UK-based hybrid inkjet press manufacturer FFEI has said the slow progress in converting the label sector from conventional to digital technology is down to the lengthy product testing cycle rather than a lack of interest or intent from converters.
FFEI will be one of several companies, including Domino, Durst, EFI Jetrion, Epson and Screen, showcasing digital label printing technology at next week's Labelexpo Americas, where it is expecting to see record interest in digital technology from visitors to the Chicago-based show.
Andy Cook, managing director of the Hemel Hempstead-based firm, said: "So far we've got more than twice the number of meetings formally booked for each day of the show, which I think is positive for the whole of Labelexpo – it looks like it's going to be packed.
"The show in Brussels last year turned out to be busier than anyone expected and we're seeing a continuation of that trend; there's a lot of interest specifically in digital labels and packaging more generally as a market segment."
FFEI will be showcasing its Graphium hybrid digital UV inkjet press on worldwide distribution partner Fujifilm's stand (5621) at the show and will demonstrate the virtues of combining flexo, digital and finishing inline on a single device.
However, while FFEI has multiple North American installs of the Graphium press, it is still awaiting its first European order, which Cook said was the result of the lengthy product testing cycle.
"The number of prospects we are talking to and that are in the sales cycle continues to rise significantly but the whole process of getting a sale is quite long because there is a practical aspect in terms of product testing that the label converters have to do for core customers that takes time, especially at the early stages of transitioning to a new technology," he said.
"The market is increasingly interested and the intent is there, but this is not like buying a CTP engine where the technology itself is quite mature - if you speak to a typical label converter they would say it's a question of 'when' they are going to invest in digital rather than 'if'.
"At Labelexpo last year, companies were of that mind and I think we'll see more of that again this year, which means more prospects, more moving into the sales cycle and more activity."
Cook added that while FFEI had chosen not to take part in the Inkjet Trail at the show, he thought it was a good sign for the sector and a positive move by the show organisers.
"It shows there's an interest in it, a need for it and it's driving more people to come to the show," he said. "I hope it continues to happen and as it matures they start to think about different types of finishes, more spot colours and different effects in the samples, at which point we might be interested in getting involved - at the moment the concept doesn't allow for that."