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The Label Printing Blog

Should I Really Be Looking At Digital Print & Finishing Systems For My Business?

Posted by David Lee on Nov 27, 2018 12:43:00 PM

With increasing pressures from buyers to reduce stock levels in print & packaging and to create more innovative and attractive promotions to compete in the retail arena, the challenge on suppliers is to respond quicker and be more dynamic in the way they operate, within the supply chain & actively promote their business.

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The digital print solution is the fastest growing area of the Print, Packaging & Label industry, although it is still relatively small in the overall scale of business. Digital printing has become a realistic tool to drive up new sales & open markets for many small medium size businesses and there is a wide choice of technologies to consider.

With the latest generation of single pass Ink jet technology, the revolution is gaining pace as production speeds closely match that of conventional print, but with the added benefit of personalisation, on-line variable data printing, in-line finishing and reducing overall production costs.

finishing-labels-2The economic cross over point where digital v analogue technology becomes a grey area, when other factors of convenience, speed of production & response time are also considered. UV Ink jet provides a smarter way to produce printed web product on a variety of standard & special substrates and applications.

There has never been a better time to look at digital possibilities as a standalone system or hybrid solution with combination analogue print & finishing capabilities.

At Focus Labels we provide specialised stand alone finishing systems, integrated digital print & finishing and full Hybrid flexo /digital solutions integrating todays leading technology.

We aim to manufacture Industrial quality equipment that will operate & perform reliably within a conventional print shop environment.

Cost Of Ownership

finishing-labels-3The total cost of ownership of any digital solution should cover acquisition, cost of operation and service over the term of lease or purchase. Typical write down period for digital equipment may be 5 Years and they tend to have little residual value after this period, with print heads said to have a life of 3-5 years and obsolete technology needs to be considered. Compare that to traditional analogue equipment at lower cost that will be written down over at least 10 Years and retain a high level of residual value.

Furthermore, traditional equipment has a useful work life beyond a write down period. With digital systems it is certainly difficult to reach a clear satisfactory conclusion with little data on long term serviceability or life-time cost of ownership for digital print systems.The return on investment for any digital process is far more critical and a shorter term view needs to be considered with a possibility of a 5 year re-investment cycle.

Crossover Point, Analogue v Digital

The crossover point is where digital printing becomes more expensive than conventional printing.

finishing-labels-4One area that conventional Flexo presses have always been a superior prospect is in running speed. Whilst maximum speeds can be in excess of 180 mts/min, typical speeds may be around half that. This still compares well to Digital offset & toner systems running at 15-20 mts/min and puts the crossover point at around 1000 linear metres.

However Digital Ink jet is pushing speeds to 50-80Mts /min, pushing the economic crossover point ever higher. A typical job of 6,000 linear meters over 3 sorts may push that crossover point to over 2,500 plus linear meters.

One area of cost any analogue printing systems cannot get away from is printing plates, so jobs with multiple SKUs and the waste & down time incurred whilst running a job has a negative effect compared to any digital system when the run lengths are small.

Finishing is an integral part of a modern flexo press and the production process but may need to be an additional process in digital print production. So additional investment in suitable finishing equipment will be required if not taking the hybrid route. Finishing itself may create a production bottleneck for digital production and dilute the advantages it brings.

A strong argument slowing the digital revolution has been the cost of special substrates, Inks, service & click charges depending on the technology of choice. The good news is these barriers are eroding through competition. The latest UV Ink jet systems print on a wider range of standard substrates, special materials are more readily available through numerous suppliers, Ink prices are tumbling, and monthly service costs can be agreed up front, so there are no nasty surprises.

Is Digital Right For My Business

The fact is Digital is here today and where practical, needs to be embraced.finishing-labels-5

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What proportion of your business orders are moving towards 2,500 linear meters or less?
  • How would a digital press make better use of your existing Analogue / Flexo production?
  • What impact would Digital give on attracting new work to grow my business?
  • Am I sending out work to Digital print providers that I could bring back in-house?

If you would like to discuss or see a demonstration with your jobs on the latest Digital print & finishing technology, please call Focus today. 

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Topics: Finishing Systems