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Pharmaceutical label printing: this is how it’s done

Labels Pharmaceutical label printing: this is how it’s done


by Danny Mertens

Not one label is the same - different applications require different digital technology, which is precisely why printing is such an exciting business. Wine & spirits, food, beverages, durables, health & beauty or industrial chemicals: every label comes with its own aesthetic and functional requirements. In this article, we focus on pharmaceutical labels, which are often printed on certified substrates and require special attention in terms of brand protection and anti-counterfeiting.

Pharma labels

Pharmaceutical labels include drug and medical labels, among others. These differ from any other type in that they are often subject to counterfeiting. To protect brands from such bad practices, label converters have to invest in additional brand protection measures, such as micro text and raised images. Apart from that, pharmaceutical labels require fine details and are often printed on certified substrate.

For these circumstances, digital dry toner technology is recommended.

1) Image quality of pharmaceutical labels

Above anything else, pharmaceutical labels need to be clearly legible for the end user, even the smallest letters and number. For the label converter, this means an investment in high-resolution printing technology. For this, digital presses equipped with dry toner are your best choice, as they can achieve a print resolution of 1200 dpi and give consistent results.

In other words, every label will look exactly the same - which is simply unattainable with UV inkjet, where variation is almost unavoidable. Any malfunction of the nozzle has a direct impact on print quality.

Other technologies (liquid toner and UV inkjet) have a lower resolution of 800 - 360 dpi.

2) Brand protection

In order to outsmart counterfeiters label converters and brand owners can do three things:

  • Build counterfeit deterrence, product authentication and brand protection technologies into the design of the label or package from the very beginning.
  • Combine technologies so as to provide the most effective overall brand protection solution.
  • Try and make each individual package or label unique.
  • Change the solutions on a frequent basis in order to keep ahead of the counterfeiter


In other words, it’s all about being unique, being able to distinguish the genuine product from the fake one. The 1200 dpi Xeikon with dry toner technology does just that.

3) Certified substrates

The substrates used by the pharmaceutical industry are in many cases certified by the brand owner. Altering the composition can lead to requalification, which is highly undesirable both for the printer and the brand owner. Dry toner provides the ability to print on all standard materials without any primer or pretreatment.


In order to achieve high-quality results that are hard to counterfeit and that can be used on certified substrates, digital printing technology with dry toner is essential. The Xeikon CX3 combines a number of useful features for pharmaceutical label converters, such as:

  • superb label printing quality (true 1200 dpi)
  • printing speed up to 30m/min
  • seamless digital front-end integration
  • full-rotary printing
  • great service


End-use label application Dry toner UV inkjet
Food xx not recommended
Beverage xx (offset quality) xx (tactile look and feel)
Wine & Spirits xx too challenging a material
Pharma xx (finest detail in print) Xeikon CX3
Durable / Industrial Varnish or lamination required xx (durability)
Health & beauty xx (offset quality) xx (tactile look and feel)
Chemical Varnish or lamination required xx (durability)

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More on food label printing? Would you like a more in-depth look at the different digital printing technologies?

For our complete digital label press line-up, visit our label pages.

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