Calculation of production costs for labels, as label printing is possible with both digital and conventional methods
The following image illustrates the chronological development of the different stages involved in current printing systems for self-adhesive labels.
In the view of this author, hybrid printing systems have so far been an intermediate stage towards a fully integrated digital converting system. Even when combination of the processes is well thought-out, operating a hybrid system is very complex and the job spectrum for profitable use is limited.
The small but important difference that a fully integrated digital converting system brings is that the performance data for all conventional finishing processes is adapted to the characteristics of the primary digital print. As production speed plays a less significant role for shorter runs, it is particularly important to ensure efficient changeover between the individual jobs. The waste, setup times and tool costs of the conventional processes must therefore be minimised before integration takes place, so that the disadvantages of conventional printing do not outweigh the advantages of digital printing and therefore prevent the system as a whole from being worthwhile.
For instance, flexographic printing units should only be used for non-format applications such as primers, varnishes and special effects that cannot be produced digitally. A semi-rotary die-cutter with pre-setting is preferable to a rotary die-cutter. Similarly, cold foil embossing is preferable to hot foil due to the lower tool costs.
It is also highly important that the different processes are integrated intelligently to ensure maximum user-friendliness of this inherently complex digital converting system. A standardised user interface with a consistent operating concept is just as important as regular monitoring and management of the individual functions. Examples include having a central control desk for centralised management of all UV and LED dryers and centralised monitoring of all filling levels, or a central cockpit that monitors all the production processes required throughout the system.
Gallus Labelfire 340 – an exemplary integrated digital converting System.
Reference was made above to how difficult it is to gain an overview of the many suppliers of narrow-web digital printing systems for self-adhesive labels. The speed of innovation cycles means there will always be a digital printing system with unique selling points that match the current trends. Making a long-term investment in equipment calls for both a comparison of the technical (digital) specifications of the print system and consideration of even more wide-ranging issues regarding the business partner. The following sample questions can provide an initial framework for selecting a system: