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Moving From Digital to "Flexo", the Tipping Point

There are a variety of ways to produce custom labels.  Two of the most popular methods are flexographic printing, also known as “flexo”, and digital printing. 

This blog will take a close look at both printing methods and help you decide which is right for your label.

Flexography is a printing process that utilizes plates made from rubber or plastic to transfer an image to a substrate.  This flexible plate is wrapped around a printing cylinder and adhered with sticky tape.  These plates pickup ink and transfer the image to the label material or substrate.   Due to its use of fast drying inks, it becomes a high speed printing process and is an extremely popular method within the food industry.  The substrate shoots rapidly through the press, resulting in speedy, economical and high quality label production.  Flexographic label printing is ideal for larger runs of custom printed labels.  Because of the high speed and volume capabilities of the press, flexo is typically a more economical alternative to other printing processes.  This printing method affords a wide assortment of materials and technical capabilities.  It is versatile and can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including polypropylene films, metallic films, and many papers.  Flexo does well printing metallic inks and opaque whites; flexo inks anchor well on a broad range of materials including polyester, polypropylene, florescent labels, vinyl labels, and most coated papers.  Most flexographic printing companies have the ability to make photopolymer plates on site.  Photopolymer plates withstand millions of impressions.  Plates, along with the presses inking system, can deliver a predetermined amount of ink with minimum on-press adjustments.  These fast-drying inks can be solvent based, water based or ultraviolet (UV) curable.  Flexographic printing is constantly evolving and manufacturers are taking successful steps to make flexo even more productive, cost effective, and sustainable while printing with even more consistent quality.

Digital printing is commonly used for short run, full color labels.  This process does not require plates, which makes it easy to implement changes or run multiple lots. 

Digital printing gives labels the professional appearance without the professional cost.

Labels can be printed easily with variable data.  This allows consumers to personalize labels with customer’s names or account numbers. Digital printing relies on CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key – black), also called 4-color process.  Digital printing is an excellent option for short runs with multiple designs.  The set-up costs for digital labels can be an ideal solution for smaller companies or those wishing to purchase a small quantity of product labels.  Also, the turnaround time for digital labels is quicker by eliminating the set-up time needed to create plates and set up presses.  One of the key advantages of digital printing is the accuracy of the proofing it allows.  Extremely detailed samples can be made of your print job quickly and cost effectively, enabling you to hold a sample in your hands that will be replicated in the final print run.

Digital printing has emerged as a viable option for customers to get high quality on smaller print jobs while also keeping costs down.   It has actually helped make flexo an even better process because of what it forced flexo to accomplish: better registration, rapid changeover, wider color gamut and higher quality prepress. 

 

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Topics: digital printing Large Run Printing flexographic label printing

Digital Label Printing- Cutting Costs One Plate at a Time.

So what the heck is digital label printing all about and can your company benefit from it? Let's find out! Digital label printing is still a relatively new form of printing however, it has been growing in demand and popularity since it's inception. A digital press is basically like a gigantic, high color copy machine.

The ideal digital label printing candidate is looking to print about 10,000 custom labels or less depending on size. Ideally, it is any job for a printer that is approximately 6,500 feet of material or less that is running through the press. Another key point to note is that digital printing is usually comprised of 4 color process. Often times, businesses can still create high impact labels that are 4CP and get outstanding quality on a digital label. Digital printing can significantly lower the cost of production for a printer by combining aspects of pre-press, production, and finishing all in to one machine. 

There are cost savings for the customer as well. A tremendous cost savings for customers going digital is in the absence of plate charges! Not to mention that the dies for a piece of digital finishing equipment can be hundreds of dollars less than a die for a flexographic press. Printing digital labels generally will not produce nearly as much waste as printing flexographically and there is significantly less set up time involved as well. 

If you have a company with short runs of labels or even long runs with multiple skus then you may want to have your work quoted digitally. In the past year we have seen a coffee company with literally over one hundred skus ordering anywhere between 30 to 40 skus at a time over the course of about fifty thousand labels. Can you imagine how much money they would of had to pay in plate charges to get all of those skus set up?? If you are keeping your work with a printer who can't run your work digitally you may be getting nickel and dimed on plate charges and new die costs. Your quality may be suffering too- digital labels are typically higher quality than flexo labels. Just as with the differences between analog and digital processes, there is less potential for discrepancies from label to label on a digital press. However, don't count out great flexo press operators as often times a talented press operator can match the quality of a digital label.

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Topics: four color process 4CP labels digital printing Pressure Sensitive Labels

Is Your Label Printer Color Blind??

In today's digital environment where most communication occurs online, getting color consistency can be a challenge for some printers. If your printer is color blind, your business could be suffering! We had a chance to sit down with our pre-press department this week to talk about getting color right the first time around. Here is what Clayton Nau, resident expert on color, had to say about it.

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Obtaining predictable color reproduction in the digital age can be a huge challenge because each device - camera, scanner, monitor, or printer - responds to or produces color differently.

Color Science is a big world, and producing accurate color means taking steps and putting into practice good color management. We use the EFI Colorproof XF Color Management System.  Using a dedicated Color Rip (computer) and a state of the art quality proofing device (large-format multi-color ink jet printer), we can produce proofs for our customers that best represent what their label will look like.

We have created our own custom color profiles that allow our proofing devices to match the expected output from our press. Essentially we have fingerprinted our presses to our pre-press proofing system so the customer sees a proof that is identical to what their label will look like. This allows us to compare our color-managed output to industry standard profiles and make adjustments to the output file so the printed piece looks like the label the customer is looking for.

Also, if a specific label changes from a digital print job to a flexo-printed label, or there is a stock or finishing change, we can better anticipate any color shifts that might occur because of these changes and make adjustments accordingly. This can be advantageous for companies who's volumes are getting to that tipping point of moving on to a flexo press from a digital one.

Today, more and more customers supply digital files to us without any hard-copy proof, making color management even more important.  In a perfect world, you push a button and the perfect label pops out.  In the real world, a lot of talented, professional people work hard to assure a print job meets the customer’s expectations.  Color management is one of the fine tools we use to make great looking printed labels a reality.

Stay tuned for more information on printing and how to improve the quality of your labels! Thanks for tuning in!

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Topics: digital printing Color match issues for labels color consistency color inconsistency labels flexographic label printing

Beer Labels With Dynamic Numbering Flying Off Shelves!

Beer labels with "Dynamic Numbering" are flying off the shelves in New Hampshire! Local New Hampshire brewery White Birch Brewing has been brewing beer commercially since June of 2009. In a short time span the company has grown very well due to excellent micro brew beer and a unique approach to label design made possible by Digital Printing.

Not only is White Birch Brewing a great beer maker, but they also support local business when it comes to selecting vendors. With the addition of a new 7 barrel brewing system at their brewery in Hooksett, NH the company has been brewing close to 10,000 bottles of beer a month and sometimes more. 

Label design is important in an industry that is flooded; and with the gaining popularity of micro brew beer in America in recent years Brian Parda (Director of Marketing and Sales at WBB) and Bill Herlicka (Founder and Master Brewer) knew that they needed a unique label that would stand out in a crowd. Their approach was simple yet highly effective: use dynamic numbering on their labels. In the label biz we refer to this as variable data

Digital printing is a new technology that has allowed for short run multiple sku/lot printing to be cost effective and superior in quality. White Birch Brewing needed just that. Many of the beers that are made at WBB are limited in quantity and Brian and Bill wanted to convey that to the customer. If you look at the WBB label you notice almost immediately that the bottles are numbered dynamically. Want to buy a bottle of Bill's Belgian Style Pale Ale? Well, then you might appreciate knowing that you got bottle number 47 of 240, or 48 of 240, or possibly even bottle number 1 of 240. The WBB label itself will tell you.

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Here is what Brian Parda had to say about Label Tech Inc:

When we designed our labels, we wanted to showcase all the information beer lovers want to know about their beer. We also wanted to feature the size of our small batch production by numbering each bottle. LabelTech's ability to provide us with high quality digital printing and sequential numbering allowed us to do just that.

So if you get a chance to pick up a bottle of White Birch Brewing company's beer any time soon make sure you take a look at the label, it could be a number worth holding on to.

 

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Topics: four color process 4CP labels digital printing Beer Labels Variable Data Dynamic Numbering multiple sku printing Pressure Sensitive Labels

What the Heck is Four-Color Process? AKA 4CP.

What the heck is four-color process or what is commonly referred to as full color? Well, don’t feel bad about not knowing or having limited knowledge on the subject. In flexographic printing and digital printing it is good to have a brief understanding of what 4CP stands for and what it can do for your labels. CMYK and full color are both commonly referred to terms in label printing. Full color is not anything special so don't worry about your friends laughing at you for not understanding what it means. It is just a commonly referred to term for 4CP. CMYK is important. CMYK refers to the colors that are used in four-color process: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The true meaning of the K is for Key Plate, however to make things simple let's just refer to it as the black plate. Click here to find out about our prepress department. Printing in 4CP allows for the printer to construct any color in the Pantone (PMS) book from these four colors. In doing so it allows the graphic designer who is creating your labels to get way more creative in designing your labels.

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Side note: if you want a "spot color" then you are referring to us picking an actual PMS number out of the pantone book. If you look in a "bridge" book then you can see the difference between making a color out of 4CP versus using the actual color itself. It is a subtle difference but good to take in to consideration when designing a label.

The CMYK process works by partially or entirely subtracting reflective light from whatever surface it is covering. In most cases the surface is white and often times when a Flexographic printer is printing on clear surfaces they will first lay down a coat of white to get a better color reflection, much like a painter laying down a base coat. 

Label Tech Inc has become an expert at four-color process printing. We run 4CP on many of our flexographic Mark Andy presses and we also run 4CP on our digital press. 

Printing a four-color process image and then laying down one or more spot colors can make for a label that has pop or more shelf appeal then your competitors. Stay tuned for more info from Label Tech Inc on labels and labeling. 

Topics: four color process 4CP labels label tech inc digital printing salsa label multiple sku printing Color match issues for labels color consistency color inconsistency labels coupon labels Pressure Sensitive Labels beverage labels food labels flexographic label printing cosmetic labels pharmaceutical labels consumer product labels

Color Match Issues for Food Labels Conquered by Label Tech Inc Again!

Virginia Chutney is a family owned company based in Rappahannock county, VA. The company has been making specialty chutney's ranging in flavors from Balsamic Fig to Spicy Plum, Rhubarb and many others since Clare and Neville Turner founded the company and settled in VA. 

As a manufacturer of specialty chutneys the company grew and eventually needed a line for filling jars. Once the line was set up to run it was time to order food labels. Filling jars that are hot fill can be tricky when it is time for labeling. When the product is filled in the jar, often times the jar remains hot for some time. Placing a label on a hot jar may sound simple, but if your flexographic label printer isn't adhesive savy, it can make for messy labels. Their label problems didn't end with poor adhesive selection. 

Virginia Chutney was also experiencing issues with consistent label color. If your label printer is sending you inconsistent labels with every shipment, chances are either one of two things is going on: one, he's not printing the labels for you and he's subbing out the work to other printers each time for to find the best margins to make money off of you. If you are buying from a print distributor instead of going direct to a label manufacturer you are most likely paying 15-30% more than you should be for your labels. Or two- he doesn't know what he's doing. If you combine the issues that Virginia Chutney was having with their labels, chances are that's enough for you to look at a new vendor. 

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Label Tech Inc is also a family owned and operated business and they were ready to make a difference for Virginia Chutney. 

Solving color issues is something we are very familiar with. Virginia Chutney has many different products that are all run with the same size label. This allowed Label Tech Inc to switch them over to a digital press for superior four color process label printing and unmatched color consistency. Our HP Indigo Digital press sits in a climate controlled room and our press operators mark down all the color readings on the job ticket. This allowed our press operators to match color exactly on all future repeat orders for Virginia Chutney. 

Freezer grade adhesive allowed us to run hot fill labels for them with no bubbling or peeling of the label after it was applied to the hot jar. Simple solutions are easy once you've been down that road before. Here is what Clare Turner had to say about Label Tech Inc's most recent order for Virginia Chutney: 

Just wanted to thank you for doing such a wonderful job with the Cranfiggy labels - we asked for a rushed job on a small amount of labels and then sent you the wrong UPC and yet you still managed to get them to us well ahead of time.

Our experience with printers has always been complicated but working with Label Tech Inc is a joy and we will recommend you at every opportunity we get.  We will be at the Fancy Food Show (Booth 3026) next week and if you plan to attend please try and visit us.

Thanks very much

Clare

Clare Turner
The Virginia Chutney Company

Label Tech Inc has over 25 years of experience in the label manufacturing business. We have been ISO Certified since 1998 and have a quality control procedure in place for every thing that we do. Please allow us to fix your label problems or take a look at us as a new vendor. 

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Topics: four color process 4CP labels label tech inc digital printing hot fill labels glass jar labeling bubbling labels label not sticking label application multiple sku printing Color match issues for labels color consistency color inconsistency labels in line labeling chutney labels labels peeling Pressure Sensitive Labels food labels flexographic label printing food label printer
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