by Geert Van Den Hole, manager, industrial printing systems, dotrix

The demanding nature of today’s consumer means packaging has to make a product stand out on the shelf. To meet these demands, consumer goods producers want to offer more product variety, more sub branding, more interesting packaging with customization, and they want it now. Converters are forced to look for ways to reduce costs and waste, add more value to packages and yet remain cost effective in an increasingly competitive market, with high demand to supply low cost, high quality packages. Many are looking to the printing stage of the converting process to achieve this.

Run length

Traditional flexo and gravure printers need to print medium to long runs to be economical – above about 2,000 and 4,000m, respectively. This has a major impact on their ability to produce the increasingly short runs, test marketing and sampling packages essential in today’s market. Lengthy makereadies when producing test marketing, just-in-time and short run applications create excessive waste – of substrates, ink, operator time, flexo sleeves and gravure cylinders. Typically, between five and 10 per cent of a converter’s annual print production is lost through waste. It is not surprising that to reduce this level of spoilage and increase a product’s shelf appeal, digital printing is becoming a highly appealing option.

Integration of digital printing into the converting process responds to the time, cost and flexibility demands of the packaging market. With no films, plates or cylinders needed, set-up time is minimal. Not only does this reduce lead times and facilitate short runs, but the level of substrate and ink spoilage is extremely low, as registration is achieved almost instantly. With optimum running speed achieved so quickly, digital inkjet is ideal for short run printing. Compared to traditional methods, digital inkjet is cost effective from very short runs up to medium-long runs. This is extremely relevant to the increasing demand for test marketing and sampling of products. Cost savings again result from the elimination of inventories and storage requirements.

Additional to the time and cost benefits of digital printing are the added value possibilities of customization, versioning and the ability to make last minute changes. Product differentiation can also be achieved through use of different substrates. Digital printing provides solutions in the battle against counterfeiting. Losses to counterfeiting are of major concern to the packaging market, with the pharmaceutical and luxury goods industries being particularly badly hit. Digital printing allows the use of speciality security inks and substrates; and personalization of packaging designs is a means of easy traceability of a product.

Dotrix’s high speed digital inkjet colour press, the.factory, is designed specifically to respond cost effectively to the needs of the speciality packaging printing sector, including print-on-demand, short run print jobs and rapid turnaround. Its seamless integration into the production line, and ability to print at high speeds of 24m/min avoids production bottlenecks.

Many materials

The use of environmentally friendly, UV curable inkjet inks and piezo drop-on-demand technology allows the.factory to print on a wide range of substrates, from ultra thin films, foils and paper to more robust vinyls, boards and aluminium based materials. Proofs can be produced on the actual substrate and are of high quality print – essential for sampling. The press is capable of exceptional greyscale print quality, with the inkjet cartridges being able to vary the droplet sizes, so providing a 300dpi resolution with three bit greyscale per spot or eight levels of grey per spot. This contactless technology provides additional advantages over traditional printing issues such as dot gain, print quality consistency and colour management.

It is clear that digital inkjet opens new doors, in terms of product differentiation, customization, versioning and anti counterfeiting. It is the market’s drive for short runs and print on demand, however, that will prove it to be the cost effective, efficient and flexible solution the market needs.

Dotrix Tel: +32 9216 9723