NAPA -- Collotype Labels, the North Bay's largest commercial and wine label printer, now has a digital printing press at its Napa plant to complete prototype and other small-run jobs in-house.

[caption id="attachment_19511" align="alignright" width="389"] Collotype Digital has just acquired its first HP Indigo WS4500 digital printing press.[/caption]

Collotype received an HP Indigo WS4500 digital printing press and finishing line in January, hired a six-person sales and graphics team for the new digital division in February and started rolling out labels from the press early this month. Collotype's parent company, Ohio-based Multi-Color Corp., installed the press in its Green Bay, Wis., plant two years ago.

"We had a growing digital business despite not having digital capabilities," said David Buse, president of Collotype Label. "Now we have virtually all printing technologies under one roof."

A number of North Coast wine label printers have been acquiring digital presses in the past few years to accommodate customers that may need a few hundred or thousand labels for an auction lot or large-format bottles, gift packages and security or exclusivity features such as serial numbers.

With the new digital group, Collotype also can stretch beyond the wine industry into other packaging markets in which digital printing has been making inroads, such as nutriceuticals, cosmetics, food and small-production spirits and beer. That includes some North Coast microbrews, according to Dan Welty, digital print manager.

"We're doing prototyping for new labels to send to distributors or retail buyers to see if they like the new look," Mr. Welty said. "It makes it cost-effective."

To launch the new Collotype Digital business unit, the company hired Mr. Welty, salespeople Stephanie Mickelson and Loretta O'Connell, and graphic designer Kurt Gonsalves. In February they left the Petaluma sales office of MPSDigital Label, formerly known locally as McCoy Packaging and then John Henry Packaging.

Mr. Welty came to McCoy as vice president in 1988 and then became president in 2001, a year after The John Henry Company acquired McCoy. He oversaw digital printing production and then sales. New York-based Multi Packaging Solutions acquired John Henry in 2003.

Ms. Mickelson and Ms. O'Connell had been account executives in the Petaluma office since 1981 and 1994, respectively. Mr. Gonsalves has been a wine label designer with MPSDigital for six years.

Multi Packaging Solutions in February closed the Petaluma sales office, which had been having jobs printed in Lansing and shipped back to the North Coast, according to Senior Vice President Shawn Smith.

"We're committed to that region, and we have salespeople on the ground in Northern and Southern California, working from their homes," he said.

For the moment, Collotype Digital has a two-person shift operating at capacity and plans to hire two more press operators in April. Depending on shift configurations, the business unit could reach 75 percent total capacity on the press by the end of this year, at which time a second digital press may be considered.

The digital press has an inline rotary foil stamper and finishing line with typical varnishing and less-common laminating, which provides water resistance for labels on bathing products but could also work for wines that would be chilled in an ice bucket. By June, Collotype's "Killer White" water-resistant paper is set to be available for use on the digital press.

Collotype had a specially configured press room constructed in the Napa plant to accommodate at least two digital presses. To achieve consistent quality and uptime, HP recommends the presses operate in an environment with controlled temperature, humidity and dust, according to Mr. Welty.  To build such a room can cost $150,000, on top of the cost of leasing or purchasing the press.

Collotype carries papers approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance, but the Napa facility will be certified for use of the organizations' logos on labels in May.

For details on Collotype Digital, call 707-603-1653 or visit www.collotypedigitallabels.com. To reach MPSDigital, call 866-258-8300.