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Double digits at drupa

HP Indigo’s new Series 3 digital presses will have double the print speed, reveals Robert Stabler, UK&I country manager, Indigo Digital Print

Versatility and innovation are key for label printers and digital printing complements conventional label printing by expanding the opportunities available to them and enabling them to respond to modern marketing trends. Among the challenges faced by brand managers are those relating to establishing a new product image, achieving the right look and the best shelf presence, and accomplishing these things quickly and cost effectively. In these tasks, smaller national and regional brands face the same pressures as established international brands.

In the past, market testing of product packaging was a lengthy, difficult and expensive process. Producing trial products, samples and tests required many processes between a change of design and the printing of package, label or shrink sleeve. These test pieces required very short runs on flexo or litho presses, or duplication by processes that did not give an accurate representation of the ultimate final product.

With digital printing, where each copy can be unique with variable data printing, the possibilities for innovative packaging and labelling development and testing are unprecedented. Not only are numerous variations and versions of labels, flexible packaging and shrink sleeves possible, but they can be printed quickly and on the same final substrates as might be used in conventional, long production runs.

Using an HP Indigo press ws4500, it is possible for the brand manager and a designer to meet at a print service provider to inspect the printing of trial materials.

Since the ws4500 prints from standard design file formats, changes can be made on the spot. If the brand manager wants to change the size of the typeface, move a picture or change the wording of a label, shrink sleeve or flexible package, he can see the result within minutes.

Adjustments of text and images can be made to meet language requirements, create special promotional labels and packaging, or to accommodate local customs. Variable data printing, with no waste or makeready times, gives the ultimate control to brand managers while cutting lead times and time to market

In September, 2007, packaging decoration and labelling provider Springfield purchased a ws4500 – its third HP Indigo press – at Labelexpo Europe, making it the largest HP Indigo user for the industrial market in the UK. Springfield first installed an HP Indigo press ws4000 three years ago and in 2007 became the first UK print service provider to invest in a ws4500.

The three HP Indigo presses are used to produce high impact, short run decorative labels. The company produces a wide range of selfadhesive labels and flexible packaging for the paints and coatings markets and has recently experienced an increase in demand from the food and beverages industries.

“We recently completed our first job using variable data and we expect to see this service grow over 2008,” says Ian Lemon, managing director, Springfield Solutions. “We are also exploring moving into low volume solutions for flexible packaging and are planning to develop digital anti counterfeiting systems – all using our HP Indigo presses – in the near future.”

The ws4500 presses, have enabled Springfield to provide customers with increased flexibility and substrate choice. The presses can print as few as one and up to many thousands of labels in a fast turnaround time with the optimum print quality, helping the company to produce work within tight timeframes and ensure that its customers’ products reach the marketplace quickly.

“Our digital capabilities have helped us win new contracts and many of our new customers are interested in our digital services,” says Ian Lemon. “We can now produce short run work efficiently. Our digital presses print on a wide range of substrates and can match our litho presses on colour reproduction and print quality.”

To champion the work of industrial printers in 2007, HP established the Digital Label Awards competition that attracted 115 entries from around the world. Judging was carried out by industry experts who used criteria for judging not conventional label printing, not digital label printing, but excellent label printing. In the words of one of the judges: “The best digitally printed labels now successfully compete with any mechanical printing process”.

HP Indigo saw record annual growth in 2007 with page growth increasing by 45 per cent overall from 2006 to 2007 and has a very exciting year ahead with the announcement of the Series 3 digital presses, which will have double the print speed, in March and their presentation at drupa in May.

At drupa, HP Indigo will be marking the 15th anniversary of digital printing and launch of the first Indigo press. New Series 3 products will include the ws6000 web press operating at 30m/min for volumes greater than 1.5M labels/month. This will empower label and flexible packaging printers to transfer large volumes of short and medium run jobs from flexo at superior quality, productivity and profitability, and will enable the printing of folding cartons in addition to labels and flexible packaging.

The HP Indigo press ws4500 will continue to be available for production volumes under 1.5M labels/month. The launch of the ws6000 means that HP now has a broader portfolio that offers label, shrink sleeve and flexible packaging converters presses to meet their varied requirements.

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