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  • 19 Sep 2018

Industrial-scale color inkjet digital printing set for take-off in labels and packaging

The launch of the Canon Oce LabelStream 4000 Series is reported in L&L issue 4, 2018

Industrial-scale color inkjet digital printing will grow at a ‘very fast rate’, according to Vandagraf director James Bevan as his company prepares to publish its new report on the state of the market.

Inkjet technology is already an extremely hot topic in the labels and package printing market, with recent developments including Windmöller & Hölscher moving forward with its development of an inkjet press for flexible packaging, Gallus launching an entry-level inkjet label press and Canon formally entering the market. Converter investments have seen Yerecic Label move into digital printing with a Domino N610i, FlexoPrint installing the first Mark Andy Digital Series in Denmark and Cape Town's Label Link purchasing a Screen Truepress Jet L350UV+ inkjet press.

Industry association Finat has also revealed that European digital label press installations overtook conventional press sales for the first time in 2017. Further, 45 percent of Finat converter members have indicated that they will be purchasing a digital press over the next 18 months, with inkjet projection volumes surpassing toner-based and hybrid system projections.

Early evidence from the new Vandagraf report, ‘A Bright Future for Colour Inkjet Digital Printing in Global Labels & Packaging Markets’, reflected this by noting how color inkjet digital printing is well on the way to being a highly disruptive force across the labels and packaging industry and is already seeing double-digit growth in 2018.

According to the Vandagraf International report, the opportunities in packaging will in the end be much greater than labels, although they will take longer to realize.

High R&D spend is moving the technology and consumables involved forward to deliver the next generation of color inkjet digital printing, which will satisfy the previously unmet needs of packaging related applications in particular. This will include wider web inkjet presses for mid to large size packaging applications, corrugated board color inkjet digital presses and systems for inkjet printing direct to 3D cylindrical packaging profiles (cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, tubes and small diameter closures). Alongside technology advances, developments related to consumables will also play an integral part in making the growth of industrial-scale color inkjet digital printing a reality. This will see new surfaces introduced and formulations developed to suit the higher speeds and applications involved in next-generation labels and packaging converting. Substrate constructions and paper grades that run satisfactorily with different printhead systems and deliver optimal results will need to be developed. They will also need to support the various finishing and converting processes available. The range of substrates with which an ink is compatible determines what applications the press, digital or otherwise, can cope with. The type of ink carrier used is central to substrate material selection and compatibility. Hybrid digital/flexo printing must also be considered as this technology trend requires products suitable for both conventional and digital printing, such as substrates that support both color inkjet digital and analogue printing on the same print surface.

Such developments will allow economies of scale to be achieved as standard consumables adapted for different systems prove desirable.

Conversely, the report notes how converters are confronted with an increasingly wide array of choices in terms of presses while the rate of evolution of the industry will likely sees digital presses become obsolete much faster than analog presses, which in some cases continue in use for decades. Converters may also not be looking for a digital press to satisfy the requirements of existing customers but be interested to explore new markets and opportunities beyond their current printing capabilities

Bevan commented: ‘Over the last decade this multi-facetted and complex industry has transformed dramatically with major advances in color inkjet digital press design and printhead technology, as well as developments in substrates and ink formulations.

‘It is Vandagraf’s view that growth of color inkjet digital printing across the labels and packaging industries, already seeing double-digit growth, will actually speed up through to 2023 and beyond, driven by the relentless roll-out of color inkjet printing of labels and packaging, particularly for very fast emerging industrial-scale high-volume color inkjet.’

Bevan further notes that in the not too distant future digital printing capability will become a given for labels and packaging converters. Those companies that still do not offer digital printing capabilities will risk being left behind, he noted.

‘As the demand for mass versioning and customisation of labels and packaging continues to grow, color digital printing is becoming an increasingly vital component of converter’s capabilities. Big volume demand will soon dwarf demand for very short run prototyping, versioning and the like, especially in terms of demand for consumables.’

‘A Bright Future for Colour Inkjet Digital Printing in Global Labels & Packaging Markets’ will be published in October and can be purchased for €2,100.

To receive an exclusive 15 percent discount, order the report through Bridger Howes by contacting, quoting “Vandagraf-BH1”.

Inkjet technology will be one of those presented across the halls of Labelexpo Americas 2018.

Read Labels & Labeling’s preview of digital printing technology at Labelexpo Americas 2018 in issue 4, 2018, and here


The Labels & Labeling global editorial team covers every corner of the world from Europe and the Americas, to India, Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia with all the latest news from the label and package printing market.

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