Variable Data Printing: The What, Why and How for Label and Tag Converters


Picture this: you’re at the grocery store waiting in line to check out and you see a refrigerated display filled with soda bottles. You notice one row filled with similar labels, but they all feature a different name. Robert. Elsa. Jose. While you wait, you scan the fridge looking for your own name, wondering how a company could economically produce all these unique labels.
Campaigns like this use variable data printing (VDP), which continues to grow popular in the packaging industry. Many label and tag converters are interested in incorporating VDP into their business, but some struggle to understand exactly what it is and how best to implement it in their own company.

So, how does VDP work? Using a database, converters insergt different pieces of data into a print job without stopping during the production process. Companies often use VDP for text, like names and addresses, but printers can also include graphic elements as well. This practice was derived from digital printing decades ago, but—with continuous digital press enhancements and software development—the ability to create variable data labels and tags is more affordable and efficient today than ever before.

Adding to the popularity among converters, new printing techniques, like versioning and personalization, emerged from VDP. Versioning uses text and images to create labels that connect with specific groups of people—think labels that feature an upcoming event in a certain region. Meanwhile, personalization targets individuals rather than groups with messages that, for example, feature different names.

Now is a valuable time to invest in VDP – and digital printing capabilities – as consumers are increasing their demand for products they connect with. Digital production allows converters to easily and affordably produce high-mix, low-volume runs. Not only can they print 100 copies of 10 different labels or 1,000 of the same label all in one pass, converters will also reduce plate costs and time spent on changeovers.

With the wide-range of digital print solutions available, it can be difficult to know what the best method is for selecting the right digital press. Some start small with an entry-level solution, like a benchtop or standalone roll-to-roll unit paired with preexisting finishing equipment. Others invest in an in-line digital system to print larger volumes at faster speeds.

Converters may also consider retrofitting by mounting a digital engine onto their existing flexo press. By retrofitting, converters can maintain their existing press operators and use all their converting and finishing assets in-line. It also provides opportunities to incorporate VDP into hybrid printing, like adding variable data with the digital asset and printing the rest of the label or tag with flexo production.

Contact us to learn more about variable data printing, or integrating digital print production into your existing converting business.

Read the full article in Graphics Journal.

Watch the webinar presented by Digital Technology Council and Colordyne Technologies.