Labels present a growing opportunity across the digital printing industry. While many narrow format solutions enter the market at a rapid pace, interested wide format print service providers (PSPs) may not need to look past their comfort zone to take a piece of the pie.
Part one of this series highlighted a variety of print-and-cut and standalone automated contour cutters suited for label production. This piece digs down into the features that bring label production to the next level, adding value and profit potential.
Workflow is essential to the productivity and effectiveness of label production. The ability to gang jobs as well as easily RIP for printing and cutting is critical.
“We see the industry working toward an easier workflow for print/cut applications, including labels,” notes Steven Tu, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation. He believes that software products continue to be refined toward this end to simplify the process for setting up files and positioning graphics to maximize the media at hand. He also expects to see more design features included in software products tailored to the print/cut space, especially elements that provide broader support for specialty inks.
For example, Roland partners with leading software manufactures, including CGS, EFI, and GMG to integrate between its output devices and their software solutions. The company also works with ColorLogic for metallic printing, allowing its metallic inkjet printer/cutters to easily integrate into a commercial printing workflow for metallic label production.
Additionally, Roland’s VersaWorks RIP software provides new features including spot color management and variable data printing. The new Pantone libraries streamline the color management process between wide format and commercial printing systems. The software also offers new spot color replacement features, allowing designers to quickly and easily replace a spot color from within the design file with any other option included in one of the VersaWorks libraries.
Enhanced Ink Sets
The development of metallic and white ink is especially beneficial to the label printing industry. Many wide format printers have adopted the option, increasing the value of the output for end users.
“White ink enables printing on clear and reflective label media. Metallic ink allows a designer to elevate a brand message with metallic and pearlescent images and effects,” says Tu. Additionally, clear ink can be applied to designs to simulate embossing and varnishing effects in matte and gloss finishes.
“All of these options can be priced at a premium, up to 30 or 40 percent more than traditional CMYK jobs, making specialized label production a great profit center for the PSP,” adds Tu.
While the ability to include white and metallic is certainly available, Michelle Johnson, marketing coordinator, Mutoh America, Inc., suggests that the capability is new to the digital eco-solvent printing industry and finds that most label printers stick to the four-color process.
Advanced ink sets and improved software and workflow solutions stand out as key enhancements in wide format print in terms of label production. However, additional trends affect the space as well.
For one, advanced take up systems are now available to support heavier rolls and longer unattended production runs. Tu notes that these systems further bridge the gap between wide format devices and commercial label presses.
Additionally, new media options present new opportunities. “Shops equipped with UV LED printer/cutters now print short-run labels on the same stock used in commercial printing, for results that closely match the commercial runs,” says Tu. He predicts the greatest change in the label printing world will likely come from media providers. “Already, we are seeing a wave of new materials that yield excellent results on wide format devices, including UV and eco-solvent platforms,” he adds.
The Future of Labels