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Digital technologies help packaging prepare for a faster future
by Gareth Ward
Digital print is perfectly poised to help printers flexibly deliver brand extensions, on pack promotions, event packaging and other modern marketing requirements.
Heidelberg has identified the potential and predicts digitally printed packaging will grow at double-digit rates. It is not alone. Every press manufacturer has seen the prospects for digitally printing packaging of all types and drupa will bring into sharp focus what position each supplier is taking.
Aiding their approach will be digital print’s ability to reduce production waste by up to 20 per cent, mitigate the impact of frequent promotions and shorter product life cycles and maximize personalization opportunities.
Heidelberg’s strategy is based on developing machines and printing lines around inkjet technology, while HP reckons that its digitally printed packaging division can take the same 10 per cent share of the market that it has in label printing.
To address the demand for faster turnaround times litho press manufacturers are developing higher levels of automation to handle short runs effectively. This ensures packaging printers are comfortable printing a run of 100 sheets or several pallets of board. Litho also continues to offer advantages in terms of inline varnishing and foiling that digital does not.
And narrow web presses, once considered for labels, are now printing boards for lightweight and small format cartons, sometimes combined with inkjet for dating, coding and adding a promotional message.
If digital quality was an issue a few years ago, this is changing fast but delivering the complete end-to-end solution remains an obstacle, especially at the finishing stage where innovation is still required.
Developments such as ElectroInk technology and creative finishing systems are also perfectly timed to satisfy market demands.
However, with other technologies and production techniques delivering shorter production batches, digital will not have everything its own way. It is clear, though, that old style presses and old style management will have to adapt.