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Business Opportunities

Labels Equipment

With more companies moving into the label printing market, Rob Fletcher takes a look at some of the latest products and finds out how they can help gain an advantage

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Creation Reprographics says label printing is an exciting opportunity, but demands investment and smart thinking in order to be successful

Put a label on success

For some time now, label printing has been widely recognised as one of the key growth markets for print-service-providers (PSPs). With such a range of jobs available in this area, PSPs of all shapes and sizes are diversifying their services into the sector in order to take advantage of the work on offer.

However, with this high level of interest comes increased competition, with more companies competing for jobs. This makes it more important than ever for PSPs to ensure they are running the best kit so that they can not only take on more work, but secure repeat business by producing top quality work for customers.

So, what is new in the label printing market and how can PSPs use this kit to its fullest to succeed in this busy, yet exciting, industry sector?

Changing design trends

The rise of digital print has played a major role in the evolution of the label print market. Manufacturers like OKI are bringing to market new digital print solutions and thus driving further development within labels, as well as other sectors in print.

Dr Guy Boxall, senior manager for Industry Print Propositions at OKI Europe, says it is important for the PSP to remember that when it comes to consumers picking products on the shelves, the label has a key part to play in the process, with their primary role to help the product stand out – something that has, in recent times, been boosted by the use of white.

“You’ll notice a common thread particularly when it comes to brands and visual communications: the predominant use of white,” Boxall says, adding: “Colour is still very much in vogue, but it is white that completes even the most vivid logos.

“As design trends change, so does the printed media. Labels are relied on for countless applications. Product labels are often an integral part of a brands packaging. They are applied to products in-store to capture attention on the shop shelf. They also provide vital information such as product features and ingredients to help customers make an informed decision.

“When it comes to label printing, reflecting the latest design trends which favour the predominant use of white isn’t particularly easy or affordable for businesses. Typically, label printing is outsourced to external print suppliers and white-only print has always been delivered by print houses using lengthy print processes and costly printing presses.”

With this, Boxall draws attention to the latest development from OKI in the form of the OKI Pro1050. The first compact digital LED label printer that can produce labels in a combination of CMYK and/or white, the OKI Pro1050 uses clear and coloured media for effect, which Boxall says means that there are countless applications for printing creative designs in white to make a product stand out on the shelf.

OKI says its new Pro1050 is the first compact digital LED label printer that can produce labels in a combination of CMYK and/or white


“White printing on clear synthetic media (PE, PET, PP) allows the product to show through the label,” he says, adding: “This is perfect for specialty foods, drinks and cosmetics, allowing the customer to see more of the product enticing them to purchase. Labels can also be used for serial numbers as well as security, safety, legislative and economic information. They are also ideal for applying to windows and transparent point of sale display units, to display vital information on products and pricing.”

OKI’s Pro1050 is, according to Boxall, designed to rapidly print from one to a few thousand labels in one day. He says the device makes on-demand printing of highly creative labels entirely possible using five colours including white (CMYK+White).

“In-house production departments can modify the label layout and add variable data printing labels as required, making it quick, simple and cost effective to print labels that are up-to-date with the latest design trends in-house,” he adds.

Support growth

Another leading manufacturer that can help PSPs make the move into labels or enhance their existing label printing services is Heidelberg. Chris Jackson, who is a product specialist with Heidelberg UK, speaks about the benefits of the Gallus Labelfire digital hybrid press.

The Gallus Labelfire is available in a four-colour plus white or seven-colour plus white configuration in UV inkjet (Fuji Samba heads), with conventional units from the Gallus ECS press, available upstream and downstream. Jackson says that this allows for flexo, screen applications and a further control of costs by using flexo white ink for example when printing clear substrates.

Heidelberg’s Gallus Labelfire digital hybrid press is available in a four-colour plus white or seven-colour plus white configuration in UV inkjet

 Jackson expands: “Printers can run low volume labels cost effectively, with little or no investment in pre- or post-press equipment. Colour control is via Heidelberg Prinect, which allows colours to be produced and matched across both offset and digital equipment.

“Commercial printers could support the growth in cottage industry producers in the food and beverage markets with this kit. The 1,200 x 1,200dpi quality and ability to personalise with full variable data makes the Labelfire a powerful sales tool.

A Digital Embellishment Unit on the Gallus Labelfire means labels can become tactile with variable heights of varnish applied


“With the use of the Digital Embellishment Unit (DEU), labels can become tactile with variable heights of varnish applied even on an individual label in a single pass through the press.”

With the use of the Digital Embellishment Unit, labels can become tactile with variable heights of varnish applied even on an individual label in a single pass through the press


For PSPs seeking a non-digital solution, Jackson points to the Labelmaster series of narrow web presses – comprising the Labelmaster and Labelmaster Advanced – which are available in 440mm and 340mm widths, offering variable levels of automation.

The Labelmaster features an HMI touch panel for quick and easy set-up, while further enhancement of the makeready comes with the light aluminium printing cylinders that Jackson says are simple to change over at speed.

Jackson says: “The range provides consistent and predictable quality with its direct servo driven and gear-less printing cylinders. The registration is top class and the press can handle a great variety of substrates. It is productive because it not only has a top production speed of 200m/minute but it is also designed to achieve very quick changeovers. The Labelmaster has a very short web path and highly competitive makeready time.”

Ripe market

For PSPs moving into the sector for the first time, joining forces with another print business might be a good strategy to ensure a smooth transition. This is where the likes of Creation Reprographics can help, acting as a full end-to-end reprographics partner.

Creation Reprographics offers complete design and origination services to label and narrow web printers, as well as the screen and plate technology to help bring designs to life. Managing director Matt Francklow says this combination of capabilities ensures the firm is a prepress partner of choice for label printers when it comes to securing high quality, consistency, sustainable and highly responsive prepress solutions.

According to Creation Reprographics, label printing offers opportunities for narrow web printers, as well as packaging converters


Francklow expands: “We have seen the label printing market retain consistent growth compared with other print markets, and continues to be ripe with opportunity for narrow web printers, as well as packaging converters.”

However, Francklow also picks out some of the key challenges that face PSPs in the label printing market and offers advice in terms of how to overcome these hurdles in order to ensure success.

Francklow says: “Just like the wider print industry, label and narrow web print is increasingly the subject of a major sustainability drive. A significant element of this is the reduction of waste, which means that the technology behind label printing has to be accurate, fast and efficient. No business can afford costly re-runs from errors, so solutions that negate this become extremely valuable to the industry.

“This is proving particularly important as the industry moves towards carbon neutrality. In fact, we have implemented our Project Zero operation, including a completely solvent-free plate portfolio, to ensure we’re offering sustainable technology and practices that don’t just meet regulation, but also exceed them, without compromising on quality.”

O Factoid: Mordor Intelligence valued the print label market worldwide as US$37.62bn (£29.14bn) in 2018 and predicts its worth will rise to $47.89bn (£37.09bn) by 2024. O


In terms of label product demand, Francklow picks out growth in rotary screen-printing complementing UV flexo, particularly in food and drink, healthcare, personal care and pharmaceutical label applications. He says consumers are now demanding more for their money and the tactile benefits of rotary screens, and the finishing options they provide as part of a flexo process, can add bottom line benefits, creating value-added effects in a single pass.

Francklow adds: “Label print is an exciting space with lots of room for innovation but customer demands evolve extremely quickly and label and narrow web printing needs the agility to keep up with changing technologies. This means thinking carefully about which press assets are required, as not having certain capabilities can exclude you from certain markets, and having a digital workflow can be critical to competitiveness today.

“Getting in to label printing is an exciting opportunity but demands investment and smart thinking to be successful in what is already a well supplied market.”

Francklow’s closing comments provide a solid conclusion to this feature; there are certainly opportunities for growth in label printing, but PSPs must ensure they are working with the right equipment and partners in order to enjoy the full benefits of this. If they can invest in quality kit and establish partnerships with trusted businesses, PSPs will have a much greater chance of making it in labels.


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