Esko, Packaging & Commercial Print

GROUP360 Worldwide Uses Esko Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves to Help Accurately Predict Artwork Distortion

GROUP360 Worldwide has been using a number of Esko design tools to build virtual 3D models of packaging—much faster and less expensively than physical prototypes—for customer reviews, and to create accurate artwork for shrink sleeves. 

GROUP360 Worldwide is a leading full-service marketing communications organization with well over 400 associates and 20 offices worldwide. Their impressive client list is a virtual “who’s who” of Fortune 100 companies that market some of the world’s most iconic consumer brands.

Over the past 6 years GROUP360 Worldwide has been on a mission to redefine the role of marketing agencies on a global scale by providing fast-moving consumer goods marketers a true, fully linked, integrated, strategy to shelf marketing solution.

GROUP360 Worldwide’s unique, all in-house solution has proven to help brand owners get their products to the shelf, and their messages to the marketplace better, faster, and more financially intelligent than ever before. They do this by seamlessly linking together strategy, creative, and execution, which includes all required marketing and production disciplines, each executed at best-of-class standards. Every one of these key disciplines are driven by proprietary processes, technology, custom SOP’s, and highly experienced leadership, who bring decades of experience as national brand marketers, agency executives, and production specialists from around the globe.

Finding a better process to predict shrink sleeve distortions

Unlike many companies, GROUP360 Worldwide does not use a heat process to determine shrink sleeve distortions. At times they may get specifications with product grids from the converter. While they could create good designs, the process of creating distortions for artwork required some calculations along with some guesswork. Their measurements were quite accurate, but they wanted to predict shrinkage even better. At the same time they wanted to create 3D renderings, show them to the client, and demonstrate how certain objects in the artwork could react to counter distortion. “For the most part, we wanted to eliminate the guesswork of printing and reprinting design scenarios,” says Mark Meyer, Workflow/R&D Director - Application Development.

GROUP360 Worldwide had used ArtPro PowerWarp, which helped to counter distortions created by physical shrink sleeves. After Artwork Systems merged with Esko, GROUP360 Worldwide transitioned from PowerWarp to Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves kit about two years ago. It allowed them to easily work with regular shapes created in Studio Toolkit and irregular shapes created in other 3D applications, rather than just simple cups or bottles. 

GROUP 360’s use of design and production tools has expanded to include:

  • Esko Automation Engine, a modular workflow server with dynamic workflows that are easy to set up and operate. 
  • Studio, a unique set of tools for 3D packaging design 
  • Studio Toolkit for Boxes, a version of Studio specifically for boxes, using technology from ArtiosCAD, a structural design package, and several tools to handle the complexity of panels.
  • Studio Toolkit for Flexibles, providing design tools to make flexible packaging shapes quickly. 
  • Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves, which can simulate a virtual shrink sleeve around an object. 

Designers instantly see what artwork elements suffer from the distortion in 3D. It can handle round objects, asymetrical objects and even multi-packs.

GROUP360 Worldwide needed the ability to work with irregular shapes. “We work with many unusual containers, such as flavored water bottles, for example. We will design the shape with a 3D modeling program and import it into Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves. From there creating the label is pretty easy,” explains Meyer. “Virtually any packaging structure can be used to create a shrink label, and artwork wrapped around that. The interface is very simple, and there is not much to adjust. Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves is also very helpful when creating basic assembly models—for example, when we want to show what it will look like to wrap a shrink sleeve around a case of soft drink cans or bottles. Or, there are times when we will show a customer a scene of what it will look like to use a shipping box as a display. We can show the tear-out of the box, exposing the product inside. In that case, we use Studio Toolkit for Boxes and Studio Toolkit for Flexibles.”

By using Studio with Automation Engine, GROUP360 Worldwide is able to create a model and distribute the files to operators to place graphics on the structure in Adobe Illustrator. From there they use the Automation Engine workflow to create the final rendering. “Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves is great for design work. We will use it to create a rendering for artwork, making adjustments based upon production needs—mostly for brand integrity,” adds Meyer. “Most clients are given a flat template, but rarely a digital prototype. Many do not have a good idea of what it will look like in the final form. For example, there could be a square logo near the neck of a bottle, which will get pinched in. In the end, it could look like a rectangle or another unacceptable shape. Or, a round logo could look like an egg. On a regular basis, we will pre-distort the artwork and show the brand owner what it will look like. Ultimately, the client will decide to alter the artwork or move the logo away from a high-distortion area to somewhere that is safer, giving them a more consistent, branded product. We can use Studio as a quality control tool offering a prediction of distortion. From my point of view, that is much easier than going to press and heat tunnels.”

There is a big time difference between creating a high-end 3D rendering and creating a rendering on Automation Engine. “We can spend an hour or more in a complicated 3D design application to render a file. But once we have a good model, it could take us only 30 seconds in Automation Engine to create the final rendering. It cuts down production time exponentially—perhaps ten times faster or more. Once we have an approved carton model, it could be as much as fifty times faster. I can produce in 15 seconds what it might take the production department 15 minutes to determine acceptable artwork,” calculates Meyer. “There is a significant cost savings by using Studio for prototypes versus going to press.

For some clients, a virtual 3D model is fine. In fact, a few of GROUP360 Worldwide’s customers are using the 3D renderings for sales and premarketing. Other clients require a physical mock-up, which GROUP360 Worldwide also produces or offers through a variety of its partners. However, the price tag can be up to five times more for a physical mock-up than it is for a 3D rendering counterpart. 

“We were creating shrink sleeves for 300+ variations of packaging for a recent project. Basically, by predicting the distortions, it gave us the confidence to go through all of them and make a quick decision as to what was going to distort—and by how much—and what was not going to distort,” remembers Meyer. “It allowed us to experiment with many styles and sizes, and quickly render the packaging for each container. In combination with our workflow server, Esko Automation Engine, 3D work can be passed from our operators’ desks to a final rendering in a very efficient manner,” notes Meyer.

“Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves is a valuable product for very specific needs,” he adds. If you have a specific purpose for shrink sleeves, Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves is simple to use and is up and running quickly. As far as I know, it's the only product that accurately mimics the prediction of shrinking.”

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