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James York, WestHort:
US: Is the era of thermal transfer printers over?
James York at the Cultivate'16 promoting the Epson C831.
Demand for color
Thermal transfer printers have been the standard for over 20 years, but this is changing. People are becoming increasingly demanding for color labels and tags. In the past, printing colored tags on demand was not possible and for small quantities you had to go to a print shop or use laser printers, which are both expensive options. However, the prints or material were often not suited for the nursery sector as the color often faded and the tags were not water or abrasion resistant.
Just over three years ago, Epson introduced a pigmented ink jet printer which changed it all. With the Epson printer called the C831, the customer can now print color labels and tags on demand on to thick material, that will retain their color, are water resistant and long lasting. On top of that, this new Ink Jet is 70% less expensive than the previous mentioned options. "It is still not as cheap as the thermal transfer printers, but it is now possible to print on demand color at a great price", adds York.
So, since the introduction of this C831 printer, Westhort is promoting the printer at the Cultivate shows in Columbus, Ohio, and other shows throughout the US. However the attention for this printer the past couple of years was less than expected. Up until this year. "We received a lot of attention at the show and we even sold some on spot. Growers are actively looking for printers that can print color nursery tags and labels on demand. For the first time in history, we can say that we fully expect to sell more Ink Jet printers then thermal transfer printers for 2017", says York.
Click here for all the specifications of the C831.
Good fill in
The C831 is not only a great opportunity for the smaller growers to print color tags and labels on demand, but also for the larger-scale growers as it seems to be a good 'fill in'. "Often these large growers order their material at a label and tag manufacturer as they need large amount that Ink Jet printers cannot handle. They need to order large fixed quantities and they therefore have to over order to reach the amount they need. But if their customer cancels an order or something else unexpected is happening, they are left with the labels which they eventually have to throw away - one of our customers had to throw away $100,000 USD of old tag inventory. By having an Ink Jet printer in the greenhouse, a grower can order less labels and print the extra with the C831 on demand."
Still room for improvement?
According to York, there is still much room for improvement in the ink jet printing industry. "The Ink Jet printers can still improve in speed and quality", says York. And he expects the entire label and tag industry to shift. "I envisage that the large label and tag manufacturers will probably change or have to change their production into a service in the future. Color printing on demand will become faster, easier and cheaper, so, the pre-printed labels and tags will be less demanded. Therefore, these large label manufacturers will probably shift towards offering the service of inventing the new and striking designs."
Knowledge nursery sector
Westhort is specialized in the production of tags and labels and is doing this since the 80s for several industries. As more customers started to ask for their opinion regarding which printer to buy, they decided to supply printers too. And ten years ago, they started to design materials and select printers for the nursery sector. "So, we are not only very experienced in inventing labels and the different types of printers, we also know the requirements in the nursery sector. The C831 printer, for example, is originally designed for the chemical industry, but with our material, we suited it to the nursery sector."
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