Development of the label printing industry - according to Bert van den Brink, MPS technical director

Interview about hybrid printing and its future

< News overview

Hybrid printing – this term has been used in the label and printing and converting industry for a long time. What is new about this combination of different printing processes within a printing line? Bert van den Brink, technical director from MPS Systems talked to NarrowWebTech about the label market and its development, the role of digital as well as hybrid printing and explains, how flexible packaging and labels fit together.

By Rosina Obermayer, NarrowWebTech

1) How is the label market, in your opinion, currently developing?

Bert van den Brink: We see a trend indicating that job sizes are decreasing, along with shorter runs and faster reaction times. Customers demand high quality. If you want to print the more complex labels and do the finishing, it is more economical to work with inkjet and in-line converting. In-line converting is more interesting: less waste, smaller footprint, only one operator, lower costs and less logistical handling.
In many cases, digital printing technology is not suitable for labels, for example when there is a need for PMS colours, primers, varnish etc. For this type of converting, you need flexo! Flexo technology with these options can be combined with the flexibility of inkjet in a hybrid press. I expect digital to be popular as an additional technology in the label industry, but definitely not a replacement for existing technologies like flexo and offset which can handle the more complex labels. 

2) Which development and technology do you currently see as being most relevant?

Bert van den Brink: This all has to do with shorter runs and more complex labels howeverBert Van Den Brink EF SYMJET - Kopie this trend comes with more logistical challenges. To overcome this issue, connectivity is a good solution. A hybrid press with a digital workflow already has the option to add connectivity. It makes sense to further expand this option to the whole machine. Your logistics can be connected to your production, which gives a much more efficient printing process. When working with digital technology, you already send the job to the press, so this communication already exists. Through MIS, it is possible to also add logistics to this process and in addition, you might as well add your conventional presses, to connect all systems on the print shop floor.

3) Will there be a printing technology which will increase its impact?

Bert van den Brink: See question 1: hybrid and digital will increase, but in line with flexo and offset. International studies have proven that inkjet will be the next digital technology which is the best technology to combine with conventional printing, due to its quality and print speed. Inkjet is compatible with service, availability, handling, and more identical to conventional systems than, for example, toner technology.

4) Regarding hybrid printing, how would you define hybrid printing?  

Bert van den Brink: Hybrid technology is the combination of two or more printing technologies. In this case; digital printing combined with conventional flexo technology which is used for the application of primer, varnishes and printing of for example PMS colours, combined with finishing like die-cutting or sheeting.

MPS-EF-SYMJET-Domino -inkjet _klein -620x 415

Domino inkjet unit at the MPS EF Symjet hybrid press

5) Why should printers consider investing in a hybrid printing line?

 Bert van den Brink: To achieve the lowest cost price per 1000 labels, thanks to printing and converting in one pass which results in fewer logistical steps and therefore less waste.
Another reason to invest in a hybrid printing solution, is to make the printing process future-proof. The runs are getting shorter, and today’s investment should still work in 10 years. Be ready for the future!
A hybrid printing press can be a good solution, based on certain job sizes. It is, however, not always the best solution. Still the greater number of today’s jobs on the market are larger than the hybrid press is capable of handling efficiently. You still need a conventional press for the longer runs.
If you are in doubt whether a hybrid press is the right solution for you, we’d be happy to give you advice.

6) Is there a combination (e.g. flexo & digital, conventional & embellishment technologies) which is most preferred by your customers?

Bert van den Brink: Yes: the combination of inkjet (four to seven colours) with two or three flexo printing stations, combined with die-cutting (rotary or semi-rotary) is the preferred combination of most of our customers. With this method of working, you will see a big demand for additional functionalities such as de-lam/re-lam, cross-over unit, screen printing or a sheeter. When choosing a hybrid press, you can also choose extra technologies. It is also possible to add converting units later. It is a truly future-proof solution.

7) Flexible packaging is showing growth rates worldwide. Do you think label printers should see flexible packaging as a chance or more as a competitive type of packaging?

 Bert van den Brink: We see flexible packaging as a huge opportunity, definitely not as a competitive type of packaging. Label printers are used to short delivery times and shorter runs. Therefore, they can follow the current trend in the packaging industry. The printer should, however, have a multi-substrate press in order to print packaging material like unsupported films, shrink sleeves and lamitube.

8) Which other trends do you think will be relevant for label printers during the coming years?

Bert van den Brink: Process control, which means automation, which means connectivity, means MPS’ “talk to me”!

At Labelexpo Europe 2017 MPS introduced its system for a fully automated label production, called “Talk to me”. NarrowWebTech already published this concept in detail in 2017.


This interview was first published in NarrowWebTech print issue 2-2018, and is also published on their website.