January 10, 2023 | Piotr Woźnica

Around the World with Mark Andy Hybrid Solutions: Customer Experiences, Benefits from Implementations, Market Trends

Decreasing orders and smaller runs, growing number of label versioning, demand on new designs of labels and packaging as well as diversifying and renovating the old designs, shorter delivery times and pressure on higher quality parameters, increasing number of print buyers who order smaller jobs – all these aspects impact the choice of printing technology resulting in profitable production. Label printers worldwide have already noticed those global trends and invested in Mark Andy’s hybrid technology or have started considering its implementation. Current users of hybrid presses point out many benefits from this kind of investment, while other printers still wait for the appropriate time to implement it. Moreover, there is an increasing number of companies who have invested in another hybrid press from Mark Andy, confirming that such solutions are a fitting response to the current and future needs of the market.

“For many printers, hybrid technology is an attractive alternative solution to traditional flexo – says Tom Cavalco, Executive Vice President Mark Andy. – For other ones it has already become a basis of their equipment set. However both groups underline that implementing hybrid is a profitable way for their business these days! There’s an increasing demand for this configuration of presses as they bring many benefits for their users. Moreover, every hybrid user points out quite different aspects of implementation, depending on his expectations, needs and specifics of the customers he handles. Our customers know the market the best so we hope their experiences will become an inspiration for another print service providers who face today’s challenges and issues”.

Tom Cavalco Executive Vice President at Mark Andy welcoming and inviting to the Digital Series HD live presentation from Essentra

Printing small jobs can be profitable!
“Many printers, still relying only on traditional technologies, are facing the problem of unprofitable smaller jobs from customers – says Przemyslaw Polkowski, Country Manager Mark Andy Poland. – As a result, they reject these jobs, or take them at a small, or even no margin”.
Constantin Cracut, General Director of the Romanian-based Next Label company, who decided for a toner-based Digital Pro 3 hybrid press from Mark Andy, confirms: “Previously we weren’t able to serve customers ordering small runs. A roll-to-roll hybrid solution from Mark Andy made this kind of production profitable. We have got new customers who started ordering small and medium runs of jobs, allowing for development of the whole company. On one hand, we are able to serve current customers using digital technology. On the other hand, Mark Andy’s solution helped us to get new customers”.
In the case of Next Label, a digital technology opened new business opportunities. Currently the printer can offer its customers a complex and comprehensive service, similarly to Ji Sung company from South Korea. As the first printer in this region of Asia, it decided to invest in inkjet-based hybrid Digital Series HD from Mark Andy. Kim Jong-Chul, owner of Ji Sung says: “We are using hybrid technology for short- and mid-run production. Digital Series HD works in single pass mode so it is more efficient for this kind of jobs when comparing to flexo press. Due to Digital Series HD we are able to proceed orders faster and offer our customers a higher level of services. We also look forward to get completely new customer with hybrid technology. In a result, we hope for a further growth of the whole company”.
MD Labels is currently the only Polish printer operating on two hybrid presses from Mark Andy. Maricn Jasinski, co-owner of the company, says: “Our first investment in Mark Andy’s press, just after starting our operations, boosted our growth. It was one of the first digital/hybrid presses in Poland at that time and after purchasing it we had a real “avalanche” of orders. It occurred very quickly that inkjet is a great response to the market needs. Printing several variations of the same label in one pass was impossible for flexo technique; and still is. We gained an increasing number of this kind of orders. On the other hand, the customers ordered shorter runs, especially those small ones operating in food, pharmaceutical, brewery and wine industries. They needed less amount of labels but paid a lot of attention to make them interesting and attractive for consumers. At that time Digital Series was the perfect response to all these needs and enabled us entering an ambitious path of growth. Success of our well established customers, increasing number of new ones, as well as growing market needs and expectations, especially in terms of VDP, made us invest in a “helper” of the first press. As we have been very glad about working on Digital Series, we decided to purchase Mark Andy’s solution again”.
US-based Pro Label was the first user of the Digital Series iQ press worldwide. According to its management, implementation of Mark Andy’s hybrid inkjet-based solution significantly increased the printer’s capacity and efficiency. As a result Pro Label reached customers from completely new markets, as hybrid technology enabled efficient label production for a new group of print buyers.
Another US-based company – Century Printing & Packaging (CP&P), an early adopter of the Mark Andy Digital One press, has recently purchased a Digital Series iQ. Management decided to again invest in hybrid technology considering the ongoing changes in the market demand and its customers’ expectations and needs; smaller runs, shorter delivery times, faster changeovers, consistent quality and higher added value of final product. Before making the final investment decision, Mark Andy prepared a report, using all CP&P’s prior year of jobs printed in flexo and comparing it with Digital Series iQ costs. It occurred that the majority of the company’s orders would be more profitable when printed in hybrid, confirming that diversifying an equipment set can be optimum for many label printers.

Mark Andy Digital Series HD at Mark Andy Poland Technology Center

Printing and converting in one pass – faster, better, efficient and comfortable

A couple of years ago the Polish-based Arti-Bau company became the first European user of Digital Series hybrid press. In the beginning of 2022, when the printer moved to a new headquarters, it was replaced by Digital Series HD. Monika Stefanska, owner of Arti-Bau is a real enthusiast of hybrid technology: “Year by year we have been producing increasing number of highly processed, embellished labels, including peel-off. We apply them on premium products, e.g. eco-friendly food. Therefore we equipped our new press with additional options, upgrading its hybrid “nature”, incl. flexo installed after inkjet unit and corona station for ink curing”.
Urszula Lewandowska, responsible for production planning at Arti-Bau, adds: “Mark Andy took care about convenience when operating the press, too. Digital Series HD applies much smaller ink drops. We highly appreciate its web control system a very intuitive software that drives the press and processes files. Printing and converting labels in one pass moved us to a completely new level of quality and effectiveness”.
Doug Thielen, VP Sales of Pro Label underlines: “The Digital Series iQ allows us to run stock widths that fit the product with the material on hand, and the flexo element provides added value in terms of coatings, varnishes, metallic colors, and a variety of finishing options.  It’s the best of both worlds!” – he says.
The managers of another US-based company Commerce Label, Inc. (CLI), have similar experiences with hybrid. Having performed offline digital finishing for more than 10 years, CLI was keen to see what a hybrid could offer as a means of streamlining manufacturing and maximizing output.  Because of the company’s growing need to supply a wide spectrum of SKUs and volume mix, coupled with higher production flexibility, the combination of flexo and digital print technology with inline converting in one hybrid machine was an attractive proposition. As a result, CLI decided to invest in Digital Series iQ.

Mark Andy designed the job with 12 different labels to compare the queality on the 3 different technologies

Comprehensiveness of hybrids: a wide range of substrates, VDP printing, versioning
“The users of all Mark Andy hybrid solutions point out very clearly that traditional technology eliminates an opportunity of VDP printing – an option that has become increasingly popular. Print buyers from many industries, e.g. beauty, food and pharmacy, order different versions of the same product: cream, shampoo, juice, medicament or diet supplement. Hybrid printing technology enables profitable production of personalized or versioned products. Moreover, it allows a wide range of substrates for efficient manufacturing of labels in VDP or versioning modes” – Przemyslaw Polkowski says.
Marcin Jasinski of MD Labels confirms: “Digital Series HD enables us manufacturing labels that respond to individual needs of our demanding customers. Some of them need clear and transparent label – we can provide such ones in a very short time. Some of them, especially from premium sector, expect very demanding labels with a lot of embellishment which sometimes are very difficult to  manufacture. We’re always ready to make such advanced projects, too”.
Emmedue Srl was the first Italian user of hybrid from Mark Andy – recently it has invested in the Digital Pro 3 toner-based solution. Maurizio Maffioli, owner of the company underlines the wide range of substrates that can be used in the press as one of the biggest advantages: “There are eco-friendly and special papers used for wine labels that are suitable for offset printing but give poor results when flexo printed. Now we can offer shorter delivery times, on a wider range of labels in different runs, without any compromise in quality and repeatability”.
Polish-based Essentra Packaging selected its first hybrid solution to meet the above market needs and expectations from its customers. Digital Series HD from Mark Andy enabled the printer to support different label designs and streamlined job approval processes.
According to Ji Sung’s management, the South Korean market is increasingly conscious of the many advantages and opportunities of hybrid technology, mainly in context of printing small and middle jobs, as well as VDP and versioning of the same product. Investing in Mark Andy’s presses was a kind of a breakthrough for Ji Sung. With new presses, it took an important first step on a dynamic path of growth as well as becoming more recognizable in the entire region of Asia Pacific.

High quality and color stability of hybrid printing
Piotr Skalecki, Plant Manager at Essentra Packaging, underlines one more aspect of hybrid implementation: “Digital Series HD offers very good parameters of digital printing in terms of resolution and color gamut. Double configuration of printheads results in optimum balance between 2×600 dpi resolution, press stability and a lifetime of its components. We also appreciate a spectacular, very high printing stability. Mark Andy distinguishes among other vendors as the company who developed both flexo and inkjet modules for Digital Series HD. It also refers to the software that drives a press. Understanding architecture of an entire solution, a  possibility of exploiting full potential of the software and implementations of improvements recommended or suggested by its customers make Mark Andy a leader among global vendors of hybrid solutions” – he says.
As product consistency is very important, Neil Waldrop of CP&P has high praise for the durability of the inks used on the Digital Series iQ. With no experience of fade or rub-off, he says there is seldom a need to apply lacquer or lamination to obtain a high-quality finish. With a typical order consisting of 42 SKUs in run lengths from 150ft to 3000ft, the lack of plate costs and reduced waste levels on the digital press make it a very competitive tool. Around 85% of CP&P’s work is straight repeat, so color consistency is vital.

Reduction of waste, energy, time and costs tied with job approval
All previously mentioned parameters have significant impact on a process’s effectiveness and a company’s efficiency in general – says Przemyslaw Polkowski. – Therefore every potential user of hybrid expects from them a lot. As confirmed from our customers, Mark Andy’s hybrid presses meet all of them”.

Piotr Skalecki of Essentra Packaging says the Digital Series HD allows for 50% waste reduction for small and mid series, as well as measurable savings at the step of design approval: “Nowadays we can use one piece of a web to prepare several versions of a particular label, reducing material usage by 75-80%. Digital Series HD needs approximately 50% of energy power required by a typical flexo press and generates a minimum ink waste. Considering sustainability goals, its very important both for us and for our customers. Previously, it took 4-5 business days for preparing five label designs for a customer. Currently we need only one day for the same task. Moreover, the customer receives more designs to choose from and approve. The entire process became much faster, reducing material usage, but also enhanced our opportunities, bringing an added value in business relationship with customers”.
In the short time Digital Series iQ has been in production at Pro Label, the new hybrid press has shown a significant reduction in waste when running multiple SKUs, as well as offered quicker turnaround on jobs, some of which are now delivered same day, if required.
Maurizio Maffioli of Emmedue underlines one more aspect of implementing digital hybrid solution: “We can also add value in prepress, making pre-production samples to evaluate the impact of the final packaging for real, not just as a video.  This will allow us to modify graphics or size if necessary.”