By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Wide format shops may consider entering the label business by integrating a narrow format digital label printer into their shop. In part one of this two-part series, we discuss narrow format label printing trends that pertain to print service providers (PSPs) who already have wide format devices.
Wide to Narrow
Narrow format label machines—usually around the 13-inch print width mark—offer high-speed traditional label production. Label applications range from promotional items to personal care products.
Emily Kroll, business director, Durst Image Technology US LLC, believes that narrow format label printing provides faster print speeds, higher quality print, and offers customers flexibility and efficiency to design size, shape, and color match instantaneously.
Narrow format label printers also allow wide format PSPs to handle short runs. “A traditional wide format press often requires threading a significant amount of media through the machine and working with much larger rolls of media,” says Andy Scherz, senior product manager, commercial label printers, Epson.
He explains that the paper path on a typical narrow format printer is simpler and loads quickly from a smaller eight-inch roll. Therefore, the label is ready to be printed on the very edge of the material—reducing waste. Scherz adds, “it is quick and efficient to handle short-run printing very cost effectively.”
From a digital standpoint, Joseph D. Falcone, label and packaging sales manager, upper Midwest, Screen Americas, believes narrow format label printing provides true in time and on demand production, including applications like fraud protection, security, and variable labeling.
Wide format print providers may turn down requests or outsource for label quotes if they don’t have the production capabilities. Narrow format label presses provide print providers with the necessary tools to serve small jobs. The more services printers offer, the less likely they will lose business. Kroll believes, “by providing more value, you can strengthen your position in an account.”
Wide format label printers cater to high levels of production. But, it may not be cost efficient to run wide format devices for smaller jobs. With the addition of narrow label printing, wide format PSPs offer shorter runs of personalized labels. “The narrow web label segment is growing rapidly and for some print providers, this market may be a natural transition, given their existing customer base,” adds Kroll.
Juan Kim, CEO, Valloy Incorporation, explains that because narrow label printing handles short-run productions of less than 5,000 labels, the labels are repeated printing of the same image—creating less manpower for design and proofing required per print.
“It is also possible to offer higher value with special effects or post processing, like embossing, metal foiling, varnishing, white printing, slitting, and die cutting,” he adds.
Wide format PSPs that add a narrow format label press face a broader material range than wide format. Kroll says PSPs need to become accustomed to qualifying and quoting different types of materials. The workflow for narrow format label applications is also different.
“This may need a learning process for file handling, color management, and quality control. Some experience and knowledge in the quality criteria process for labels will also require an adjustment,” explains Kroll.
Scherz believes the transition for wide format PSPs is minimal, adding that narrow format printers are simpler to use than wide format presses. He says, “they may not be able to duplicate all of the capabilities of a wide format press, but in exchange, they deliver stunning quality with very little expertise.”
Falcone adds that wide format PSPs must adapt to working with rolls instead of sheets and how to handle those materials. “Otherwise, the learning curve is quite quick,” he says.
By implementing a narrow format label press, wide format print shops strengthen their customer bases and job intake. Kroll believes single-pass UV inkjet presses generate roughly $3M per year in revenue.
Scherz agrees and says wide format PSPs can expect income from new customers and savings from more efficient utilization of their larger presses. “The simplicity in handling new short runs offers the PSP an excellent opportunity to market to new users. It’s a lot easier to get a new user to try out a few short-run samples than to shift their larger jobs to a new supplier.”
Finding the right technology partner is key for a wide format PSP’s successful transition into narrow format label printing. “A PSP should choose a partner who is established in the industry and has a reputation for building reliable, high-quality products,” says Kroll. She suggests identifying partners that manufacture both large format equipment and narrow web label presses. “These companies make the transition from large format printing to narrow web label printing seamless.”
Scherz advises wide format PSPs consider the print quality and reliability of narrow format label printers. The print quality should be high enough that the finished product meets the customer’s requirements. However, that may not be enough. He explains that many narrow web printers are based on core technologies that yield inconsistent print quality and frequent failures. PSPs need to know that the first label, last label, and all in between will look the same and the printer delivers the output on a committed schedule.
Compatibility with various media including paper and film affects revenue. “If you need to print on specially coated media only, the cost is too high,” says Kim. Software should also be highly functional and easy to learn, he continues.
Falcone suggests PSPs consider consistent quality, ease of use, maintenance, and uptime for implementing the perfect narrow format label printer into a wide format shop.
Narrow format devices for label printing are ideal for wide format PSPs looking to increase label production. Narrow format allows shortened set up time, waste reduction, and ease of use. In part two of this series, we provide a roundup of available narrow format digital presses.
Jun2017, Industrial Print Magazine