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Inkjet printing and labels aligned for growth

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Competition is fierce in the label printing industry

woman shopper in grocery store


PRODUCT LABELING FIGHTS for consumer attention in any grocery store or big-box retailer. Government agencies around the world require coding on printed labels and packaging.

roll of labels with bar codesTracking systems, such as bar codes, often printed on labels, must meet stringent quality standards.

Coding and marking alone are expected to reach a market value of $7 billion by 2024, a 7% growth rate.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) goods, such as toiletries, over-the-counter medications, and cleaning products, boost the need for label printing for coding or marking.

Exponential increases in SKUs make mass producing labels on flexographic or offset systems less cost-effective. Also, variable data and personalization can’t be delivered through traditional analog printing systems.

Product labels have considerable utility.

More and more companies design package messaging to appeal to niche audiences or regions. Digital printing excels at producing short runs to meet the demands of these marketing campaigns.

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While not all label printing is digital, there is considerable movement in that direction.

In the report of the Top 100 Print Buyers, labels, and packaging account for over 40% of the market share of all printing.

Printed labels are big business in Asia, the largest geographic market at 35% of the total, according to Smithers Pira. North America comes in at 29%, and Western Europe holds 23% of the market. That totals more than 85%.

According to the Smithers Pira report, “The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2022,” the market will grow at nearly 13% each year. Further, the digital printing market overall is exploding at 15%.

To meet that demand, manufacturers of digital printers and inks must continue innovating to meet the needs of customers.

Inkjet Competes with Flexo and Offset

kao x-bar three print modules darkenContinuous Inkjet Systems have dominated product coding in the otherwise slim market share of digital printing. The tide, however, is shifting. Because of their scale of production, major consumer products companies can’t abandon traditional printing completely. Their move to digital may include hybrid systems using SAMBA ink-jet printing heads developed by Fujifilm Dimatix and Fujifilm Corp.

This Silicon MicroElectroMechanicalSystems (Si-MEMS) is the same technology incorporated in the KAO Collins X-BAR print module. These modules can be retrofitted into Kodak Versamark CIJ systems.

It’s difficult to argue with the Versamark’s success. While the printing foundation is solid, the printheads are less competitive with today’s market demands. Printing speed and quality, as wells as excessive downtime, all bite into profitability.

If the printing system is not running at least 95%, production and profit suffer.

The X-BAR replaces Kodak printheads and delivers faster printing at a higher resolution with a fraction of the downtime.

The Samba-based print module solves the challenges of the changing market that have become the new normal.

Inks for Label Substrates

No single material dominates label material. Most could fall under the general term of “plastic” – nylon, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (including untreated OPP and BOPP), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Other substrate materials include foil papers and semi-gloss or high-gloss paper.

Solvent inkspump bottles with labels in a box respond well to many non-porous substrates such as plastics, high-gloss paper, foils, and films.

Water-based inks are more appropriate for porous surfaces. A varnish coat may be necessary for fastness.

The leading all-around ink for most label substrates is a UV curable ink. It sets fast and offers reliable durability.

Labels for use in some food and pharmaceutical applications may require a low-migration energy-cured ink. Electron Beam Curable (EB) ink doesn’t rely on photoinitiators for curing, making them one of the leading inks for food and drug packaging.

Dye-based black inks offer better contrast necessary for meeting stringent coding requirements.

The Future of Labels and Inkjet Printing

wine bottles on a shelf

Digital inkjet printing offers opportunities for producing a variety of labels to attract the short attention span of shoppers, which some say is about 10 seconds. Beyond eye-catching designs, digital printing handles the utility of adding expiration dates, personalization, and tracking barcodes. Inkjet printing commands an increasing share of the production of product labeling.

The speed and quality of inkjet printing, along with a wide range of inks, make a move to digital a competitive opportunity. Also, companies that have relied on Kodak Versamark printers can make those systems more competitive by retrofitting printheads with X-BAR print modules.

Contact Kao Collins about scheduling a demo of the X-BAR print module or the Universal Controller that can manage 32 Versamark printheads or 16 X-BAR print module.

We answer your questions about the X-BAR Printmodule. Read the FAQs


  • Metalized Polyester – Durable indoor/outdoor use
  • Industrial Vinyl – Outdoor use with UV fade resistance
  • Destructible Vinyl – Security tags, tamper proof
  • Polypropylene – Cost-effective vinyl alternative
  • Static Cling Vinyl – Non-adhesive window stickers
  • Foil Paper – Eye-catching
  • Semi-gloss, High-gloss paper – Lower cost


  • Wet-glued
  • Pressure-sensitive/self-adhesive
  • Linerless
  • Multipart barcode
  • In-mold
  • Shrink Sleeve