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Color paints a pretty picture for inkless in-line digital printing

Article-Color paints a pretty picture for inkless in-line digital printing

Color paints a pretty picture for inkless in-line digital printing
Instant, on-the-fly changes can be made without ink and in color directly onto packaging during production.

Nimble brand owners wanting to step closer to real-time, on-demand graphics for packaging have two new colorful options coming to market in the form of Variprint and Infinity brand Inline Digital Printing technologies from DataLase.

First there was vendor DataLase’s titular technology that permitted in-line customization of alphanumeric and graphics “printed” by high-speed, low-power laser marking onto specially-treated sections of paperboard and corrugated (see PD’s recent coverage). Now the company is expanding the technology’s applicability for brand owners desiring the same kind of flexibility using color marking on virtually any substrate. Chris Wyres, CEO of DataLase, responds to our questions about the company’s new patented Variprint and Infinity Inline Digital Printing methods.

What intellectual property do the new patents protect and how do they extend the technologies’ applicability? 

Wyres: The new patents provide additional and overarching protection for the materials, methods and applications of our inline digital printing technology platforms.

The granting of these additional patents demonstrates the level of innovation and capability that the DataLase solution is able to offer to the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods sector. Digital print is growing because it offers a significant advantage over conventional print techniques, delivering capability for responsive and timely customized marketing and promotion on packs and products. Our ground-breaking technology is cost effective and efficient, providing a high added-value solution for today’s print market and meets the needs of brand owners, retailers and packaging converters alike.

What applications are most appropriate for Variprint and Infinity vs. the black print of DataLase?

Wyres: Similar to our products for laser coding, Variprint and Infinity can be incorporated into a wide variety of coatings, enabling them to be applied to virtually any substrate.

Our initial focus markets include product coding, mailing, inline digital printing of secondary packaging, inline digital printing of labels and inline digital printing of folding cartons, where we have identified clear market needs. Working closely with our global strategic partner network, the scalable, modular technology platforms created by DataLase will be utilised to address opportunities in other packaging and print formats.

In short, what’s needed for a Variprint or Infinity application?

Wyres: For brand owners, co-packers and converters to reap the benefits delivered by Variprint or Infinity, they will need to incorporate the unique additive from DataLase into a coating that is then applied to a pack via normal print methods i.e., flexo, gravure, litho etc. When the coating is then exposed to a laser, at the point of packing or filling, it generates a color change reaction in the pigment, creating the graphics or variable data required. To utilize the Variprint and Infinity technologies, packers and converters need to use a high speed LDA printer to deliver high resolution, on-demand digital printing.

What are the cost and complexity differences of each?

Wyres: For a number of reasons, the total cost of ownership of inline digital printing vs conventional digital or hybrid digital systems is significantly lower.

Firstly, the inline nature of the DataLase technology system brings advantages to the entire supply chain in terms of costs. For packers and fillers this includes avoiding the need to invest in large-scale out of line digital capacity and is a rationalization of SKUs. This delivers a huge impact on efficiency and minimizes inventory and tie up of capital.

From a performance perspective, as DataLase technology is inkless, brand owners are able to deliver a clean, high-definition, cost-effective printed pack and avoid issues associated with ablation, inkjet and thermal printing such as high equipment maintenance costs, overspray and ink particulates contamination. This negates the risk of low quality graphics and codes, resulting in reduced returns and supply chain waste.

Finally, converters can also offer customers a highly advanced digital print solution, using existing print assets and machinery.  This avoids capital investment, remapping of workflows and resource, thus improve speed to market and reducing costs.

 Next: The possibilities and what's ahead in 2016...

The ability to make changes instantly is a game-changer for Inline Digital Printing technology.

What color options are possible with Variprint? Infinity?

Wyres: The initial DataLase technology combined with a low-energy laser resulted in an irreversible color change from white or clear to black, or clear to white.

Variprint enables printing from transparent or white to any single monochrome color (black, white, red, blue, green and any combinations thereof, depending on application).

Infinity enables printing from transparent or white to multicolor from a single coating.

Both solutions allow printing of high contrast text, date and lot codes, QR codes, barcodes, logos, images and graphics across a wide range of substrates and applications.

How strong an interest is there in personalization and customization? And what’s possible with these technologies?

Wyres: With the continual expansion of SKUs in FMCG retailing and the outstanding success of the global "Share a Coke Campaign", brands and retailers are all looking for a way to differentiate their products through mass customization or personalization to increase sales. Up until now this has typically been achieved via hybrid digital systems utilizing conventional print techniques and subsequently printing variable data via digital technology.  This process can be both slow and expensive.

DataLase technology is highly responsive and can maximize consumer interaction and brand owner value around key events and promotions within 24-48 hours of the requirement.  This changes the game in the execution of real-time marketing for brands.

DataLase can be used to understand and respond to the preferences of individual consumers by customizing graphics, images or codes on labels, packaging and much more. These personalized variable data messages and graphics can substantially increase engagement as well as providing valuable marketing insight and track and trace data.

The revolutionary nature of the DataLase technology can be used across the FMCG market place from food and beverage, pharmaceutical and medical, to home and personal care applications.

Can you identify a customer application?

Wyres: The DataLase solution is designed to complement the industry’s most dynamic production lines and is actively used today for folding cartons, cans, bottles, labels, flexible materials, cases and other packaging materials.

Variprint will specifically be launched at Drupa, the largest print exhibition in the world, taking place in June 2016. The Infinity platform will be launched in 2017.

What can we expect to see with these technologies this year?

Wyres: DataLase has an established and rapidly growing install base for its laser coding and marking solutions across a broad range of markets and applications. Along with the launch of the Variprint inline digital printing technology platform at DRUPA, we will announce a number of new partnerships around the integration and installation model at the same time and will showcase future product lines the Infinity platform.

In addition, DataLase has recently announced its new venture with SpeciaLase, a new SATO company dedicated to the development of laser coding and inline digital printing in Asia Pacific where we expect adoption of the technology to accelerate rapidly.


New options in marking and coding technologies can be part of your vetting itinerary at EastPack 2016, June 14 to 15 in New York City.


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