Converters have a wealth of options, too. They can opt for smaller printers or industrial-size production presses. Avery Dennison, a substrate and adhesive supplier based in Mentor, OH, USA, has tailored its diverse range of portfolios to accommodate this labels and packaging trend.
“Digital is becoming more and more mainstream,” explains Diane Ewanko, business development manager at Avery Dennison. “It used to be about small runs, but I think you’re seeing an increase in speed and–for UV inkjet–a decrease in the ink drop size, which is giving you higher resolution. Plus, with hybrids, there’s the ability to do embellishments. I’m seeing label converters who once would only use a digital press for smaller runs using it more and more. It used to be 5,000 feet or less, and that was the sweet spot. Then it increased to 10,000 feet while other people tell me 20,000 foot runs.”
While the company does offer standard labelstocks that work on EP or inkjet presses, the R&D team has customized portfolios with various papers and films. On the water-based inkjet side, Avery Dennison provides three different kinds of papers: high gloss, semi-gloss, and matte. In addition, the portfolio has polypropylene films. Paul Lender, business development manager - Digital Materials, that offering will expand in 2018. It’s primarily been a gloss product offering to date, but the enhancement will include different matte finishes.
On the UV inkjet side, Avery Dennison has worked to find products that fill customer needs that fall outside the purview of standard stocks. “A big part of my job is visiting press owners, and we found that ink adhesion was a real challenge for the films as polypropylene was very commonly printed on these presses, so we did find gaps in our portfolio,” she says. “We’ve launched new polypropylenes that have a more robust top coating. They are designed for UV cured inks, and so we offer a portfolio with these special products.”
The new substrates will also include a special semi-gloss product that was pre-optimized for UV inkjet. This stock will print without showing a grainy appearance.
Avery Dennison’s substrates will continue to support the new developments in the digital world. According to Lender, the industry is starting to see multiple size presses enter the market for different size run lengths. Speeds are increasing to help offset some of the costs, as well.
“Looking at the two sides of the technology, there are still a lot of changes going on with the inks on the water-based side,” adds Lender. “You’re going to see new inks in 2018, changes to pigment ink systems, and you’re going to see more new presses introduced.”
“I think going forward, with the smaller drop sizes and the improved resolution, more and more standard products will print successfully on UV inkjet digital presses,” says Ewanko. “Even today, what prints on one press may not do so well on another. It’s really finding the one that is good for the digital technology that you’ve invested in.”
Pre-optimization is an important aspect of digital facestocks. HP, for example, sells presses with inline primers, so the need for pre-optimized products has started to decline. Avery Dennison, however, maintains assets that can pre-optimize both wide web high speed all the way to more specialized offerings like wine stocks.
Much like personalized labels, Avery Dennison offers tailored solutions to each of its customers. One customer might have a desktop inkjet printer that needs shorter rolls of labels–perhaps even pre-diecut–while another might house a production-sized unit that fits onto an old press, running a couple hundred feet a minute at 8-10” web widths.
“We have an extensive distribution network,” says Lender. “We have the Exact program, and we have these broad portfolios across all the different market segments. We also have a team of technical experts beyond all these products. We have folks who are able to go out into the field and meet directly with end users to help them troubleshoot and find the right solutions.”
Lender also adds that Avery Dennison promotes a range of adhesives that are optimized for different end-use applications.
“Digital isn’t something that we just started paying attention to,” says Ewanko. “What digital meant 12 years ago is very different today with the emergence of inkjet. It’s an ongoing venture, one that we’ve put a lot of analysis into in order to invest for the future.”
“I think you’re going to see continued growth for a while,” says Lender. “There may be some changes in the number of players, but I don’t see anything stopping the market from growing. I think companies like us are going to continue to improve the substrate offerings and the durability of the substrates, the performance on that end, and I think you’ll see the printers continue to get faster and the ink technology will improve and become more durable.”