For decades, the name Xeikon has been synonymous with dry toner technology. Earlier this year, Xeikon announced it is entering the UV-curable inkjet market with the introduction of its Panther technology, expanding  the company’s range of capabilities for digital label printing.

This strategic move was made in order to meet a diverse range of requirements for digital label printing. While digitally printed labels represent a small percentage of the overall label printing volume, this area is anticipated to grow quickly as digital technology continuous to evolve and the market responds to brand owner demands for smaller lot sizes, faster turn times, a more efficient supply chain and labels that increase personal communication with the consumers.

“Dry toner is a proven technology. It has a great deal of value to offer in the label printing arena, and we will continue to invest and bring innovations of this technology to our customers,” explains Filip Weymans, VP Global Marketing Xeikon. “There are however certain end-use applications that can be better served with UV-curable inkjet. A combination of Xeikon’s deep experience in label production and its dedication to listen to the needs of its customers were the factors that drove the development of Xeikon’s Panther technology, and the new Xeikon PX3000, the first commercialization of that technology.”

Adding digital value to the world of label printing             

These days, label converters have many choices. On the analogue side are flexography, gravure, letterpress, offset and screen printing, each with its specific benefits. On the digital side, there are also several technology options, each with specific attributes and features that make them suitable for particular applications. Most commonly used are dry toner and liquid toner electrophotography and UV-curable inkjet. Also water-based inkjet solutions are available although these are less common in label printing.

Label converters and brand owners are increasingly recognizing the value of digital printing. Weighing in favour of digital are ever-shorter print runs, a proliferation of SKUs and a growing demand for eye-catching,  sophisticated labels to win customers and fight counterfeiting, and as such supply chain efficiency that allows for more interactive communication with consumers. This is exactly where digital printing adds value, and the productivity gains made possible by automated workflows in a digital printing environment make these technologies truly shine.

The n°1 rule: the end-use application drives the choice of digital printing technology

“Perhaps because digital printing technologies are relatively new compared with their analogue counterparts, one might fail to see the forest for the trees in determining which technology is most optimal to produce a given project. The crucial thing to understand is that there is no one-size-fits-all digital printing technology for labels. Each label project is different, and different applications require a different technology,” says Weymans.

Whatever the end-use application, every label has its own aesthetic and functional requirements. Wine labels do not necessarily have to be chemically resistant; whereas for industrial and health & beauty labels, that is a must. Pharmaceutical labels require extra fine print and food labels should simply be food safe. In short, the optimal choice of digital printing technology for a given project depends on the application.

Seek advice in making the best digital printing choices

Xeikon not only has a profound knowledge of the digital label printing market, its worldwide sales, service and support organization is unmatched. Now part of Flint Group, Xeikon has access to an even greater market knowledge with Flint Group being nr1 in conventional ink for narrow web. This combination positions Xeikon in a powerful advisory role for label converters looking to offer unique, sustainable, digital printing services. “Our professional services team has the ability to analyse customer requirements and recommend which digital printing technology best fits each label project,” Weymans explains. “And while we would, of course, like to see every label converter choose a Xeikon solution to meet digital printing needs, we understand there might be cases where another technology is a better fit. We approach each analysis project as agnostically as possible to ensure customers make the right choices that will serve them profitably into the future.”

Which label type do you produce?

Based on in-depth analysis of different digital label printing technologies, Xeikon outlined recommendations on the most optimal technology for the prime label markets, and whether its UV inkjet or dry toner solution is best suited. The analysis (full details reported in a white paper ) looked at quality basics (dot positioning, dot sizes), substrate compatibility, process reliability and characteristics such as look & feel, durability and sustainability.

-              Food labels: a very specific application due to stringent regulations for food safety, and demand for high image quality. When it comes to food safety, dry toner clearly has an advantage over other technologies, both in terms of migration and chemical composition. This process also makes for reliable and consistent printing, ensuring food labels look their best at the shelf.

-              Beer & beverage labels: a growing niche market, think of the countless new crafts beers entering the market. They require a specific approach to get the desired white opacity level and look & feel. When offset quality is required, dry toner is most appropriate and UV inkjet comes in play when very high gloss and a unique tactile impression are desired.

-              Wine & spirits labels: technically among the most challenging for any label converter as they are often printed on challenging materials and include high-end embellishments. They require a printing technology capable of delivering high-quality labels on a range of substrates that absorb liquid inks, which is precisely what dry toner excels in.

-              Pharmaceutical labels: different from any other type as often subject to counterfeiting. To protect brands from such practices, robust anti-counterfeit measures (micro text, raised images,…) must be used. These labels also eature fine details and are often printed on certified substrates. To achieve high-quality results under these requirements, digital printing with dry toner is essential.

-              Durable labels: intended to last many years and often subject to extreme conditions, such as high or low temperature, excessive exposure to UV light or contact with chemicals (think of used for washing machines, PCs, cars, machinery, refrigerators, etc.. To meet end user and brand owner expectations, the labels must be durable as well. Here UV-Inkjet is the perfect technology.

-              Health & Beauty labels: come with specific requirements in terms of substrates and white opacity levels. Cosmetics, fragrances and make-up labels are primary produced with synthetic substrates, and must be resistant to humidity, contain sufficient levels of white opacity for clear labels and look stunning on the shelf. Both dry toner (offset look) and UV inkjet (tactile look & feel) are suited and the choice ultimately comes down to the brand owner’s desired image quality.

-              Chemical labels, either for industrial (e.g. paint, chemical labels) or household (under the sink) use, must appeal to the consumer, be UV light resistant, and resist chemicals and mechanical stress. UV inkjet is most optimal technology because of the durability, although dry toner can come into play when a high offset look quality is desired in which case a proper protective layer is required.

Box-out Labelexpo reference

Visitors to Labelexpo Europe’s Hall 5 can discover Xeikon’s UV-curable inkjet and dry toner offerings, as the company will be unleashing its two fast felines: Xeikon PX3000 UK inkjet label press – aka Panther and Xeikon CX3 dry toner digital label press, aka Cheetah.

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