Oct 20, 2010
FINAT, the international association for self-adhesive label industry, announced this month that it has taken the first steps to achieve standardized testing methods for digital printing of labels. FINAT has begun establishing a picked group of industry representatives to form a “task force” dedicated to this topic.
The news from FINAT, which is based in The Netherlands and has 600 members from around the world, is a sign of the importance and maturity of digital technology in the label industry, which is now has well over 1,300 color digital presses base on EP or inkjet. While color digital presses have thus come into their own in the market that was once exclusively served by analog presses, there is a gap between digital and analog in terms of print testing. For analog technology such as offset, letterpress, flexo or gravure presses, the industry has well established testing equipment, procedures and standards, one that are accepted by the key supplier categories such as media and press manufacturers and by converters and their customers.
Color digital technology, though, is younger than analog, and most of the standard printability tests and procedures have not yet been fully tried. It is also possible that such tests may need to be modified or new tests developed for use in judging digital printing of labels and packaging. FINAT is aiming to close the gap, and make digital technology as well and uniformly tested as analog technology. Their overall goal is to make digital label printing a more globally standardized technology in terms of printability, performance standards, test methods and procedures.
InfoTrends believes this initiative by FINAT is very helpful one. While vendors of color digital technology have collectively achieved good success in the label market, they are a disparate group. They include not just two major technology categories, EP and inkjet, but subcategories of technologies within them, defined by toner technology (liquid or dry toned) and inkjet heads (Epson, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Panasonic, Toshiba TEC, Xaar). There is a lot to judge and compare, such as image resolution and color matching, among other items.
What will a better, standardized testing do for color digital technology? A key benefit will be greater acceptability of digitally printed labels among brand owners. Some share of brand owners still rate digital output as marginal compared to analog, and top consumer brands are especially demanding in terms of color matching and other features. These companies seek consistency and fidelity; standardized testing will enhance the reputation of color digital.
The move by FINAT is spurred by IGT Testing Systems, a print testing specialist based in Switzerland, and Mike Fairley, a key industry consultant with Tarsus Group, the organizer of Label Expo. FINAT is now in the midst of establishing the task force, which it says will represent different disciplines. FINAT’s Wilco de Groot is chairman of the group, and will soon make recommendations about its further recruitment.