By Melissa Donovan
Part 3 of 3
Flexographic printing maintains a stronghold in the label market, ideal for static, long runs. While shorter runs are certainly the norm, that isn’t to say it is the end all be all of label production. For print shops with both flexographic and digital capabilities, the flexibility to provide customers both long and short runs is a key component to their continued success.
The Short/Long Combo
Creative Labels of Gilroy, CA celebrates over two decades in business. What began with two employees now includes 27 working out a 18,000 square foot production plant. The space allows for label converting, digital and flexographic printing with graphic support, and the production of IRC and hinged/peel and reveal labels, also referred to as extended content labels. Markets served include food and beverage, produce, track-and-trace, medical devices, healthy and beauty, industrial, wine and spirits, cannabis, and desktop printer labels.
According to Sandy Franzen, president and founder, and Chris Martin, VP and co-owner, Creative Labels, the company has had digital technologies in place for about 15 years. Its first digital printer was a desktop Primera Technology, Inc. and its use confirmed what Franzen and Martin had begun to consider—it needed a larger digital machine to fulfill its short-run label run requirements. At the time, these requests didn’t fit the flexographic presses.
“Those short runs often were a combination of several items as well, which made it literally impossible to offer our customers a reasonably priced solution. Some design features also lend themselves better to digital because of the tight registration and very small copy,” explain Franzen and Martin.
Its next foray into digital was the Epson SurePress, offering six-color printing using CMYK plus orange and green. “It is a great press, but we were looking for more speed and also the ability to print opaque white and run clear films,” say Franzen and Martin.
Creative Label continued its education in digital label printing, adding a toner-based press and then as of today running a Xeikon. The Xeikon meets needs like speed, the ability to run standard label stocks, and featuring opaque white plus CMYK. “We picked this press also because it was much more seamless to be able to run a customer’s label either digitally or flexographically, depending on run size and occasionally lead time,” they share.
Upgrades and Familiar Products
With the Xeikon being a toner-based press, any label stock that was run flexography can also be run on the digital device including semi-gloss paper, polypropylene white and clear films, thermal transfer label stock, and various wine label materials. Many are purchased from Acucote Inc. In addition to label stocks, non-adhesive papers and films are also compatible.
Creative Labels’ flexographic press recently got an upgrade—with the addition of a new Domino North America K600i UV inkjet press. “It can print at up to 400 feet per minute with variable codes, numbering, or images for track-and-trace as well as other applications, which could also include serialized tickets.”
The digital finishing equipment located in house is a Grafisk Maskinfabrik A/S semi-rotary finishing unit with the capability to varnish, laminate, and one print station for a spot varnish or print color. Lamination includes gloss clear, matte clear, texture, and some security options. While most of the laminates used are self-wound, there are also laminates where the adhesive needs to be applied manually.
Taking it a step further, the Creative Labels team is excited to add a laser die cutting device, specifically the SEI Labelmaster from Matik, Inc., which eliminates tooling to reduce lead time and upfront costs like dies. While the digital department’s current monthly volume is around $100,000 to $125,000, the company hopes to easily double that number and grow business more rapidly with the SEI Labelmaster.
Adding digital printing to its label production provides flexibility on many levels. First, a customer’s order can be taken and run on either platform depending on the shop’s workload that day. This also provides the flexibility when it comes to meeting customers’ needs, which is something Creative Labels strives to do every day.
Read part two, Caring for Labels
Oct2021, Industrial Print Magazine