Finding the Right Label Printer: Flexo, Digital or Hybrid


Domino’s N610i 7-color digital UV inkjet label press

Based on its ongoing surveys of label printer/converters, LPC says the average downtime of conventional presses is 30 percent. The No. 1 reason for that downtime is “excessive short-run work.” The demand from brand owners requiring more versions necessitating shorter run lengths has caused conventional flexo makeready time to increase and become a more critical “under the microscope” factor. Regardless of the print technology, when the press is not running, the label printer/converter is not making money—downtime is the enemy. With digital, there is no plate making, plate mounting or plate changes. SKUs, images, print jobs, etc. can be changed on-the-fly, making it ideal for short-run work.

In addition, digital printing and finishing technology manufacturers have greatly improved performance of their equipment in terms of speed, reliability, quality and the capability to print on various substrates—all of which now enables the technology to become suitable for an even wider range of production jobs and offers a much-improved job length break-even point.

When Hybrid?

Hybrid label printing combines flexo and digital, bridging the gap between the two technologies, offering unlimited options for inline printing and converting. It’s a platform for producing longer runs and higher label counts, and provides the option of adding embellishments, spot colors, varnishes and more while maintaining the consistency, repeatability and efficiency benefits that digital brings. Hybrid integrates the best attributes of flexo and digital.

Constantia Flexibles recently acquired a CEI Bossjet hybrid label press for its Mason, OH facility, specifically to produce short-run marketing promotions, enter new markets and enjoy value-added production to its flexo-based label printing business.

In another example, Minneapolis-based Meyers invested in the MPS EF SYMJET 7-color digital UV inkjet hybrid label press that will allow it to deliver a much larger variety of premium print treatments at lower costs to its customers. The decision to purchase was driven by the company’s desire to advance its digital offering. “The addition of the hybrid press to our operation has provided the biggest positive impact on our business that we have seen in the last 10 years,” says Gregg Temple, president of Meyers Label and Card Groups.

When considering whether to go with a digital-only or hybrid configuration, “It is important for the label converter to assess its current workload and future opportunities to really determine which digital platform is the best fit. If the majority of its work and opportunities do not involve metallic colors, hot or cold foil stamping, or other embellishments, it does not make sense to consider a hybrid approach,” says Chuck Stone, senior account manager with Domino. “A hybrid press will require a different skill level operator due to the other technologies on the platform, and you won’t get the full savings in increased production time and lower material waste of straight digital.”

Future of the Label Printer

Technology is a means to help us advance—history shows that. Just think about how the telephone has changed in your lifetime, as well as radio, television, automobiles, etc. The list goes on and on.

In the world of label printing, it is no different. When thinking about sustaining and growing your business, think about the demands of your customers, your own internal “tools” and efficiency goals. The good news is there are digital printing companies in the marketplace that can provide ROI and crossover tools, and help you determine the best-fit label printing technology and configuration for your business needs.

Lastly, flexo and digital have long been thought of as competing technologies, but in reality they should be thought of as complementary technologies—whether the flexo and digital label presses are physically separated across the room, or integrated together as a hybrid. The forward-thinking label printer/converters have figured this out, utilizing the appropriate technology based on the job requirements at hand. So, when thinking about flexo or digital, just remember—it doesn’t have to be “this or that.” It can be “this andthat.”

It’s an exciting time—make certain you don’t get left behind!

About the Author: Bill Myers is marketing manager – digital printing solutions at Domino North America. Celebrating its 39th year in business, Domino is a global organization with world headquarters in the U.K., with 25 subsidiaries, greater than 200 distributors, representation in more than 120 countries, and 2,600 employees worldwide. North American headquarters are located in Gurnee, IL.