As we look to 2015, its important to first reflect on the past year – 2014 has been quite a year for the digital inkjet label market.
Benefits of digital widely understood
The arguments for digital print and drivers for its place in the Label market, are now well conversed and have been recycled in predictions for several years. Brand owners and retailers desire shorter production runs of their multi-versioned products, delivered more frequently. It is the speed, flexibility, and shorter-run capability of digital print that has proved it benefits beyond expectation.
The changing breakeven point
The attraction of digital has always been closely associated to the breakeven point. The higher the breakeven point, the more reason to print digital. We have seen digital presses printing way beyond that in certain applications. Likewise some Flexo systems are capable of entire colour changes in less than 10 minutes. We have also seen much shorter runs on analogue technologies – but this is more a sign that many digital systems simply don’t have the tools to convert a full range of label applications.
The reason analogue is still used on many shorter run jobs, is related to the market sector and application. In order to enhance the brand experience products need to jump out from the shelves. In other sectors legislation requires more information on labels. Transcending boundaries of countries and migration of people, mean multiple languages are not border specific.
Depending on the applications labels may benefit from or require high gloss metallic finishes, time temperature indicators, holograms, special varnishes, electronic devices, braille, tactile finishes, security and anti-counterfeit features. Protective coatings, laminates are all part of the converting mix.
Furthermore we are seeing a trend for web purchasing, often-customisable products with very high run lengths. Or standard products where production is ultra-short run, with production accomplished post sale rather than pre-sale (thus inventory and waste minimal).
Looking to 2015 – The need for digital with a twist on analogue
Safety signs, ticketing, cups, store cards, credit cards, vouchers, pouches for niche/personalised products, security features, logistics labels, asset and manufacturing tags all lend themselves to digital yet all require many analogue processes as well to make them fit for purpose.
It is this diverse range of run lengths coupled with how cumbersome current solutions for bridging the cross over point between digital and analogue are that will drive convertors to look towards an entirely new category of press.
The year of the Digital Hybrid label press
This Digital Hybrid category is targeted at the cross over point where digital meets analogue. When the most cutting edge digital and analogue machinery are combined in a single press the benefits of each are used to offset the limitations of analogue and digital alone. In doing so manufacturing efficiency is increased, a higher volume of chargeable product is produced per shift and at higher margin too. Products that could never have been produced with the benefits of digital now can.
Digital Hybrid systems address the widest range of applications and most common run lengths in the market. It’s true that attempts at this concept have occurred over the last several years, but were held back by digital, particularly inkjet, still needing to mature and gain market acceptance. Today digital inkjet print has matured, with reliability, good digital white inks, and inter-compatible UV inkjet and UV Flexo inks being available. Digital Hybrid is certainly the next logical step, and will trend in a big way during 2015. The benefits are so huge we believe it will continue to do so with announcements continuing from all the major players. The digital systems designed truly as Hybrid will become the most hotly tipped platforms of converting lines of the future.
This short animation captures the key benefits of the Graphium digital hybrid press and the new approach to converting labels.