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  • 07 Jul 2010

Printability testing of digitally printed labels

Printability testing equipment, procedures and standards for conventional label printing by offset, letterpress, flexo or gravure have been widely used and/or accepted by the paper and board, printing, label converting and print end-user sectors for many years.

Most of the standard tests used have been developed and evolved over many years and include tests for: pick, gloss, rub resistance, scuff, print penetration, paper roughness, color/density, print smoothness and set-off. 

End-users of printed material – particularly in the packaging and label fields − have frequently specified test procedures and performance standards as part of their buying and procurement operations. However, most of the standard printability tests and procedures have yet to be fully tried, modified or utilized − or new tests developed − for the digital printing of labels and packaging. 

With more than 1,300 digital label presses now already installed in the global label industry, and with the installed base currently growing at around 250-300 new presses a year, it now seems an opportune time to seriously consider making digital label printing a more standardized technology with recognized test equipment, procedures and standards.  

IGT Testing Systems, an independent company and world-leading manufacturer of printability testers, and which is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, has indicated that it would be interested in working with the label and packaging industries (associations, materials suppliers, press manufacturers, printers, converters, etc) to establish a program of digital printability testing assessment, equipment feasibility, equipment development, test guidelines and recommendations. 

Finat, the worldwide association for manufacturers of self-adhesive labels and related products and services, and Labels & Labeling are now working together to establish a technical digital label printability testing group. An initial meeting to establish the group, hosted by Finat, is being scheduled in The Netherlands for the end of August. This is expected to include representatives of the main paper and filmic face materials suppliers, pressure-sensitive label substrate suppliers, IGT Testing Systems, the major suppliers of the installed base of digital label presses covering liquid toner, dry toner and inkjet, as well as pre-press suppliers and key digital label converters in the Benelux. Some 20 companies have so far expressed interest in participating. 

The aim of the first meeting will be to establish the aims and objectives of the project, put together a steering group or project team, assess the initial steps that need to be undertaken, look at what testing equipment and standards are required, agree an initial action plan and timescale, determine how group members may help with test facilities and allocate tasks if deemed relevant, and fix a date for a subsequent meeting or meetings. 

It already looks as if this will be a key initiative for those label industry suppliers and converters wishing to establish digital printing as a quality, reproducible, consistent technology − with standardized test and products that will be endorsed and accepted by everyone in the digital label printing and user supply chain. 

Companies/individuals interested in attending this initial meeting or wishing be involved in the project should contact Jules LeJeune, Finat managing director at

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