“It’s about optimisation of supply chain management,” says Bui Burke, Screen Europe. “And that suits digital printing. The stars are aligning for digital printing.”
And that demands that digital printing is a robust, predictable production tool at the same time as brands are wanting to innovate with their products.
It is less Heinz with 57 varieties that a million housewives every day will pick up, it is about a brand that wants to deliver 75 different choices of tea, he says. “Brand owners want more Skus. They want to be able to change design and relaunch, using labels to do this. And this seems to be driving the investment.”
Screen’s first Labelexpo was in 2015 with a couple of machines, one never to be seen again. Now it has 150 machines installed worldwide, 85 in Europe, with a number of customers on their second or third machine.
Screen’s L350 is a UV label press, now using LED to pin the ink ahead of a full cure. It expands the range of substrates available to print on.
Another version is able to print with low migration inks for food safe print. But the real difference, according to Burke, comes from Screen’s heritage in understanding colour and in integration from commercial print. “Being able to integrate the presses into MIS is very very important. And inline finishing needs to integrate with the website, which is where we have experience,” he explains.
Now the latest generation of machines, due for first installations in Q2 next year, will take throughput to 80m/minute. It is not a short run press any longer. Nor is it only about labels. A UK customer is producing pouches, for example. Shrink sleeves are growing and inline embellishment is likewise developing fast.
The potential of inkjet has not gone unnoticed by substrate suppliers. “The likes of Avery Dennison and other material suppliers are starting to put a lot of work into inkjet. We may have had problems with some stocks in the past, we are both learning how to print on them.”
Screen has learned about double sides printing, rewinding and printing on the reverse side of a yoghurt pot lid, for example, without any risk of ink set off from the top of the substrate to the bottom when printing to rewind.