2. The initial growth of labels came from flatbed label presses followed by the semi rotary letterpress and then on to intermittent rotary letterpress. This intermittent letterpress printing technology that was and still is, in use, came from the eastern countries like Japan, Taiwan and then China. The shift from letterpress to flexo started in the 1990s. Though in 1983 Liddles in New Delhi had acquired a used Mark Andy press but it was in 1993 that Patel Printing Press in Ahmedabad bought a new Mark Andy Label Press. Around the same time Super Labels at Mumbai installed an Aquaflex. This shift from letterpress to flexo was indeed a very important and defining moment for the Indian label industry. As flexo printing came to India, with it in the mid 1990s Dupont introduced their photo polymer plates in India. At that time it was in the form of analog plates for conventional flexo printing. In 2002 Numex Blocks, Mumbai bought the 1st CDI (Cyrel* Digital Imager) in India and thus DuPont introduces digital plates in India, which brought revolution in high quality flexo printing in India. Eventually with installations of ESKO CDI Digital imagers with the workflow (Software), India moved from conventional Flexo to Digital Flexo (Standard resolution) These exciting happenings brought the quality levels of label printing in India to the next level, matching Gravure and Offset quality.
Bharat Mehta of Super Labels: “It was a game changing time and Super Labels was the first in India to install an all in 1997” This was reconfirmed by industry veteran Sudhir Samant.
5. Like “makeup” is an important part of a woman’s finishing touches to her appearance before she presents herself in front of an important audience, "finishing" as we term it in label converting, is a very essential part of creating a label that will attract the all important attention of a consumer. A label needs to be decorated before it actually becomes the engineered product that will become the inevitable sales tool for any product. It needs to have the right makeup on its face. To decorate it so we need more than just printing in flexo; a higher ink deposition of a particular ink, a shining gold/silver on it, an embossing that will catch the eye, a metal effect, a gloss and so on. India’s young and literate middle class is turning out a young middle class that is more demanding in value from the consumer products in modern day retail. Label printers wanting to deliver a product need to equip themselves with capabilities to dress up labels appropriately and for this, different print technologies need to be incorporated. An offset printer who is used to moving piles of paper from machine to machine in large factories may be able to do it but the effort is too cumbersome and in the end the labels will be in sheets and not in rolls. A narrow web label printer who is used to converting self adhesive labels into labels in a single pass would need to do this online in one go. Combination printing presses now provide the answer. Introduction and installation of the first combination presses in the first half of the new millennium, the decade of 2000, is another defining moment in the Indian label industry. Wintek in South India was one of the first to install a press with a combination of flexo and screen printing, Goodwork Company in New Delhi with letterpress and screen and Veekay Graphics in Mumbai with a combination of flexo and offset pioneered this change. The combination technology has continued to evolve and culminated with Pragatipack in Hyderabad opting for flexo with gravure, Zircon following it up similarly and then to top it all it is Renault Paper, part of Manohar Packaging group, who have installed a press with capabilities to print flexo, offset, screen and gravure along with foiling and embossing capabilities! The advent of combination presses being installed is another defining moment.
6. As the label industry started to evolve and printers aspired to meet global standards in quality, there was need to look around for machines and equipment that will help them print quality that would excel. Some printers would travel to Labelexpo in Singapore or to the main show in Brussels to see the machines displayed and evaluate where to invest. The smaller printers could not afford the exercise. As the last millennium was coming to an end, the need to have a label show in India was being felt. At the same time there appeared an imperative need for an industry association. In 2002 Amit Sheth of Label Planet in Mumbai took the initiative and gathered a few printers in Mumbai and announced the formation of Label Manufacturers Association of India. The very same year Anil Arora organized the first label show in India, “The India Label Show” at Nehru Centre Mumbai. I am proud of my association and support I gave to Anil for making this show a huge success. I also managed to get Andy Thomas Group Managing Editor Labels and Labeling and another colleague from Labelexpo group part of the holding company Tarsus UK to visit the show.
9. A growing market registering double digit growth consistently for many years is always susceptible to investment beyond its natural growth. When such happens, it creates capacity higher than the demand which in turn results in intense competition. Even though the market is there and volumes are there yet margins come under pressure making ROI (return on Investment) a difficult proposition. Even when one continues to see expansions and investments in new equipment yet printers are found complaining of difficult times. At such time there is always a need felt for innovation and indulgence in new technologies. The need became an imperative in the middle of first decade of the new millennium. Somewhere around 2003-2008 printers began to actively indulge and experiment in innovation. One such initiative that has impacted my mind is a butterfly promotional label in film pioneered by the late Kartar Singh Dunglay at Goodwork Company. These were defining times when printers broke away from the custom stickers turned into labels and moved on to produce booklet label, multilayer labels, Security labels, customized promotional labels, etc. This change brought the much needed margins to the indulgent printers who dared to innovate. Evolving further printers are today buying presses with additional capabilities so as to produce unique and innovatively converted label products.
10. Printing Technologies in label printing have undergone a sea change from the time of inception. For the last two decades we have seen most of the development in flexographic printing. It surely remains the predominantly used label printing technology today. With continuous enhancement in plate technology, aniloxes, machine design, etc. this technology has become comparable to the best today. At this time one cannot ignore the entry of Digital printing and converting. Year after year at print shows around the world we see and ever increasing presence of digital printing technologies and equipments. While the digital seems to have impacted and succeeded in the sheet fed segment, it still has not found widespread acceptance in the label printing. Looking at the technology from computer to print without the plates, aniloxes, doctor blades, etc., pared with digital laser die cutting without the needs for magnetic cylinders and dies, it all looks and sounds so interesting. However the forbidding price structure for short runs in roll form, the cost of equipment, inks, etc indicates that the technology will need to evolve further and it will. The convenience in application hints that the time when this printing technology will find widespread usage in labels may not be too far. Pioneering efforts of label printers like Janus and Webtech in Mumbai and Reydun in Delhi, who acquired digital label presses, will go down in history as a defining moment.
Written by Harveer Sahni Managing Director Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi October 2014 and was first published by Printweek India Vol VII Issue 7