In addition, he says, over the past five years, “We’ve drastically reduced makeready times on press and increased quality control measures. The reason for the reduced makeready time is because sheet-run lengths are being reduced. The quicker you can makeready and be up and running, the better. We’ve taken the makeready steps, and instead of those steps being sequential, we’ve made them simultaneous.”
Inline quality control measures have also been drastically improved upon by all press manufacturers in the last five years, Travis says. “For instance, we can now read color inline with our inline camera systems,” he reports. “Inline color control is a key feature when looking at new presses. It will reduce makeready time, reduce waste, and maintain quality. No other feature on the press will achieve those key goals.”
Increased Interest in Packaging
It’s no secret recent years have witnessed a steadily increasing interest in package printing. “The beauty of packaging is it is something that’s going to continue to be needed, and there’s going to be growth,” Kruchten says. “Not huge, but steady growth. People are liking what packaging has to offer in the way of versatility—flexo, corrugated—and in the way of growth.”
Winners and losers will emerge, he adds. The market demands higher quality packages and a wider variety of substrates. “What we know is the higher the quality of package, the higher the shelf appeal, the higher volume of sales. People are willing to pay for the quality, because there’s a formulaic return between quality packaging and sales volume.”
Ortbach agrees that while print is seeing some share erosion to electronic media, packaging is not one of the areas losing share. “Quite the contrary,” he says. “I think there will be very exciting opportunities and increased demand for packaging, for both high volume and specialty sides of that business. Printers who have fairly recent equipment say, ‘Where else can I use my equipment?’ Those who can modify their equipment at little expense are looking seriously at getting into this market, to make up for shrinking volumes in other markets.”
Non-traditional package printers will increase price pressure on the overall market, which will create a need for more competitive equipment, a positive trend for manufacturers, Ortbach says.
Similarly, the need for more product differentiation will drive run lengths down, spurring more emphasis on waste reduction and makeready time. And that, in turn, will also create a need for newer, more competitive equipment.
“In specialty packaging, demand for product differentiation should create a greater demand for more inline added-value finishing equipment, or product enhancement that will require additional equipment,” he says. “I’m thinking of RFID labels and coating that changes color with date expirations on food packaging, for example.”
Compared to electronic media, print will have to differentiate itself in color and ensure the process is as sustainable as possible, says Kodak’s Rich Rindo, general manager, worldwide graphics and sales development, and VP of graphics, Entertainment and Commercial Films. “The other part is that the offset printing press itself needs to be sustainable or environmentally friendly,” he adds.
“We are focusing on what we can do to reduce the environmental impact of the prepress process, particularly in the preparation of the plate. We have had a breakthrough in the area of process-free offset plate.
“It’s a plate exposed and taken directly to the offset press, eliminating the processing chemistry, the disposal of the chemistry, and any equipment costs, maintenance, electricity, and water. The product is called Sonora.”
On a worldwide basis, Rindo claims Sonora will eliminate the need for 36 million gallons of water, 530,000 gallons of plate chemistry, and 102 million hours of kilowatt energy within the first year. “We do this with the same offset quality and allow the printer to maintain the productivity they have had in the past,” he says.
For his part, Travis envisions an exciting future. “I see things we will be printing that haven’t been dreamt of before,” he observes. “And we’ll be hitting markets that we haven’t approached in the past.”