Digital Label Printing – The Future of Label Production?

Currently, the production of labels for products and items relies on the use of Flexographic printing. But could Digital Label Printing prove to be the better alternative? We take a closer look.

In the current economic environment, it’s becoming more important than ever to reduce overheads and slim down overall costs. This is no different for the labelling industry, an industry responsible for producing the labelling we find on everyday products and items. These labels are regularly created using a Flexographic printing process (most commonly a method used for small to medium label printing runs). But as effective as this process has been, could there be a more suitable alternative that reduces expenditure and offers the same levels of production? It’s said that Digital label printing could be this very alternative.

But first, let’s look at how the two processes (Digital label printing and Flexographic printing) operate.

The Flexographic Printing Process

Flexographic Printing

The Flexographic printing process works in a very similar way to how stamps are created. Here is how it works:

  • A raised, reversed-reading image (called a plate) carries ink to the label as it passes on through to the press.
  • The plate will then press a layer of the chosen image directly onto the label.
  • To create a variation in colour, each colour within the design requires its own individual plate.
  • The label will then continue through the process until it has been fully printed and ready for use.

The Digital Label Printing Process

Digital Label Printing

A key difference with the Digital label printing process, however, is that it relies on electrical charges. It works as below:

  • Electrical charges are sent from a computer system which will digitally scan and read a PDF version of the chosen design.
  • The electrical charges then transfer the various ink colours used onto a photo imaging plate (PIP).
  • The PIP will then rotate, resulting in the label being reimaged until it completes the printing process.

Advantages of Digital Label Printing

The traditional way of creating labels using the Flexographic process still holds some key advantages. For instance, in situations that require a high quantity of labels to be created or for labels that require a broader range of substrates, then Flexographic printing can provide the best rate of return.

However, some of the main advantages of Digital label printing include:

Quicker Turnarounds

A lack of reliance on plates during the printing process means that Digital label printing jobs require less set-up time. It can also have a faster completion. With the correct software, any desired label design can be easily converted into a ready to print PDF formatted file. This is usually done in a shorter amount of time (usually 2 -5 business days) compared to standard production timescales (2 or more weeks).

Better Quality Control

Using Digital label printing means that proofs for designs are printed using the actual production press. The advantage of this? It allows for a greater assessment on the print quality, selection of colours and overall design before the label is put into a full production run.

Greater Cost Efficiency and Flexibility

Digital label printing provides a greater efficiency of cost for smaller quantity production runs, thanks to its lack of reliance of plates in the process. This also avoids unnecessary overflow, the creation of unused prints and the generation of other types of waste. Digitally producing labels also allows for more flexibility and customization – freedom in terms of choosing how many prints you require, the specific colours of the label and much more.

Wider Selection of Inks and Materials

Digitally creating labels also provides some further benefits when it comes to their overall aesthetic appeal. It can allow for unique properties to be used on labels, such as reduced opacity and higher resolution images. It also gives users the option to select from a range of films, paper types and foils to fit any customer’s needs.

Sam Rose