Just because a print job requires a small size, doesn’t mean it can’t deliver huge results. Smaller printed items—whether used to promote a business or offered as unique or customized products—can deliver large-scale sales and profits. These types of small service offerings can range from mailing, gift and product labels, to decals and stickers as well as full on-demand printing.
Label printing continues to ride the crest of the wave with other printing technologies. Today, most short-run label jobs can now be printed on wide-format digital printers as well as the usual smaller desktop models. Some machines are fully now integrated print-and-cut machines, while others offer print or cut options.
Let’s Get Small
Geena Maharaj, global product manager at label printer maker Primera Technology, says that many sign shop owners are looking at small-format printing to increase the number of products that they can make and sell to their existing customer base. “Small-format label and decal printing is an ideal product line extension for them. Operators are already familiar with printing and cutting for large-format projects. They know the popular software that can be used equally well for smaller-format jobs.”
She points out that no additional training is usually needed in order to offer short runs of full-color labels. “Label printing services also brings in new customers for other larger-format work that they may need at another time. On-demand, short-run label printing can be highly profitable, too. Labels that cost just three- to five cents each to make can routinely be sold for 25 to 50 cents each. No minimum order quantities are needed since you print only the number of labels needed.”
She says that trends stem from customers’ explicit and implicit demands, and those include professional print quality and low cost per print. Can we have our cake and eat it, too? “Versatility is also important for companies that need both vibrant prime labels, as well as durable prints. Primera meets all those demands, most notably with the latest addition to our product line: the LX910 color label printer. This desktop printer is our fastest printer, but speed doesn’t sacrifice quality. Due to improvements in print technology, we’ve seen the highest output quality yet, even at the lower quality settings.”
Maharaj also says that these latest technological improvements also maximize ink usage, lowering the cost per print. “Lastly, the single cartridge system allows for interchangeable dye and pigment ink. Use dye for brilliant, bright labels, or pigment to satisfy UV and water resistance needs.”
Using Wide-Format to Print Small
Michael Maxwell, senior manager at Mimaki USA, says many print service providers can use wide-format technologies to create labels without the need to invest in specific labeling architecture. “This opens up the possibility of short run and custom work that can be connected to another project being produced in-house or for specialty projects.”
He says even in the wide-format arena, some manufacturers offer a more narrow width of a popular product that can produce more specifically. “For example, Mimaki has a print-and-cut series in both solvent and UV-LED curable that offers widths of 32 and 43 inches (the UCJV300-75 and UCJV300-107). By adding these smaller formats, shops that have repeat business that require narrow media can easily adopt these other sizes. This reduces the upfront costs and space required, while also enabling the shop to produce goods with the same color look and feel as the other printer.”
A Good Fit for Sign Shops
Jay Roberts, product manager for UV printers at Roland DGA, says that label printing can be an ideal fit and can add to profitability within sign shop environments. He says, for example, that the Roland VersaUV LEC printer/cutters, with its good image quality; unique dimensional, textural and embossing capabilities; and accurate integrated cutting systems; are commonly used in the commercial offset arena for prototyping, especially when unique materials and special effects are involved. “In addition, they’re ideal for producing short runs, avoiding the need for press set-up. The ability to do smaller runs has also led to demand for the increased customization and localization of labels,” he adds. “Our TrueVIS series of eco-solvent printer/cutters are being used by sign shops for a wide variety of applications, including label printing. The versatility of the TrueVIS VG and SG models makes them great revenue-generating tools for shops of all sizes. They image beautifully and offer the added convenience and time-saving benefits of integrated cutting, which is extremely important for label production. With a TrueVIS printer/cutter in-house, a sign shop can add label printing to more traditional offerings like signage, banners and posters, increasing the business's product offerings and profits.”
Variable Data Options
Roberts adds that the variable data capabilities within Roland VersaWorks RIP software—included with its VersaUV and TrueVIS printer/cutters—enable these printers to handle customized and serialized runs efficiently and cost-effectively. “This level of customization has remained popular, with applications ranging from personalized gift labels to event labels, club/team labels and localized runs of product labels,” he says.
“Variable data capabilities are the perfect complement to small-format print and short print runs. Having the ability to uniquely change names and addresses quickly and easily without a lot of set-up time saves the shop operator time and money, while also enabling the shop to offer a unique upgrade opportunity to the end customer buying the print jobs. In addition, Roland printer/cutters allow sign shops the versatility to deliver traditional sign applications like wraps, banners and posters, then handle jobs like label printing and apparel graphics on the same machine.”
Roberts adds that labels and stickers are also extremely popular in the apparel and sports markets. “We see a lot of sign shops adding labels to jobs to create a unique style to products they’re producing for both of these rapidly growing markets. With our integrated contour cutting, users can press 'print’ once and come back to the completed, printed and uniquely contour cut labels.”
Photographic Print Runs
Roberts says that many sign shops are using Roland printer/cutters, especially its VersaUV LEC and TrueVIS models, for high quality, photographic print runs. He notes that these types of applications, as well as printing on unique and metallic media, are quite popular.
“With UV printers, such as our LEC models, the range of media that’s possible to print on is quite broad, so unique material can be used as a benefit. Users also appreciate having the ability to use Gloss ink, which adds another dimension to the labels. Incorporating Gloss ink is often upsold as a unique style for high-end uses.”
“Roland’s VersaUV LEC series UV-LED printer/cutters can be found in many shops printing labels. These inkjets, which are ideal for creating label prototypes and for short runs, can handle a wide variety of specialty materials. Our latest eco-solvent inkjets, the TrueVIS VG and SG series models, are also popular for label printing applications, primarily for short-run production. All of these models offer users the benefits of low operating costs, exceptional image quality, integrated cutting, outstanding reliability and world-class service and support,” he concludes.
The Best of Both Worlds
Maxwell reports that print service providers that are adding additional capabilities, but still have a need for label workflows, can adopt the 32-inch UCJV300-75 and the 54-inch UCJV300-130, as an example. “Both machines use the same ink set, however the smaller unit can be configured with white since narrow media tends to come in more varieties than white. Then the larger-width unit can be configured with four colors for faster production of banners, as an example, all while having a consistency between the two. This makes managing expectations easier, and we see PSPs leveraging this type of setup to enhance their offerings.”
He says the JV Series, UCJV Series, JFX Series and the UJF Series are being used by shops to produce labels, decals, banners, vehicle wraps, packaging prototyping, etc.
High Quality in a Small Footprint
Maharaj at Primera says it is worth noting that today’s digital technologies can produce the highest-quality labels for customers. “Minimum resolution these days is 1200 dpi and labels can be produced at up to 4800 dpi. This helps small business customers make their products look as good as major brands, helping them to sell more.”
She says most shops are using the printers for what she calls “prime labels”—the labels that go directly onto products, usually a box or a jar or a bottle.
“Those jobs typically use dye-based inks for the most vibrant colors. Also, with our newest pigment inks and substrates the types of jobs produced can now include outdoor-durable decals, bumper stickers (for schools, political parties, etc.) as well as products that spend a lot of time in the sun,” she explains
“Truth be known, all of our desktop printers are being used for these applications. LX500 takes on the entry-level market and utilizes dye ink, while LX2000 is a more robust printer that offers GHS-compliant labels due to its durable pigment ink. The LX910 uses both ink types,” she concludes.