Waterproof Offset Printing?
April 1, 2014 12:48 PM   Subscribe

How can I get waterproof offset printing for sheets of labels (not rolls, unless there's a good setup for running those rolls through a b&w laser printer)? My local printer doesn't seem to think they can do it. I can't imagine it being completely unavailable, but don't know where to start looking.

Here's the situation: A small business currently uses their own digital printer to weekly print color labels for their products. Ingredients change weekly, so this versatility is importaint. They print about 7500 lettersize sheets per year , on a weatherproof polyester label.

Their process seemed like the most expensive way to do this, so I designed a 2-color label where the logo/etc could be printed single color by an offset printer, and they could run the sheets through a b&w laser printer to add the weekly ingredient text.

Unfortunately, these labels are applied to the product container immediately before the container is immersed in an ice bath for several days. My printer says that their offset inks won't last through a multiple day ice bath, and there is no opportunity to label the containers post-bath.

What am I looking for, here? My online searches for waterproof offset printing aren't providing results I can understand, printing 7500 digitally through a printer doesn't save us any money, and thermal printing doesn't seem like a good option. Any other ideas?

labels must:
-be able to have ingredients added/changed weekly. (the business must be able to run the labels through their own printer)
-have two colors
-be able to resist several days in an ice bath
posted by redsparkler to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would take a sheet or two of that polyester label stock to your printer and ask them to run it through the press, with whatever on it. See how the ink does. There's a difference between "we don't think it'll do that" and whether or not it actually does, and a few sheets of label stock seems like a cheap way to discover the difference.

And they've got to have some job using their basic inks that they can toss a sheet or two on the top of before they start the press.
posted by straw at 12:57 PM on April 1, 2014

The simplest solution would seem to be putting the labels on after the ice bath. Is there a reason they have to go on prior?
posted by klangklangston at 1:10 PM on April 1, 2014

Potentially dumb question, but is there any scope for them to upgrade to a colour laser printer? That way they could take the whole process in-house. If the colour requirement isn't a deal-breaker, you could even consider converting the existing logo to greyscale or mono and use the existing equipment.
posted by peteyjlawson at 1:14 PM on April 1, 2014

Straw, I think you're right. I should at least have the printers test it before writing the whole thing off, but they seemed pretty certain about the ink not making through a multiple day bath.

Klangklankston, The company actually has a pretty efficient system; the product is sorted into the ice bath coolers, and then the coolers are drained and used as delivery trailers on the day of. Once the product is placed in the coolers, no one touches it until it reaches the customer.

PeteyJLawson, offset printing is just so much cheaper for large quantities. They've got a color laser printer already and would spend about $1700 for color toner at these levels, compared to the $136 quoted for standard offset.
posted by redsparkler at 1:21 PM on April 1, 2014

Ah, gotcha. In that case, Straw's suggestion of getting the printer to run a limited test on the intended stock to see what happens is a good way forwards. If their ink doesn't hold up well under water, there should be an option for them to add a protective coat to a selected area after printing the logo that might fix the ink better and make it more durable while leaving enough space to print the custom part of the job. Bear in mind, it will add a third plate and more cost. I'd also get in touch with a local screenprinter for advice and a quote; seeing as it's only a two-colour job, it shouldn't cost too much and you might get better results than litho. Of course, screwing around with protective layers will bump the price up a bit (it's years since I worked in that part of the industry, so I've got no idea how much I'm afraid) but it's pretty much the only way you can go here to guarantee the results you want.
posted by peteyjlawson at 1:52 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about talking to a label-printing company? They probably have some waterproof options for the color portion that can then be run through a b/w laser? Rose City Labels, in Portland, for example. I'm sure there are others...
posted by hydra77 at 10:50 PM on April 1, 2014

In my experience, most printing companies that specialize in labels use either a web press or a screen printing press. I've made digital and offset labels, but for what you're looking for I would suggest talking to a printer that specializes in labels; they'll be able to walk you through selecting the right stock to meet your needs. And if they won't spare you a moment then they weren't worth talking to in the first place.
posted by lekvar at 6:11 PM on April 2, 2014

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