CS Labels (Willenhall, UK), has announced details of its fifth Xeikon digital label press installation following the purchase of a new Xeikon 3500 wide format digital label printing solution. The arrival of the new press has been timed to coincide with the West Midlands business expanding into an adjacent unit at its Willenhall Trading Estate location.
The new extension to the CS Labels business allows the company to double its office space, add a board room, and expand studio facilities, as well as providing a dedicated facility for its new Xeikon wide-format label press, and a temperature controlled paper store for all three digital machines.
The installation of the 516mm wide Xeikon 3500 represents a fifth machine purchase by CS Labels from the leading digital label press supplier in just five years. Whilst two of the early presses have been traded back during previous upgrade cycles, the new Xeikon 3500 machine represents a third production unit, providing an additional 50% printing capacity at the company.
A sizeable grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund aided the purchase of the latest press, and whilst it required the creation of three new jobs at the company, this proved the perfect combination for CS Labels. Managing Director Simon Smith said: “It is vital to monitor the availability of such grant options. The availability of this funding was an important factor in our purchase decision, particularly with the additional cash required to re-fit the new building. It ensures that our cash flow continues to remain positive and we don't overstretch ourselves in any one direction.”
All Digital Label Production
Whilst two screen process presses are still in use, all flexographic printing has now ceased at the business, some five years on from the original Xeikon digital installation. Digital printing of labels now makes up some 90% of the throughput.
Has moving to all digital caused any problems for the company? “Relatively few in reality,” said Simon Smith. “Of course, we focus on the advantages of the move to digital, and whilst we could always outsource any true flexographic orders, the speed improvements provided by Xeikon, along with the reduced run lengths being demanded by many customers, mean that digital really does seem to cover most of the requirements of our current client base."
“One recent convert actually sent their designers in to see us in order that we could provide them with a detailed explanation of the digital process. By the end of a very long day, they were not only convinced that digital was an essential move for their work, they had changed a design three times with press proofs, and they had increased the final order to cover 20 different types of label for their products."
“The gamut of digital is expanding all of the time. Short-run is certainly a key point of focus, but the flexibility, versatility and quality offered by the process are now more important than ever, and are seen as a real selling points by our sales people.”
516mm Wide Label Stock
The additional printing width available on the 516mm wide machine (the other Xeikon units at CS Labels produce a recognised industry standard 330mm wide web) provides a range of productivity enhancements, and offers significant additional capacity above and beyond its pure running speed. The company is using the new Xeikon software, VariLane. This allows the user to compile labels of differing length across the sheet. In conjunction with the machines post-printing splitting capability, different label runs can be easily separated prior to re-reeling. “This allows us to combine various jobs into one print run,” explains Simon Smith. “The cost of long run work especially can be significantly reduced by employing this technique.”
CS Labels is now the largest Xeikon label printing site in Europe, and is now an official test site for the supplier, which has already resulted in the company trialing a number of software packages for the digital press manufacturer.
As with many market-leading companies, CS Labels finds the time to explore new and exciting print opportunities. The company has this year become the only certified UK Xeikon user able to offer ColorLogic metalised print solutions (see www.color-logic.com for more details). “ColorLogic is a great tool for us to have in our armory. It provides us with that something special when talking premium quality labels with a prospect.
“We will also shortly be introducing the new Xeikon Color Control System. This enables us to have much better control over our output quality and match the output with conventional jobs that have been printed previously. It can manage our complete colour workflow, allowing us to generate a new profile for every medium we print on for every press within our environment. It helps us to generate the best simulation of industry standards. And because it’s a cloud-based service with no software to install and maintain, the tool requires low investment. Moreover, no investment is needed to develop in-house colour management expertise.”
Commenting on this latest installation, and the work that the company has done with CS Labels, Filip Weymans, Director Segment Marketing and Business Development Labels and Packaging at Xeikon, said: “We are, of course, delighted to have a customer like CS Labels. They continuously keep pushing the boundaries and exploring new business opportunities using the value of our new product developments. They are a perfect example of a printer that goes beyond the production of basic labels as they search for new and profitable products and services that they can provide based around the label vehicle.”
Digital presses are taking over more and more of the label sector. Does Simon Smith fear the increased competition? “Not really. We have to always be mindful of the competitive nature of the business, of course. However, we are convinced that because we were at the vanguard of the move into digital label printing, we still have a two or three year knowledge advantage over much of the competition. Some companies have tried to drive the price of the printed product down: we aim to rise above that sales tactic with our skills. We will not get drawn into a price war. We win business with quality, problem solving and innovation."
“Even today, our operators are overcoming issues, or digital job challenges, due to the experience that they have built up over the years. I am quite convinced that no other digital label printer in the UK could have handled some of the more complex jobs that we have produced this year.”
Jobs that have fallen into the “digital challenges” category for the team at CS Labels have included the production of various “peel & reveal” label products, and more recently a task that required the production of double-sided window-stickers containing personalised data front and back. “It took us a little while to solve this problem, but we got there, and have now printed thousands of food hygiene stickers for up to 70 councils to date. It would have been incredibly expensive to have produced these by any other method.”
“We do not limit ourselves to small orders,” confirms Simon Smith. “We are talking very regularly to big business. We often find that bigger players have a clear understanding of the benefits offered by digital, and are very confident about embracing the technology. Current quotes that are in the mix include one for a 22 million run. The combination of the tools and skills that we have available means that it would be very difficult for a client such as this to find the product that they need anywhere else without compromising on their specification.”
In addition to presses, the company has had to be busy expanding its studio capabilities as well. “Investment has had to take place across the board in order to keep up with the growing demand,” confirms Simon. “Our expansion into the new building has allowed us to provide more space for pre-press, and new personnel have also been essential.”
More digital finishing equipment will be the company's next investment as its print capacity outgrows existing product.
The unique combination of 1200 x 3600 dots-per-inch addressability and 4-bit variable dot density offers rich colour depth and subtle contrasts across a 500mm wide substrate. Sharp and crisp details enable the addition of the smallest and most intricate images, such as micro text to prevent counterfeiting.
The Xeikon 3500 uses the Pericles screening library. The screen ruling can be adjusted for every image element, resulting in images pleasing to the eye.
An inline densitometer enables the user to calibrate a press to ensure uniform and accurate colour and colour consistency between jobs and between presses. The four process colours plus one of a range of standard or custom-made spot colours provide an extended colour gamut. One-pass opaque white helps to create immaculate images on transparent and metallic label stock.