Additionally, an increasing number of small runs are being produced that are not for testing and inspection purposes but are manufactured for actual use. “In many cases we have to manufacture special print runs with small quantities within the scope of a bigger job,” Hanbuch notes. “Usually they are language versions for countries in which the brand is only represented in a few locations.”
Offset printing is usually uneconomical in these cases, which is why Hanbuch purchased an Arizona 250 GT printer for requirements of this nature. “It was a combination of financial interest and curiosity,” he recalls. “We wanted to take a look at digital flatbed printing, so to speak, and see what happened. I am totally convinced that digital printers such as the Océ Arizona Series will displace offset printing as far as small print runs are concerned.”
In the packaging printing area, small runs are orders of up to 100 and no more than 150 square meters. With a two-meter-high display, this means about 50 displays; i.e. a meaningful magnitude that occurs frequently in exclusive markets or during the production of language versions for small countries, for example. However, a prerequisite for the success of digital printing is cost-effectiveness. This is where Hanbuch sees the clear advantages of the Océ Arizona 250 GT printer. “The system simply has the best price/performance ratio on the market,” he stated. Even more important is the top quality of the system.
“The printing is quite outstanding and achieves 95 percent of the quality of a proof system,” he says. “That is more than enough for the majority of uses.”
Cut It Out
At Stevenson Color in Cincinnati, OH, the output device chosen for prototypes depends on customer expectations. The 120,000-sqaure-foot operation, which also houses sheetfed equipment, added the new HP Scitex FB7600 industrial printer last November—its third large-format device. It also prints on a Turbojet 8600, an 80-inch EFI VUTEk QS2000 flatbed, Roland UVs, and a 44-inch Epson 9900 with spectrodensometer for ultra-high quality. “Inkjet proofing comes in all shapes and sizes,” says Steve Wardwell, manager of prepress and innovation and a 22-year Stevenson veteran. “Our retail POP comping ranges from shrink sleeves to pouches to stand-up bags and labels on bottles.” It comes down to knowing the customers, he adds. “What do we have to accomplish what they want?” It might be inkjet, a dot proofer, analog, or a mixture, Wardwell adds.
And printed output is only half the battle when it comes to package prototypes. Finishing can be the most time consuming component. But Stevenson has been saving substantial amounts of time since adding the EskoArtwork Kongsberg i-XL24 digital cutting table after the ISA 2010 show. (See sidebar.) “Training is key because it’s a very precise machine,” Wardwell says, “with a tremendous amount of options, [such as] drag knife, kiss cut, and cut through.” There’s very little hand-cutting with X-Acto knives any more, he notes. “With the Kongsberg table from EskoArtwork, our accuracy and productivity have vastly improved.”