Responding to the rising demand in the label industry for shorter run lengths / strategic run lengths and value-added labels, flexo press manufacturers have integrated digital printing solutions to enhance the performance of their conventional machines, resulting in the birth of hybrid label presses. Hybrid presses combine the productivity of flexo printing with the digital flexibility of rapid job change. This combination of two technologies enables labels & Packaging converters to control the run length of labels with converting and finishing capabilities.
In our conversation with David Ellen, global director, Domino Digital Printing, he explained that UV inkjet label presses come in several different formats and with 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-color capabilities. However, a majority of converters buy 7-color presses because of the wide color gamut it can achieve with this capability, which also helps them to cater to a large number of SKU’s Hybrid label presses are best suited for longer runs and higher label counts. The print and converting units can run before and after the digital processes for enabling embellishments such as cold foil, hot stamping, metallic inks, rotary and semi-rotary die-cutting, sheeting and plough folding. It is a single inline manufacturing process. However, hybrid presses may compromise the maximum throughput of digital assets and shorter runs may create more waste. This is because the digital asset remains idle during setting up the flexo-only part of the process, and the press generally has longer make-ready times than a simple roll to roll digital press.
He further explained that on a hybrid press, a customer can print on demand eliminating inventory which in turn saves cost. “If you were to start a new business and you use a conventional printing machine and you have several SKUs to print, you will have to print all the SKUs to start your business. You will also have to buy plates and other consumables to produce all those SKUs; but with hybrid presses, you only need a file, and change it as per your requirement and it will print it straight away. This feature of hybrid presses allows quick business setup. Every single label in the print run can be different,” Ellen added.
Current trends in the label industry indicate an increasing demand for personalized, premium, sustainable, smart, and customized labels. The ability of hybrid presses to print customizable labels can help converters to address an expanded and targetted consumer base including every age group, gender and demographic. It can print, add varnishes, embellishments, spot colors, and foil and die-cut to produce a finished label. The varnish and foiling features can be used to coat an ordinary substrate to make it appear like another substrate with a texture such as fabric or linen.
Better profit margins
“The biggest problem of the label industry is maintaining margins, so if you talk to any label printer or converter, they will say that the profit margins are being squeezed. On a flexo press, the makeready time is really long and not economic. On a hybrid press, the makeready time is near zero and from that point of view, you get better margins with a hybrid press. Additionally, the amount of waste is significantly less. And since you don’t need to set up flexo stations color quality and management are taken care of. The net output of a hybrid machine is much heavier and more margins,” Ellen said.
Domino also manufactures and provides UV inkjet inks for its label presses that can be used on shrink sleeve labels. It has manufacturing facilities in UK, US, China, Germany, India, Sweden and Switzerland. Post sales maintenance services help converters maximize their margins, while Domino’s online Digital Solutions Program provides training for the converters. “We calculate ROIs for our customer, we look at their jobs, counsel and support them to get the best return on their purchase,” Ellen elaborated.
Furthermore, the company engages with brand owners to present them with new label printing possibilities and connects them with the converters who have installed Domino presses, if they are interested. In India, Domino has a demo facility in Faridabad in the Delhi NCR with a hybrid press.
Domino at Labelexpo Brussels
Domino will display its N610i label press at Labelexpo Brussels at its Stand 9A60 and 9B50. The digital print units will be integrated with the analog flexo printing units.. The company will also demonstrate digital foiling and varnishing. Apart from these, The K600i white digital print system will also be on display.
“The K600i system can be integrated with any finishing equipment or any press to convert it into a monochrome printing press. It gives you a digital black plate so that all the black image and text can be changed in each print. For instance, if you want to change the language, details or QR codes on labels, tags, tickets, forms, direct mail or security products, these can be changed instantaneously. It takes an analog press and makes it digital. During the last Labelexpo, we sold 16 of these machines,” Ellen explained.
The Domino N610i label press
The Domino N610i label press is a hybrid label solution by Domino. “The uniqueness of this machine is that it sprays the image down which means that it can run a lot faster. With its inkjet based system, it can run at up to 70 meters/ minute,” Ellen said. Domino has installed over 200 N610i label presses globally. The opaque white unit with high opacity enables the color printing of clear on clear labels. The press has an automated printhead cleaning system that takes 30 seconds for the operation.