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Innovations in short-run digital printing – what will the future bring?

Labels Short runs


by Danny Mertens

Digital printing has not been around nearly as long as conventional methods. However, the changes it has brought forth in this limited time are nothing short of impressive. The speed with which digital short-run innovations are finding their way to label converters everywhere might make you wonder how long this will continue. What other innovations are there to come and will these be worthwhile? In this article we glimpse into the future and try to predict the most important digital innovations yet to come.

Innovations in short-run digital printing – what will the future bring?

Before exploring the future though, let’s first take a look at the present. The major technical achievement of digital printing is that it allows converters to take on short-run jobs and do so profitably. Having no print plates and thus virtually no setup costs has made it economically viable to focus on short-run jobs.


Choose your technology wisely

However, with new technology the question always remains if there is something better at the horizon. Spending a lot of money on innovations that, one year later, seem to be outdated, is a risk no sensible businessman is willing to take. Therefore, label printers should pick their battles wisely. Always choose technology in function of your business needs. If a press goes 10 m/min or 10 ft/min faster or slower, it does not mean it is better. At the end, what counts is that the press is productive, serving your market right and if your staff can work efficiently with the technology. Also, make sure you have a stable and reliable platform backed by a long-term supplier.


Optimizing the digital workflow

At Xeikon we are also very excited about innovations in the digital front-end and workflow area. The workflow of a digital label printing business consists of two parts: the job order workflow (administration) and the job design workflow (artwork). The first consists of processes that have to do with job orders and specifications which affect the entire company; the second one involves the actual design of what is to be printed. Optimizing the digital label printing workflow is an ever ongoing process. Reducing turnaround times while maintaining the same quality standard is an essential part of the success of your label printing business.


All-in digital solution for high-end labels

We are convinced that our Fusion technology – currently in beta testing – will allow true digital combination printing. It includes embellishment modules (foiling, spot varnish, tactile varnish, …), driven by digital printing processes that are positioned before and/or after Xeikon's five-color press. The resulting configuration produces a digitally printed and embellished label or packaging in one go with the digital front-end taking care of the prepress, data processing, color management, press operation and operation of all embellishment modules.


Fusion technology eliminates costs of conventional tooling equipment, while at the same time setting the stage for variability and personalization. As a result, label printers are presented with a whole bunch of opportunities for new high-end label applications. They can produce virtually any label or packaging on demand. Fusion technology makes it possible to do instant reruns of previous jobs because all the necessary parameters are in one digital file. And because converters no longer need to invest in expensive embellishment tools, they will be able to produce short runs with high added-value cost-effectively.

It is clear that the innovations in digital printing are far from over. We will continue to see improvements in many areas that will make it even more interesting for label converters to invest in short-run print technology.