The printing press is one of humanity’s most important inventions, revolutionizing literature, art, and industry. Over the centuries the technology has continued to grow, producing faster and higher quality prints, with the modern digital label press and laser die cutting advances amongst the many relative newcomers on the scene.
When it comes to printing labels and packaging, there are a few different kinds of printing tech to choose from. As printing processes evolve, the label printing industry continues to grow in value with the 2019 global label printing market being valued at some $41 billion.
This 5-year-long upward trend is one that would seem to be one that’s with us to stay and by reading on, you’ll get a better understanding about the many options that are available.
Flexographic printing or “Flexo” is still the most widely used type of printing for labels and packaging. and it works in a similar (but more advanced) way to early letterpresses, where an inked plate would be pressed down onto the paper.
Flexography uses a process called rotary printing where the desired image is made into a print plate from a rubber mold. This is attached to cylinders that rotate and imprint the image on the desired substrate. Once you’ve made your templates, Flexo can print thousands of copies extremely quickly which makes it a good choice for large runs.
That said, it is limited by its time-consuming and costly nature, with each color requiring its own cylinder and changes to the design requiring an entirely new cylinder to be made. Due to the time and costs involved, flexo printing needs to print large volumes to be cost-effective.
Inkjet printing is all done digitally and a digital label press doesn’t require any of the time-consuming set-up of flexo does, as you simply press “print” and the machine does the rest. Without the need for cylinders, there is no need to store or maintain parts, making it more cost-effective in the long run.
Digital printing’s greatest advantage is the flexibility that it affords. Your designs go straight from Adobe Illustrator to print and any changes to the design can be printed instantly without needing to change cylinders. This can be useful for prototyping designs or to make variations of a label for limited edition products.
Inkjet printers are far more cost-effective, meaning you don’t need hundreds of thousands of copies to be profitable, meaning you can take on smaller runs that other printers could not and due to the faster printing times, you can take on more jobs.
Rotary Die Cutting
Once your labels are printed they must be cut out. Usually, this is done by a process known as rotary die cutting. Put simply, a die is a lot like a cookie-cutter, as it’s a tool that cuts materials into a desired shape. Rotary die cutting, like rotary printing, uses cylinders that material is passed through to quickly cut the same shape out of many sheets.
However, rotary die cutters are not very precise and cannot make quick adjustments to the design. They also require regular maintenance and blades which become dull are expensive to replace.
Laser Die Cutting
The laser die cutter has an advantage over older methods, as unlike a rotary die, it can perform much more intricate cuts with greater precision. While the upfront cost is higher, the laser finisher does not entail the high maintenance and replacement costs of a rotary.
Like the digital label press, the laser die cutter offers flexibility in design choices and last-minute changes can be implemented immediately without slowing down the process.
Want the Best of Both Worlds? Combine With Inline
Digital inline printing involves combining the printer with the finishing device and is arguably the best, most convenient option. By using a dual-purpose unit, the whole process can be done at the click of a button without the inconvenience of needing to move the substrate from one machine to another.
The any-JET II is a digital label and flexible packaging press that combines inkjet printing with laser die cutting for truly digital inline label production. Not only that, but it boasts both digital printing and cutting features, with the added benefit of being faster than doing them separately.
If you’d like to see how the any-JET II can streamline your business, learn more about Any-JET II and you can book a live demo! We’re sure that after just a few moments, you’ll see what’s patently obvious – that in this blog, we saved the best printing and cutting solution for last!
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