Bringing digital colour technology to on demand label printers is something that is picking up some momentum.
Regulatory requirements, such as GHS, are causing printer users in industry to take a hard look at options for colour printers and there are a lot of other great reasons for wanting to be able to print high quality colour labels, whether spot colour or full photo colour.
Here at the WincoPlex (part of ID Technology), we have found that we are often asked for ways to bring colour to our client’s labeling operations. To be honest, it has been frustrating – the printer manufacturers are only slowly bring technology to the market that meets the needs of the demanding labeling end user.
So far, we have worked with CMKY Thermal Transfer printers (from Toshiba TEC), inkjet printers from Primera and VIPColor and we are currently flirting with Memjet based technology products. None of these could be described as an overwhelming success.
I don’t think the TEC printers are made these days, although there is a new contender to the colour thermal printer world in the CAB XC Series which looks to be a nice solution for GHS labeling. The XC printer adds a second ribbon mechanism and printhead assembly, allowing it to print two colours. Not full colour printing by any means, but might well be a solution for certain applications.
The Memjet printers are the flavor of the month and getting a lot of hype at the moment. If I had the task to buy a high speed digital printer for in-house print jobs, I’d go with one of these for sure.
Here’s where I start to have issues with the current Memjet concept. Memjet printing is great for use in your office (I believe Memjet powered printers are the fastest available for printing 8.5 x 11 inch full colour sheets) or for mass producing digital labels – we have one at our Logmatix facility, but that isn’t what our clients generally want.
They don’t need to print thousands of labels at 12 inches per second on an 8 inch wide web. They want to print 4 inch labels on demand – one at a time when needed and the print speed isn’t as important as the data to print time.
Also, a lot of our clients are tough industrial people. They don’t want something with a lot of tiny parts – they are used to big beefy printers like the Zebra Xi series.
So what would I really like to see for the industrial colour label printing market?
First off, this is an on demand printer, not a roll to roll digital press. The existing Memjet printers (like my cool Trojan) already have the small digital press part covered.
Technology. Memjet(ish) would work for me. Especially if inks could be developed that would work on conventional label materials rather than specific inkjet ones. (wishful thinking I know). Oh, while I’m at it, let’s have durable print that meets BS5609 durability standards. not much to ask, I’d say.
Print Width. 4 inches works for me. This would handle 90% or so of all the labeling jobs
out there. No need for the extra cost, complexity and size of an 8 inch wide printer.
Form Factor. I’d like my printer to fit in a Datamax H-Class body or maybe an Intermec PM43. Space is always at a premium and I don’t want my printer to be any bigger. I want all the proper connectivity options, USB, Ethernet, Wireless (none of that charging extra for Ethernet, please!)
So What’s Out There?
Memjet’s – lots of them. Not a huge amount of differentiation because all the key parts are provided by Memjet.
Toner based printers – hmm, client feedback has not been positive on these
Inkjet printers – Primera, VIPColor, that kind of thing. These can do a decent job, but are way too $99.00 desktop from BestBuy machines for my personal taste. Slow too!
QuickLabel Kiaro! – this one comes close, but QuickLabel is the world’s most channel unfriendly company meaning that solutions companies like us miss out on the fun.
So my big hope is that one of the big industrial label printer companies comes out with a rugged, 4 inch, colour printer to really shake up this market and give us a great solution to sell. How about it, Zebra? Datamax? Intermec?
In the meantime, I have to say I’ve been enjoying seeing how well the Memjet based VP700 printer is performing in our office. Check out my review here at Labeling News.
What do you think? Would digital colour on-demand printing help in your organization? Have I missed any obvious alternative printers or technologies? (I usually do!)
Give me a call at 603-598-1553 if you want to talk colour!