Market Introduction and Entry level presses
Digital print is an established technology in label printing. Labels proved to be a fertile ground for digital print due to:
- Smaller formats than other package prints – which is easier to achieve with digital printers
- A higher portion of shorter runs than in other packaging markets, as labels are often used in niche markets or where other types of packaging print have prohibitive set-up costs
- A substrate that is generally easier to handle than other types of packaging materials
According to expertmarketresearch, the total label market reached 60.3 billion square metres in 2020 and is expected to grow at 4.5% per year. There are many types of labels, from simple secondary to elaborate primary labels. Applications range from wet-glue, to pressure-sensitive, shrink sleeve, in-mould, and other, specialty types of labels. Pressure-sensitive labels account for more than half of the volume and this is also the main focus for digital print.
Pressure-sensitive labels can be produced by almost any digital printer. However, feeding by sheet is time-consuming, the substrate choice is limited and further processing is more complicated – making this approach generally not very efficient. Accordingly, most label volume is produced on dedicated roll-fed label printers. Excluding entry-level presses, I.T. Strategies reckons in their “Digital Production Label Market – Review of 2020” report that there were almost 4,000 dedicated digital label printers in use by the end of 2020. Despite the ongoing investments in label presses, the total share of all pressure-sensitive labels printed digitally is still relatively small, amounting to just over 6% of all prints. The longer-established, toner printing technologies took the lead in digital volumes with inkjet still in the process of catching up.
There is no shortage of dedicated label printing press vendors. More than 30 players offer label printers, often with multiple models in the line-up. Compared to other packaging markets, this range of choice can be bewildering. In this article we break down the market into manageable categories, consider key requirements and provide an overview of 11 entry-level inkjet label presses.