Even though flexographic printing still dominates the labels and packaging space, there is no doubt that the industry is seeing a shift toward digital printing. As digital and hybrid press installations continue to rise, material suppliers must meet the demand for new substrates that can elevate a label on the shelf.

Avery Dennison, an adhesive and substrate supplier based on Mentor, OH, USA, has invested in new portfolios designed for shorter, digital runs. Unlike flexo printing, the entry level is a lot more reasonable in digital–and the explosion of craft brands has necessitated short runs like never before. Converters can turn to production presses or digital printers to meet their needs, as well.

“Overall, Avery Dennison is seeing the digital printing market growing,” explains Cory Keller, senior product manager, Digital, at Avery Dennison. “With a wide range of platforms and price points available, digital label printing investment is generally within reach for almost all label converters. With the move to inline priming for HP Indigo, we are focusing our efforts on inkjet, both mainstreaming of UV inkjet (via the emergence of hybrid press options) and water-based inkjet (via the emergence of standalone ‘mini-presses’ - production class/size).”

According to Keller, a recent study by IT Technologies states that digital label printing will outpace its analog counterparts. The study cites digital printing growing by 6% through 2022 compared to 3.5% for analog printing. Additionally, digital output as a percentage of analog is 5%, though it accounts for around 15% of the final printed product revenue.

Avery Dennison is responding, optimizing substrates for both EP (Electrophotography) and inkjet. “Different digital print technologies are at different stages in the product lifecycle,” says Keller. “EP (liquid and dry toner) is fairly mature, having been in the market for more than 20 years. UV inkjet has come onto the scene in the last 10 years, and water-based inkjet is also growing.”

Avery Dennison has cultivated relationships with press OEMs to qualify the company’s materials on existing and new platforms. The company also boasts a cross functional team to develop PS materials for key digital platforms, which includes R&D and marketing initiatives.

“We offer a full range of product portfolios for EP (dry and liquid toner), UV inkjet and water-based Inkjet,” states Keller. “As the water-based inkjet market has evolved, we have recently expanded our portfolio to include gloss white, matte white, satin white and clear BOPP options to support the growing use of this platform for prime film applications. We will soon be launching a metalized film option, as well.”

When dealing with a dry toner EP, most standard materials typically perform well except for those that are susceptible to high heat. These might include vinyl and PE films. Water-based inkjet printing, on the other hand, usually requires a special top-coating to manage the high concentration of water in dye and pigment ink systems in order to get good wet out and prevent image smear. UV inkjet, meanwhile, will often work well with standard materials, but a special top-coating can be required to deliver good surface characteristics for ink adhesion.

“With UV inkjet mainstreaming–which is driven by the analog/digital hybrid trend–we see the need and opportunity to create more ‘all-in-one’ products that can work for flexo and digital platforms,” explains Keller. “Avery Dennison continues to look at the development of next-generation top-coats that can provide customers flexibility to use on traditional/analog or UV inkjet digital platforms.”

In order to better work with printers, Avery Dennison offers a host of resources designed to select the proper material for the desired application. The company’s Concept Lab allows for the quick turnaround of digitally-printed prototypes for customers and brand owners. Avery Dennison can test a number of different design options on a variety of materials to help match the desired results. In addition, the  Client Services Lab provides BS5609 testing, helping converters reduce the time and cost to market for chemical drum label applications.

In the future, Keller expects to see the continued increase of digital press installations, especially when using Labelexpo Americas 2018 as an indicator. “We expect a continuation of the ‘tipping point’ trend we saw last year in Europe, where for the first time ever there were more new digital press installations (including hybrids) than analog,” concludes Keller.


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