Digital printing may not be the norm yet in packaging printing, but the trend is present and accelerating. One major part of the packaging space – label printing – has seen digital production grow by leaps, thanks to reliably efficient and productive narrow-web digital label printing.
As for the rest of the packaging market, wide-format inkjet is the name of the game. Many die-cut folding carton and corrugated boxes can't be done digitally without a larger size format. Wide-format graphics providers looking to expand into new markets might want to consider packaging as fertile ground.
It may still be an obvious but true fact that packaging retains opportunities because, unlike the rest of the print industry, it has no suitable electronic alternative. That growth is making packaging more popular among large-format graphics providers.
“Package printing is a huge and fast growing market, significantly larger than the overall sign and display market,” notes Harel Ifhar, strategic marketing manager for HP’s Scitex large-format division.
A Prototype for Success
For many graphics professionals looking to get into this market, prototyping is often the place to start, making proof copies, or even entire short-run production jobs on a roll or flatbed inkjet device.
When design firm Lava Partners, Irvine, CA, started doing prototypes of designs using Roland large-format solution the advantage was clear right away. “Owning a Roland Versa UV printer/cutter has definitely given us an edge over our competitors,” said Lava’s creative director, Dean Passaglia. “Thanks to the Versa UV’s ability to print on a variety of actual packaging materials, when we show a comp to a client it is virtually identical to what the actual package will be.”
The 54-inch Roland Versa UV printer produces all manner of wide-format graphics, but it has a few key features, such as the ability to incorporate metallic into prints, that make it especially useful for the packaging industry. Another Roland printer, the VersaCAMM SP-i series, addresses the all-important die-cutting need in packaging with an inline contour cutting system.
Graphics provides can also produce labels and packaging using the Roland Soljet Pro III Xc-540MT, which offers an extended gamut needed for many packaging jobs thanks to Metallic Silver ECO-SOL MAX ink. Compatible with vinyl, PET film, canvas, paper, transparent film and banner substrates, the new, metallic silver ink can be printed as a spot color or combined with the XC-540MT’s CMYK inks to produce a range of colored metallic effects including gold, silver, bronze and other pearlescent colors.
Another Roland product, the flatbed, 64-inch VersaUV LEJ-640, prints CMYK, white and clear coat on virtually any substrate up to a half-inch thick, a width that gives graphics professionals entrée into a range of package prototyping applications.
Learning from Label Success
Digital equipment makers EFI and HP learned to address the label and packaging opportunity long ago with their respective Jetrion and Indigo digital label presses. Both companies have also begun addressing the broader packaging market, with larger-format solutions.
EFI has a number of large-format flatbed and convertible print solutions that can help graphics professionals develop short-run packaging and packaging prototyping operations, including his high-speed, VUTEk HS100 Pro, the VUTEk GS3250LX, GS3250 printers, and Rastek flatbed printers. The company’s wide-format solutions have the additional benefit of integration with EFI web-to-print solutions and with EFI Radius, a comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution developed specifically for the packaging industry.
Radius offers packaging companies the comprehensive capabilities of a world class ERP system, while fitting the unique business processes of packaging operations producing labels, flexible packaging, folding cartons and extruded materials. The solution’s comprehensive capabilities address the needs of packaging companies with complex operating environments such as multi-site, multi-currency, multi-language and multi-product production processes.