Looking for growth in the new year? Have you ever considered packaging and package prototyping? According to I.T. Strategies, an organization providing vision and insight for emerging digital print markets, packaging growth rates average three percent a year, and total output product value stands in the range of $290 billion a year worldwide. Obviously, the market for packaging, and by association package prototypes, is enormous and growing steadily larger.
This could mean substantial new business opportunity for print providers seeking a chance to expand into package prototyping or the provision of high-quality, quick-turnaround, low-volume, and on-demand package production.
Before you get too wrapped up in the possibilities, however, keep in mind that this niche is not one you can leap into and expect to enjoy immediate success. There’s a steep learning curve involved, steep enough to make it wise for print providers to hire rather than trying to develop expertise in-house.
That’s the view of two veterans of packaging and package prototyping, VT Group president Robert Mormile and Wynalda Litho pre-press color specialist Steve Coy, who both stress the difficulty of rapidly mastering this segment.
“They have to know what they’re doing in packaging,” said Mormile, whose 45-year-old Yeadon, PA-based VT Group includes VT Graphics, a flexographic printing plates manufacturing operation; Digital Impact, a provider of wide-format digital printing and dye cutting; and Ocean Design Group, a designer responsible for designing everything from corporate branding to packaging.
“Packaging is a very unique animal. You have to understand how corrugated works, and understand how there are allowances in package design for corrugated. When we produce our prototypes, we make them press-ready in case they’re approved and need to be produced in quantities of 5,000 to 25,000.”
It‘s not just a matter of outputting a four-color process file, Mormile added. “You have to convert the file to make it press-ready with proper traps, bleeds and color corrections,” he says. “If you don‘t do that, you‘re setting yourself up for failure. The client will say go to press, but you can‘t go to press without changing the design to accommodate the traps and so on. It‘s not as easy as pressing a button and coming out with a prototype. You have to make sure the end user customer and manufacturer can use the prototype to make the end product.”
What’s more, because the structure is just as important as the graphics, it’s essential to have on staff professionals who can design the package to fit the product that it will house, while remaining mindful of the structural standards required by such major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target or Costco.
“You have two different individuals working on the project: a CAD or structural designer, and a creative designer for the graphics,” Mormile said.
Offsetting Print Capabilities
Another print provider that has successfully served the distinctive packaging and package prototype market for several decades is Wynalda Litho Inc. Founded in 1970 and based in Belmont, MI, Wynalda Litho produces multitudes of VHS and DVD packs. “We do extensive work for the entertainment industry,” says pre-press color specialist Coy. “We need to provide our clients with high quality, accurate prototypes that really demonstrate our concept.”
Other industries served by Wynalda Litho include pharmaceuticals, health care, food manufacturing, software development, household good manufacturing, media operations and industrial manufacturing, Coy said.
Wynalda Litho uses offset presses for longer print runs, but employs a recently-acquired Roland VersaUV LEC-300 30-inch UV inkjet printer/cutter to create its prototypes. That’s a break from the past, which saw Wynalda using its final proof machine for prototype production. “Running prototypes on our final proof equipment was very expensive, both in terms of operating the machines, and the cost of the specialized media,” Coy explained. “The VersaUV lets us print directly on foil stocks and plastic media. It’s paid for itself quite rapidly.”