Each year, our November/December issue focuses on digital printing, and every other year, it contains the Labelexpo Europe Post-Show Report. As you wend your way through the pages that follow, a theme will emerge that brings together digital printing and Labelexpo. This issue’s Digital Printers and Presses article features many new machines that were unveiled in Brussels, while the Labelexpo Post-Show Report highlights several new technologies that align with digital printing. At the big show in Brussels, exhibitors launched digital embellishment innovation, digital-friendly substrates, inks, coatings and other consumables, as well as, of course, printers and presses.
One of the news stories that broke during Labelexpo Europe was the announcement that Ohio-based Blue Label Digital Printing purchased an HP Indigo 8000 digital press. This really got my attention. Every Indigo 8000 press purchase is noteworthy, in my opinion, as HP positions the machine as a replacement technology to flexo due to its 262 fpm print speed. Plus, it was also the first time I’d ever heard of Blue Label.
Of course I had to learn more – a major capital equipment acquisition for a US converter had taken place at Labelexpo Europe. A visit to Blue Label’s website coupled with a discussion with HP representatives led to an obvious conclusion – Blue Label would be the perfect fit as the subject of this issue’s Narrow Web Profile. It’s an all-digital label manufacturer that specializes in craft beer labels and other short run, craft products that are right in the digital press wheelhouse.
When Blue Label’s president Andrew Boyd happily agreed to have me visit and write an article, I was thrilled. Everything fell into place. The day I visited the company in Lancaster, OH, coincided with the first day the new 8000 was up and running – the machinery still had that protective film covering it, similar to what you eventually peal off when you get a new smartphone or flat screen TV. Blue Label has a great story to tell, and it’s one that’s indicative of the state of the label industry. With all the talk of label companies struggling to find and retain qualified flexo press operators, not one person at Blue Label has ever operated a flexo press.
To quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” As the calendar turns, I’m coming up on a decade covering the narrow web label industry. Just for kicks, I went into the L&NW archives and looked at our digital printing stories from 2008 and 2009, my first couple of years in the industry. Wow, what a difference a decade makes. And finally, Happy Holidays to all!
Steve Katz, Editor