By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Fast turnaround times, minimal material waste, and little to no setup attract manufacturers to use digital printing in the creation of a number of applications. Investing in this technology for color management and value-added features is also a consideration, especially when it comes to label printing.
Founded in 1978, Amherst Label started as a home business in Amherst, NH. The company outsourced its label printing before purchasing its first equipment in 1980. Today, it is a labels and packaging manufacturer operating in a 32,000 square foot facility in Milford, NH. With 56 employees, the company’s capabilities include digital, flexographic, and screenprinting for the Northeast.
Amherst Labels produces flexible packaging and custom labels for bottles and beverages, direct mail, nutraceutical, personal care products, and specialty foods. The manufacturer also creates static cling labels, double-sided window decals, newspaper notes, and flexible packaging in addition to gold, silver, and holographic foils.
In 2004, Amherst Labels invested in digital label printing with a Canon U.S.A., Inc. press adapted to print labels. The company experimented with several digital presses including a Xanté Corporation label press and table-top printer for small sticker runs.
Looking to extend its digital printing capabilities, the company invested in a Domino N610i label press in late 2016. It combines the productivity of flexographic printing with digital technology’s flexibility. It offers a 13-inch maximum print width, up to seven colors, 600 dpi resolution, and operating speeds up to 246 feet per minute.
“For reproduction quality, our Domino digital press is second to none. Four-color printing plus an extra orange and violet assure true full-color reproduction, consistent from the beginning of the run to the end,” says Nye Hornor, VP, operations, sales and marketing, Amherst Labels.
Today, 14 percent of Amherst Label’s production is completed with digital printing. The manufacturer operates the Domino N610i18 hours a day and uses it to manufacture high-quality, multi-color labels and variable data printing in black.
“With no plates and no plate charges, digital label printing starts out competitive in price,” explains Hornor. “Just factor in the ease and speed of ordering only the quantities needed. You won’t need to invest in label inventories just for quantity price breaks. Instead, order what you need, when you need them, at a cost-effective price.”
To house the Domino N610i, Amherst Labels constructed an exclusive space in its manufacturing facility with temperature and humidity controls, ventilation, and easy access to the art department. “Our Domino room took a great deal of upfront planning by Scott Vander-Heyden, VP of manufacturing; his team, our purchasing/facilities/IT manager, Jim Cutler; and others, but the planning paid off and the area has worked beautifully,” shares Hornor.
Amherst Labels uses Domino inks and Domino-approved stocks for its labels production. Domino’s UV-curable inks are designed for industry-standard self-adhesive label substrates like coated paper, polypropylene, polyethylene, and shrink sleeves.
The Domino N610i label press and Domino inks are intended for label applications in automotive, chemical, food and beverage, health and safety, home, industrial, personal care, pharmaceutical, and security sectors. According to Hornor, food and beverage industries are often in need of digitally printed manufactured items especially for specialty foods, wine, beer, and spirits. He offers, “food and beverage are growth industries for digital printing because it’s practical to run batches of any size.”
The manufacturer prepares art files with Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Illustrator, and Esko production workflow software. Alongside the Domino press, Amherst Labels uses a CEI Boss finisher for die cutting.
In digital label production, Hornor finds short turnaround times are the most popular client demand. “With unforgiving time constraints, there is no room for error. Quality is everyone’s job from order entry to delivery,” he explains. In addition to its Domino label press, the company keeps turnaround times short by adhering to a strategic plan designed for employees. “As manufacturers in the ever-changing digital world, we must focus on progress and improvement because that is what our customers expect.”
In 2018, Amherst Labels started an in-house marketing project to demonstrate its digital capabilities and promote its new label stock from Green Bay Packaging Inc. Green Bay Packaging offers coated label products and specialty papers like marking paper, brown natural kraft, translucent paper, and cherry wood veneer.
Amherst Labels averages seven marketing projects annually. “We target specific markets with monthly mailers often offering discounts and updates,” explains Hornor. “Major in-house projects for marketing are a great example of our digital capabilities and how we challenge them.”
The manufacturer’s marketing department designed three textured wine bottle labels to showcase its digital capabilities. The 2.625×3.625-inch labels were designed and prepared in Adobe Illustrator.
With the Domino N610i, Amherst Labels printed 1,000 labels for each of the three designs. The wine bottle labels were printed in full color plus white on custom stock. Hornor offers, “we do some pretty fresh and innovative direct mail pieces but this one had more variations of sample labels created for it.”
From job submittal to finished product, Amherst Labels printed 3,000 wine labels in seven days. During the job, Hornor anticipated challenges with the new label stock. “Trying a new stock requires entering unknown territory and we all considered this project an experiment. Just in case the custom stock didn’t work well, we made a variation to print on our tried-and-true coated stock of choice as a backup,” he explains.
After the textured labels were printed, the company decided to use the untextured versions of the design. Amherst Labels was satisfied with the completed wine bottle labels and mailed the direct mailers to 200 targeted accounts. “A very busy production schedule led us to go with the untextured versions of the label for this mailer. The results are eye catching and beautiful,” says Horner.
Manufacturers like Amherst Labels invest in digital printing technology for limited inventory and printing on demand. Digital printing cost-effectively handles shorter runs and offers a variety of value-added features.
The second part of this series includes a spotlight on a manufacturer that invested in digital printing to produce point of purchase displays.
Apr2018, Industrial Print Magazine