Reflections and predictions for the digital label market 2016

Label Expo ’15 was very busy for us and underlined just how much digital inkjet has reached new levels of market acceptance and maturity. Both at the show and all our follow-up customer meetings, three key trends stand out for 2016:

Adoption of hybrid digital inkjet technology continues to grow

The enthusiasm for combining digital Inkjet printing with traditional flexo in a single pass or so called ‘Hybrid’ printing – having launched Graphium, FFEI’s digital hybrid press in 2013, it was flattering to see so many well known companies bringing their own ‘hybrid’ solutions to market. In 2016 it’s certain we will see the rate of adoption for this type of solution continue to grow rapidly, supported by even more choice from suppliers. Even companies like Xeikon were exploring inkjet combined with their own print technology. Look out for more of this at DRUPA 2016.

digital label market 2016

Hybrid principle extends to printer innovation

It was interesting to see how Xaar are positioning their new Inkjet Printbar for high margin ‘embellishment’ applications. This very much follows the trend towards combining different print technologies in a hybrid solution. I think we will start to see more of this type of thinking as people realise the benefits of leveraging existing press investments with inkjet ‘add-ons’ for more than just coding & marking. The new digital fluid technologies will open up all sorts of potential for short run, but complex label and packaging designs. In 2016 look out for not only digital screen white and varnishes but also metallics, adhesives and other exotic effects enabled with inkjet.
Customers place emphasis on uptime & service costs

The market is becoming more educated on what to look for with Inkjet investments, especially when it comes to reliability – Inkjet systems need to be ‘work horses’ in order to pay their way and so prospects are looking ‘under the bonnet’ in their evaluation, rather than just headline specs. Basic issues like nozzle outs aren’t accepted, when productivity is key to increasing profit margins. We had a lot of feedback and questions at Label Expo concerning ‘up time’. Label converters are realising, for example, that quality of build and lower level print head features, such as the through flow TF technology, result in more regulated ink temperature and reduce the risk of nozzle outs from fluctuating viscosity, bubbles or debris. The result is a significant improvement in visual print quality (accuracy of dot placement, fewer defects, reduced noise), exceedingly long head life and lower maintenance. So getting the balance right is key to up time and overall system viability. In the coming year we expect to see much more emphasis on uptime & service costs.