As the demand for these units increases, the need for supplies grows too. Avery Dennison, an adhesives and substrates supplier based in Mentor, OH, USA, has developed a wide range of products to fit this desktop range.
Avery Dennison’s digital portfolio includes nearly 20 products comprising paper and film. For paper, Avery Dennison is offering matte, semi-gloss, and gloss products with various adhesives depending on the application. Customers will see a similar offering on the films side. Recently, Avery Dennison launched matte and satin BOPP products that are applicable for digital desktop printers.
Even though converters operate in both digital spaces, Avery Dennison does notice differing needs. “I think you’ve got to separate the markets a bit, because they really feed into different segments,” explains Paul Lender, business development manager - Digital Materials at Avery Dennison. “The desktop printer is typically a point of products type applicator where they might be doing personalization on a smaller batch level, or even on an individual container level. They may also be running several hundred labels that are local or unique to a specific opportunity, perhaps on an event or regional level, which could get into the thousands.”
Desktop printers might perform stamping or product coding, running products with bar codes or data for easy identification. The end uses could include food packaging and the medical field.
“Converters operating the bigger production units are working with longer runs,” Lender adds. “They have different capabilities with finishing that improves durability, and they can get into different markets. I would say the demand for both has been strong.”
According to Lender, the small footprint digital market is growing, as the entire inkjet industry has seen year-over-year growth around 13%. It is an emerging and improving technology. “You’re seeing new printer models still come out from the big players,” says Lender. The technology is improving–dye inks are getting better and pigment inks are getting better. So that part is still emerging. I would also say there’s no real industry leader. You’ve got a handful of manufacturers who are all doing fairly well.”
These desktop units are seeing increased use in the craft space, be it beverages like beer, tea or coffee, or other products like candles. “The other part of this market that is displacing some business is thermal transfer,” says Lender. “That labeling where you’re putting down a bar code specific to whatever that part is at the time it’s produced. With inkjet, you can add color and an image to again make identifying that part easier.”
Customers can typically enter the small footprint digital market at a price point ranging from $3,000 to $15,000. With smaller units, converters are typically asking for lower quantities. A desktop printer might require a 500-foot roll of 4 x 6 labels.
The market’s size poses several inherent challenges that must be overcome by the printing manufacturer and the material supplier. “For the converters, demands on volume are much lower than we see with the big core paper and film products, and that’s just the challenge of being able to expand portfolios while still being able to not have all this excess inventory in the pipeline that nobody really wants to own the cost associated with.”
With inkjet, there’s also a need for a coating on these products in order to help absorb the ink, while providing durability, printability, water fastness, and other characteristics that add costs and limits portfolio options.
Despite the challenges, this is a market that should flourish well into the future. “It’s not going to go away,” Lender emphasizes. “I think in the future you’re probably going to see some of the players emerge more dominant in the market, and you would expect that with any market where there’s a lot of growth. Market growth only helps Avery Dennison. As scale grows, volume grows, and we start to get more flexibility on what we can provide.”
In order to provide the newest and most efficient products, Avery Dennison has worked side-by-side with many of the printer manufacturers. "As they improve their inks and they make their printers faster and bigger, and more capable, we want to stay lockstep with them,” says Lender. “As that new printer model comes out, we’re right there with the media to support it once it gets announced.”