Modern-day digital printing presses provide label and packaging flexibility and at the same time represent a leap forward in quality. We had a look round at the Labelexpo show to find out if the same applies to label printing software and label W2P.
If you travel a lot, like my team and I do, then following up sometimes takes a while longer. We took a look round Labelexpo, which took place at the end of September in Brussels and was considerably larger than the last show in 2015, to find out what software innovations for label production workflows and label W2P were being showcased; to some extent we came across some pretty interesting solutions. Before I proceed, I can say that Labelexpo – or at least the segment of greatest importance to us – was particularly characterized by technologies that facilitate small print runs, short-notice production and special applications. And why is this important? Well now, the label market alone accounts for more than ten percent of the value of output by the German printing industry – and further labeling sales growth is anticipated in the next few years. And given that production volumes will not necessarily increase, the same applies to labeling and packaging as to other segments of the printing business – small print runs plus personalization generate and at the same time increase quality and productivity.
In addition to its new Workflow-Label Application Suite, a prepress software program, Durst also showcased a digital label and packaging production-related web-to-print solution at this year’s Labelexpo. In future this online tool is designed to be used in workflows involving the equally new and flexible Durst 330 RSC UV inkjet press, which is part of the Tau range. The modular, web-based platform includes a label configurator, a template configurator as well as a shape designer and therefore completes the Durst Workflow system in terms of linking in to the online market as regards direct design and ordering options for digitally produced labels. As far as mechanical features are concerned, Durst has raised the bar with the Tau 330 RSC, to meet demand for digitally produced high-resolution labels. The print system achieves an effective print resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi and printing speeds of > 1 m/s at eight colors; to meet multicolor print requirements that extend beyond process colors – orange, violet, green and white can be integrated as additional options.
The software provider Infigo, established in 2010 and based in Crawley (UK), was also to be found at Labelexpo’s largest booth, which HP had erected in Hall 5. And what was it doing bang in the middle of the HP booth? Infigo partners with HP and its software solutions are part of HP’s PrintOS. The Infigo software is therefore used, for example, by digital print providers that operate HP Indigos. The company distributes solely browser-based, scalable software featuring a CSS-customizable frontend look and HTML5-based responsive design functionality. Infigo’s Catfish platform solution can, for example, be used in both B2B and B2C W2P environments, given it plays a SaaS role and therefore links online platform with personalization software. One module that forms parts of this platform solution is the MegaEdit PRO document designer, which has label applications and is used to customize labels. This designer enables designs to be actioned with the aid of upload options and easy-to-use editing tools, e.g. for personalized bottle labels with a 3D preview of the end product, and indeed includes finishes like foil, varnished and embossed.
In terms of new printing presses, HP exhibited the Indigo WS6800 as a highly flexible web-fed press, whose strength lies in the range of substrate widths catered for. That’s because the system can print on both film- and paper-based substrates at thicknesses ranging from 0.012 to 0.45 mm. This is feasible thanks to an upstream primer module that can pre-print an adhesion agent for liquid toner printing involving four to seven colors if required. Global Graphics’ Harlequin suite is used as the RIP in the WS6800. Global Graphics develops software platforms for digital LFP and production print and in addition to Harlequin also provides the ScreenPro Screening Engine for digital printing presses manufactured by well-known producers like Durst. GG software is also set to be included in the larger and successful Indigo 8000, 20000 and 30000 models in the near future.
“The future potential of label printing is massive. And anybody that grows in tandem with increasing demand by print providers and customers for faster production times, personalization and design flexibility – online too – will be able to get properly positioned in the market.” – Bernd Zipper
Hybrid Software also appeared in a new guise as a Labelexpo exhibitor. Both its solutions – packz, the commonly used native PDF editor, and Cloudflow – will be marketed as core products from now on, although Cloudflow as a comprehensive web-based workflow environment will continue to be subdivided into modules. Hybrid therefore continues to be retained as an umbrella term, incorporates both the above-mentioned solutions and is very popular in the label and packaging segment. That’s because this time too there was plenty going on at its booth, as with every trade fair showcase by this global software specialist. I will touch in more detail on Hybrid’s product innovations, which include enhanced pre-flight functionality, in another article that will deal with web-to-packaging solutions and the market for online-print packaging.
As far as marketing coordination was concerned, Dalim showcased ES 5.5 at Labelexpo, which is intended along with Twist 8.5 to meet increasing demand for workflow standardization and label production speed. ES 5.5 enables 3D label and packaging templates to be compared and annotated, which provides benefits in terms of marketing communications for new products – even before actual production. Chili Publisher has been used as an online editing environment on Dalim’s marketing platform since last year. In terms of label and packaging marketing campaigns, 3D visualizations and the use of augmented reality play a key role in ES. Given the software is entirely HTML5-based, a range of different channels can be used for administration and publishing purposes.
My take: digital printing technologies are progressing very fast in terms of quality and performance and are increasingly providing new opportunities. But it remains to be seen how fast digital printing can take further market share off offset and flexographic printing. Coupled with the increasing number of very decent label W2P and web-to-packaging platforms, a greater proportion of the business is certain to shift to the Internet. Did you find other label and packaging solutions that were showcased at Labelexpo interesting? Comments are welcome! I will be providing the next round of input about packaging next week, so stay tuned.