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New market report: Colour inkjet digital printing will grow in labels and packaging

Durst Tau 330 RSC as an example for digital inkjet printing (Source: Durst)

Growth in colour inkjet digital printing across labels and packaging industries is set to increase rapidly through 2023 and beyond, with automated high-volume/high-speed industrial-scale production to grow at a very fast rate. This is the outlook by the new report covering colour inkjet digital printing in global labels and packaging markets”, published by market research consultancy Vandagraf International.

The main learnings are:

  • New report details opportunities in automated high-volume/high-speed industrial-scale production
  • Technology advances to disrupt the wider packaging industry beyond labels and narrow web applications
  • Next-generation substrates and inks to allow entry into new markets

According to this report, already seeing double-digit growth in 2018, inkjet digital printing is experiencing high levels of interest from printers and converters around the world, from Europe and North America, and across Asia, particularly for label printing. However, opportunities in the packaging arena will in the end be much greater than labels, although they will take longer to realise.

High R&D spend is moving the technology and consumables involved forward to deliver the next generation of colour inkjet digital printing solutions, which will satisfy the previously unmet needs of packaging related applications in particular. This will include wider web inkjet presses for mid to large size packaging applications, corrugated board colour inkjet digital presses, and systems for inkjet printing direct to 3D cylindrical packaging profiles (cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, tubes and small diameter closures).

The report states that next-generation technology ensures precision during the multiple converting steps, from tight registration up and down the line to pinpoint ink droplet placement for production of high-resolution graphics at increasingly higher speeds. Modern machines are also capable of integrating a number of pre- and post-press converting and embellishment processes, from flexo modules for white and spot colours, to laminating, cold/hot foiling and die-cutting.

Alongside advances in press integration, print heads and web transport, consumables (substrates and inks) will also play an integral part in making the growth of industrial-scale colour inkjet digital printing a reality. This will see new surfaces introduced and formulations developed to suit the higher speeds and applications involved in next-generation labels and packaging converting. Substrate constructions and paper grades that run satisfactorily with different printhead systems and deliver optimal results will need to be developed. They will also need to support the various finishing and converting processes available.

The range of substrates with which an ink is compatible determines what applications the press, digital or otherwise, can cope with. The type of ink carrier used is central to substrate material selection and compatibility, whether UV or water-based inkjet. Both offer opportunities relative to speed, capital investment and format flexibility, without compromising print quality. Solvent inks provide desired durable printing results but are not commonly used for label applications because of their high environmental impact.

Hybrid digital/flexo printing must also be considered as this technology trend requires products suitable for both conventional and digital printing, such as substrates that support both colour inkjet digital and analogue printing on the same print surface.

Such developments will allow economies of scale to be achieved as standard consumables adapted for different systems prove desirable.

Conversely, converters are confronted with an increasingly wide array of choices in terms of presses while the rate of evolution of the industry will likely sees digital presses become obsolete much faster than analogue presses that in some case continue in use for decades. Converters may also not be looking for a digital press to satisfy the requirements of existing customers but be interested to explore new markets and opportunities beyond their current printing capabilities.

Rosina Obermayer

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