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Shifting to digital label printing – Frequently Asked Questions

Labels Shifting to digital label printing – Frequently Asked Questions


by Danny Mertens

It is perfectly normal at this stage that you have lots of unanswered questions. However, rest assured that adding a digital label printing press to your setup will definitely help your company reach its targets. All it takes is good preparation and thorough knowledge of the technology. To help you with the latter, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions with regard to the Xeikon digital label press technology.

“Why is Xeikon better than any other digital press manufacturer?”

Xeikon is definitely one of the most experienced digital label press manufacturers in the market. In 1993, we introduced the first roll-fed full-color digital press which changed the label converting industry for good. Throughout the years Xeikon has kept on developing new technologies aimed at specific segments of the label printing market, such as self-adhesive labels. Today, we take into account the entire production flow. We are a one-stop-shop offering printing presses, dedicated device workflow, application tuned toners and converting equipment.

In 2015 Xeikon became part of the Flint Group, a large corporation focusing on growth in an international market. Incidentally, Flint Group’s Narrow Web division is the current global market leader in UV inks for SA labels.

Comparing the Xeikon digital label presses with competitors, it quickly shows how truly unique our technology is. For example, our full-rotary press guarantees volume regardless of the number of colors you use. Variable repeat length enables converters to print labels in whatever size they choose, without impacting turnaround times or having to install different printing cylinders.

Xeikon digital label presses come in many different sizes, starting at 10 inches (the Xeikon 3020) to 13 inches (Xeikon 3030, Xeikon 3030 plus, Xeikon 3300, Xeikon CX3) and even up to a massive 20.3 inches (Xeikon 3050 and 3500). Our range of seven machines is the biggest in the market.

“The number of colors in Xeikon’s machines is limited to 5. Doesn’t that limit the color gamut?”

Every digital press prints out of a fixed color pallet. Hence, pantone colors are always simulated out of this pallet. The wider the color gamut, the closer the end result will match the original Pantone. However, in practice digital presses hardly ever print in 7 colors because the added quality doesn’t outweigh the enormous additional costs related to 7 colors. In other words, even if you have 7 colors at your disposal, most label converters are fine with 4 or 5.

“Where is the profitability threshold with digital label printing compared to conventional printing?”

With digital printing there are a number of parameters that influence the break-even point, depending on the print order. At Xeikon, we always advise customers to do a thorough business analysis prior to taking on any print job.

That being said, we do have some general guidelines to decide the break-even point. For a full-color label design printed on a 13 inch press, the break-even point will be somewhere around 3,000 meters (9000ft).

Vienna-based Ulrich Etiketten, for example, produces up to 300,000 labels with their Xeikon CX3 profitably. “Before, the profitability threshold for digital was about 100,000 labels, but now we can cost-effectively produce between 200,000 and 300,000 labels with digital printing, depending on size. This means we can offer our customers the advantages of digital printing – no printing plates, short lead times and faster delivery times – for a much wider range of products”, CEO Rainer Ulrich says.

“How does a Xeikon digital press handle Pantone colors?”

In this area, Xeikon’s machines are identical to other digital presses. Pantones are transformed to YMCK colors using a specific formula.

For specific spot colors Xeikon’s dry toner technology offers an affordable and flexible alternative. The fact that the technology is dry makes it also more realistic to exchange colors compared to liquid ink systems.

“Xeikon still use toners – aren’t these terribly outdated?”

Electrophotography (EP) was invented in 1935, so the technology has been around for quite a while. However, it is still very much alive and kicking. The truth is that EP printing today is way ahead of inkjet technology in terms of quality. Depending on the end-use, one technology fits better than the other. When quality is expected EP is still the preferred choice. This in confirmed by the +2000 standalone digital presses installed in the Label space, all based on EP, and just 200-300 in the inkjet space

Xeikon has chosen the dry toner technology specifically to be in the SA labels space due to its inherent advantages.

“How fast is Xeikon’s digital label printing press?”

In the last 8 years, the printing speed of our digital presses has increased incrementally, as the following overview illustrates. (And the good news is: we don’t see any reason why this trend won’t continue into the future.)

Before 2008

            7,35 m/min - 600dpi - 5color in HQ mode

            14,7 m/min - 600dpi - 5color in low quality mode

Since drupa 2008                  

            Xeikon 3300 - 19,2 m/min - 1200dpi - 5color  HQ mode

Since IPEX 2010

            Xeikon 3500 - 19,2 m/min - 1200dpi - 5color HQ mode / but 516 mm wide so increased productivity

Since Labelexpo 2015

            Xeikon CX3 - 30 m/min - 1200dpi - 5color

Learn more about digital label printing? Read our eBook with client cases, challenges and common pitfals before making the switch.