By Cassandra Balentine
Digital print technologies continue to penetrate industrial applications, including corrugated packaging. Print on demand offers many benefits, including reduced minimum order volumes, the ability to print direct to board, variable content capabilities, rapid prototyping, faster speed to market, and environmental considerations like reduced waste.
As digital print continues to advance, innovative packaging manufacturers and providers adopt the technology in order to meet the latest customer demands.
Above: To produce digitally printed corrugated packaging at scale, The BoxMaker invested in the HP PageWide C500. This digital corrugated printer outputs offset-quality sharp text and barcodes as well as smooth tone transitions with 1,200 nozzles per inch in six picoliter drops.
Established in 1981, The BoxMaker is headquartered in Seattle, WA and operates seven locations throughout WA and OR. The all-in-one supplier and provider of packaging solutions primarily serves the Pacific Northwest, including but not limited to ID, OR, and WA.
As both a manufacturer and distributor, the company provides custom corrugated boxes, labels, specialty tape converting, foam and protective packaging, fulfillment services, and packaging supplies. It strives to offer its clients a comprehensive range of packaging services and solutions to effectively address their business needs.
Additionally, The BoxMaker operates an online ecommerce custom packaging brand—fantastapack.com. Fantastapack is a web to print packaging platform designed to deliver packaging solutions for brands of all sizes, including custom subscription boxes, mailers, and labels. With it, the company serves a broader base of customers all throughout Canada and the U.S.
The BoxMaker first entered the world of digitally printed packaging with the purchase of the HP Scitex FB700 Industrial Printer in 2011. At this time digital printing was relatively new and primary used for rapid prototyping and very low-volume orders.
“We saw it as an opportunity to be of service to clients desiring high graphic packaging without the tooling costs and inventory associated with other production methods,” says Richard Brown, president, The BoxMaker.
As the technology advanced, The BoxMaker grew along with it. “We have continually expanded and upgraded our digital print capabilities since our initial investment. Today, we operate the region’s largest digital production center for corrugated packaging, display, and custom labels,” shares Brown.
While digital is a rapidly growing portion of the company’s business, its core focus still centers on its foundation as a brown box packaging plant. “As both a manufacturer and distributor of custom packaging products we offer our clients a range of print solutions,” offers Brown.
The packaging provider’s label business is now fully digital, while its corrugated business is still predominately flexographic based. “We utilize a hybrid approach for certain projects. The cross-over point between methods moves with each new generation of equipment, and we believe all future equipment will be digital in nature,” explains Brown.
The BoxMaker prides itself on operating one of the region’s largest digital production centers for packaging and display. To do this, it utilizes a range of machinery designed to create custom, wide format corrugated, label, and carton products.
In order to produce digitally printed corrugated packaging at scale, the company invested in the HP PageWide C500 Press. This digital corrugated printer features offset-quality sharp text and barcodes as well as smooth tone transitions with 1,200 nozzles per inch in six picoliter drops. The industrial press operates with print speeds of up to 246 linear feet per minute and runs on HP PageWide Thermal Inkjet Technology. For ink, it employs HP CV150 water-based ink and bonding agent. It supports a maximum board size of 51.9×98.4 inches.
“The HP PageWide C500 is ideally suited for high-volume orders that feature intricate artwork or food applications. The level of detail that this press achieves makes it a great fit for any packaging inspected up close in the consumer’s hand,” says Brown.
In addition to the HP PageWide C500, the company operates HP Scitex 15500 and 17000 Corrugated Presses, an HP Indigo WS6800 Digital Press, and Zünd digital CAD tables that deliver an automated die-less finishing system for packaging and point of purchase displays.
Through partnerships with well-known machinery providers such as HP Inc. and Zünd, The BoxMaker is committed to remaining at the forefront of digital print for packaging and plans to continue investing in solutions that deliver a competitive edge to its clients.
To help illustrate the scope of its work, The BoxMaker shares a recent application created for a long-time client, Seattle Gourmet Foods. The customer was looking to improve the efficiency of its supply chain for litho-lam quality packaging.
The job was managed by the client’s packaging advisor at The BoxMaker and called for 4,300 trays. The volume of the order and desired print quality drove the decision to produce the job on the HP PageWide C500. Production was completed in about a week.
In addition to run length, another determining factor for the job’s production on the HP PageWide C500 was the fact that the trays were designed to carry chocolates; a food item with the potential to absorb scents from packaging printed with UV inks. Therefore, the food safe, water-based inks the HP PageWide C500 uses offered the confidence to choose digital over lithography for this particular job.
The trays were finished on a Bobst Autoplaten die cutter.
For media, the order was printed on 40 ECT C Flute with Kemi outside liner that was selected for both its structural features and printability.
The Seattle Gourmet Foods trays required near perfect registration. Brown says this can be a challenge, but was ultimately something the company delivered with confidence because of the HP PageWide C500.
On the Horizon
It is important that manufacturers of all shapes, sizes, and focus areas stay abreast of the latest tools and trends in an effort to not get left behind. The BoxMaker is a prime example of a company attuned to its customers’ current and future needs. It plans to continue to invest in order to stay at the forefront of the latest digital packaging production technologies. IPM
Apr2019, Industrial Print Magazine