however, it is feasible to print longer runs, if required," he says. "The significant advantage of the iTech AXXIS Digital Label System is that it is a system. It's not just about the ability to print roll-to-roll but the ability to finish roll-to-roll."
Epson's SurePress L-4033A and L-4033AW are short-run digital label presses offered with pre-and post-press options that can be tailored to meet various needs and budgets. The press capitalizes on Epson's MicroPiezo inkjet technology to create output with smooth gradations and high quality color.
The L-4033A has a six-color (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow...