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Sign makers move further into self-adhesive labels – Andy McCourt

In our weekly survey last September 10th, we asked the question: "Is self-adhesive labels a natural market for sign producers and should they invest in higher-productivity 'narrow-web' digital printers?" The news that Next Printing has moved into serious digital label capacity adds a 'QED' answer.

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Wide format devices are already printing short runs of labels, such as this RolandDG at Aldine


Lo and behold, a major Sydney Sign company – Next Printing of St Peters, Sydney, run by CEO Tom Tjanaria and managing director Romeo Sanuri – has entered the label sector in a big way, buying an HP Indigo 6900 with ABG Digicon finishing line at Labelexpo Europe this month.Next logo 2019 PNG 1000x1000

It comes as no surprise that a leading wide format and digital printing company should move in this direction. Many sign shops with Print & Cut devices or printers with nearline cutters from Roland DG, Mutoh, HP, Epson, Mimaki and others, already produce low volumes of labels on their wide format devices, kiss-cut and ready for application by peeling them off the release liner.

One label printer I visited in Cairns a few years back, a great FNQ company, Aldine Printers, with flexo for long runs;  had a bank of I recall, five Roland DG print & cut devices looking after their digital short run and oversize work.

The inexorable march of digital and hybrid digital/flexo in labels and manufacturers covering both bases, makes it an easier transition for sign businesses that other sectors. Look at the supply side:

HP – supply wide format and label presses

Epson – wide format galore and 3 label press models

Screen – supply wide format (they own Inca) and inkjet label presses

Durst – big in wide format and showed Tau label presses at PrintEx

Canon – wide format, own Oce and showed the LabelStream press at Labelexpo

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Examples of HP Indigo digital label applications

There’s a message behind all this – if you can access label customers and provide the kind of services they demand – sign shops can develop a profitable new sector. You probably won’t get to the ‘big end’ of mass brand marketing because the capacity of major label players such as Multi-Color, CCL, Rapid, Hally Labels, Adhesif, Label Makers, QLM, Peacock Bros etc. is really huge and involves dozens of big Flexo and Offset converting lines trundling along at up to 230 linear metres per minute; but the market is slowly moving to short runs, variable data and print-on-demand rather than print-to-stock.

Micro manufacturing (craft beers and Gins are good examples), also favours digital label printing and even big brands have experimented with personalised labels.

Globally, the label market ( mostly pressure-sensitive or self-adhesive) is estimated at USD$ 42 billion and will reach USD$49 billion by 2024 (source, www.smitherspira.com and others). In Australia and New Zealand, it’s estimated as a $1 billion industry and growing at 4-6% annually.

HP Indigo’s liquid toner devices rule the roost in number of installations but inkjet is growing faster and tends to be much faster in production, now up to 80-100 linear metres per minute which is approaching Flexo speeds.

Well done Next Printing, we wish you success and will follow your progress in labels manufacturing with interest.

What did our readers say in answer to the survey question? Here’s a few examples:

  • No -it's a distraction (Anon, Qld)
  • Print and Cut machines will enable you to do labels but mostly these are the 'sticker' kind. Proper product labels, beer, wine, foods etc, are done in huge quantities and require a dedicated press and often further embellishment. So stick to stickers. (Anon, NSW)
  • Yes to first part of question, no to second part because those specialist label printers cost half a million and upwards - set up a separate label business if you want to do that. (Anon, NSW)
  • We were doing stickers on a Roland Versacamm then had to buy another to keep up with demand. Eventually added a VIP desktop roll label printer which is faster and more manageable using proper label rolls. Rolands still better for contour shapes unless you buy a digital finisher. Labels are a good add-on service to our sign customers. (Anon, Qld)
  • The big-end of labels will always be the domain of the major label printers with specialised equipment and skills. SMEs and cottage industries represent a good market for sign printers who have print&cut or one of those desktop roll label printers. (Anon, SA)
  • You have to think of how the labels are applied - if they are just peeled off and manually stuck on, yes fine. If they are used in an automatic application line like for bottles etc, then forget it 'cause you'll need $2 million machines and fancy embellishing like foil, emboss, Uv coating and so forth. (Anon, NSW)
  • Imagine the same question in reverse - should label printers go into signs? The answer would be no - different markets, different businesses. (Anon, Qld)

The best answer obviously comes from Next Printing, who have put their money down on a very hot digital label line including converting!

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