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April 21, 2011

It seems that there is a digital revolution happening with a new on-demand technology being brought out every time you pick up a trade magazine, can it really compete with flexo and if so how worried should we be?

It is very true that digital printing is fast gaining ground on all print processes when it comes to short run, quick turn around, on demand printing. The newest technology offers roll to toll, CMYK inkjet engines with variable droplet technology. They can print on a wide range of substrates with newer ink chemistries that have excellent adhesion, density and fade resistance. With the latest systems having dieless finishing capabilities, even the shortest of runs can be produced for a designer that is simply wanting to look at a design concept to a winemaker that may only have a few thousand bottles of wine to label.

Variable data is even possible so that every label can be customized and with color management profiles spot color replacement is also possible. All that said to do all of this from start to finish still means very slow speeds of less than 10 feet  per minute, albeit of a high quality.

So should we be worried? As a flexographer you may find it strange when I say not only should we not be worried but I strongly believe that we should learn to embrace it. It is a fact that for the foreseeable future runs are going to keep getting shorter and variable data is going to be demanded more and more so having a digital system either running alongside or in combination with your existing flexo system seems to me a very logical step. It is already common for many flexo presses to have in line gravure, screen, die cutting, lamination, embossing, so why not digital? So for small runs, variable data, multiple varieties and not wanting to have to buy a die, digital complete production systems would seem to be a technology that we should at least learn to understand and, where possible, incorporate into our existing flexo system. That way you will have nothing to worry about and another customer that you may be able to retain.

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