By Cassandra Balentine
Proofing technologies continue to improve the design, review, and approval process for printed items. As digital print penetrates packaging and prototype applications, tools that provide three dimensional (3D) visualization are in demand.
Above: At LabelExpo Europe 2019, Creative Edge Software launched IC3D version 6.0, which offers a complete digital library of specialist print finish effects and a circular design/production capability for holographic materials.
Packaging design has evolved from pencil sketching through all-purpose CAD to specialized two dimensional (2D) and 3D software.
In addition to simplification and automation in packaging design workflow, advancements to proofing and prepress tools help move the industry forward.
“Structural designers can now easily verify the 2D drawing by visualizing it as a 3D model. Any problems with the structure—for example, overlapping panels or unmatching locking systems—are instantly visible and can easily fixed without the need of cutting real samples,” explains Tsvetelina Nacheva, marketing expert, EngView Systems.
Additionally, template options make it easy to complete a variety of functions without having to build items from the ground up. Jesse Ricky, product manager – EnRoute, SA International (SAi), points out that this makes for a more efficient workflow along with the ability to offer a wide spectrum of work to clients. “Modern packaging changes with the flow of the market and with a variety of templates along with free-range drawing capabilities, software can be adjusted or modified to accommodate short-run manufacturing or large-scale production.”
Packaging design and proofing tools are faster, versatile, more all-encompassing, easier to use, and capable of higher qualities. “These advances have been made in response to a modern packaging environment that continues to push the boundaries of production capabilities. Demand for even faster turnaround at lower cost, more SKUs and versioning, greater production flexibility, and more sophisticated design effects and product differentiation techniques,” shares Trevor Haworth, managing partner, Creative Edge Software.
Advancements in 3D visualization tools coupled with modern prepress production workflows make a big impression on the design and prototyping phases of package production. “In some cases, a photo-realistic rendering of a package can reduce or even eliminate the need for a physical prototype. This is especially true if it is available for online review and approval by other stakeholders such as the brand owner, designer, print buyer, trade shop, converter, and others involved in package production,” notes Mike Rottenborn, president/CEO, Hybrid Software.
Similarly, graphic designers utilize these tools to verify how text and graphics are placed over a 3D model, and can replicate artwork to match adjacent panels. They are also used to visualize post-printing effects like embossing and spot varnish, adds Nacheva.
3D visualization software for packaging helps designers optimize design and production workflow by visually proofing the 3D structure first, then the graphic design, and finally the post-printing process. “Having realistic visualization helps eliminate errors and reduces the number of physical samples that need to be produced. Designers can also use external 3D objects as product mockups to position into the packaging model, making it look as real as possible,” explains Nacheva.
In this age of instant gratification the ability to react quickly is essential. “Customers can approve the application with just a few clicks, which in return notifies the supplier that a comment or approval has been added. This allows both to stay up to date on the progress and be involved without having to wait for an email or a phone call to discuss. This also tends to eliminate receiving the wrong product or something that the client does not like,” shares Ricky.
Without modern packaging workflows, print providers struggle to compete effectively and operate profitability, while brands risk missing opportunities in the market. “Today’s high-speed, high-expectation consumer conditions mean that marketing creativity needs to respond instantly to emerging trends. This in turn requires that design and production decisions are made in days—not weeks, so that packaged goods are on the shelf in the appropriate retail environment in time to capitalize on the opportunities,” says Haworth.
This is especially important for digital print environments, where packaging enters production faster and with lower quantities, and reduces profit margin. While digital print handles these volumes cost effectively, Rottenborn admits that it does put more pressure on upstream processes—especially design review and approval. “New tools are needed to make that process as efficient as the digital printing itself,” he offers.
Role of Visualization Tools
Visualization tools play varying roles in the overall production workflow. Most importantly, they help illustrate to designers and customers how a design will show on a final product.
Nacheva explains that the primary role of 3D visualization tools is proofing the packaging design concept and getting the approval of the brand owner. This includes verifying the structure, the positioning of text and graphics over the die line, and approving finishing effects. Designers also switch between variants of front and rear graphic designs in 3D to proof artwork concepts.
Depending on the application, 3D visualization tools solve varied challenges. For folding cartons, where graphic design is often decoupled from structural design, 3D visualization quickly illustrates problems with graphic design that affect the final printed carton. “For example, a graphics panel could be upside down after folding or a design element could cross over incorrectly between two panels on the carton. Another type of packaging where 3D visualization is critical is shrink sleeves. Shrink sleeves are designed and printed flat, but the film shrinkage can cause changes in the artwork that must be corrected by distorting the graphic design in advance,” offers Rottenborn. He says the process requires sophisticated prepress software so the operator or designer can view a simulated 3D preview of how the shrink sleeve will appear after it has shrunk to fit the actual package and distort the flat artwork accordingly.
Visualization tools are used to truncate and expedite the creative and design specification process. They allow package designs to be reworked, revised, approved, embellished, enhanced, and even market tested and marketed in the shortest possible timeframe, adds Haworth.
Addressing Growing Concerns
Security and anti-counterfeiting features are increasingly important considerations for brand owners, and therefore those that print packaging.
“It is an open market out there, and competition often leads to counterfeits. Packaging is one way to safeguard against piracy,” comments Nacheva. She explains that designing packaging that is difficult to copy is in demand. Various design software integrates complex printing techniques with tracking mechanisms to prevent forgeries.
Rottenborn points out that security needs depend heavily on the type of package. Security features can be embedded into the graphic design, and some types of packaging—for example shrink sleeves—can also be used for tamper-evident closures.
Haworth says 3D visualization tools enable fast visualization and also allow for experimentation with security measures to find the right treatments or techniques to suit the brand in question. In the case of a special temper-proof lid or closure, for example, Creative Edge Software’s iC3D advanced modeling and selective editing enables the design of unique shapes or embossed seals.
User Skill Sets
One benefit of modern software is its ease of use and innovative user interfaces, which are constantly advancing.
Nacheva says it takes just a web browser to share a packaging design with the brand owner. “So there’s no need for 3D PDFs or installing additional software. The clients can check out the 2D and 3D structures, texts, and graphics in their browser. Also, every step of the folding process is animated. No previous experience with 3D software is needed to review the design, zoom, pan, rotate, or fold. It is really easy to work with,” she offers.
Haworth usually recommends two days of training for anyone with basic design skills to thereafter learn on the job. For example, iC3D features an artificial intelligence-style user interface, integrates with common design programs, and allows import/export of production files such as CAD die lines and 3D printing files.
Rottenborn points out that the best software hides the complexity behind a clean, easy-to-use user interface. “Users increasingly prefer web browser-based software rather than applications they have to install, so this is especially important in the client approval phase. For client approvals, it’s desirable for software tools to even work on mobile phones and tablets as well,” he shares.
On the Market
Designers have options for package design and proofing. Here are a few options on the market.
Creative Edge Software’s iC3D packaging visualization software is available in three modules, iC3D suite, iC3D designer, and iC3D modeller.
The iC3D suite is the original, all-in-one iC3D that provides the full portfolio of iC3D features and technologies for high-quality packaging design visualization on the fly.
The iC3D designer is an essential software portfolio for packaging artworkers and designers, covering the most pressing needs in packaging design, including visualization and packaging for cartons, bottles, tubes, flexible bags, and glass. It can be expanded with other iC3D modules if required, including the iC3D modeller range, Real Time Ray Tracer, and iC3D automate.
iC3D modeller is a dedicated toolkit for packaging model development. It is designed to fill the gap in the market for those wanting to design sophisticated or unique models from their own desktop.
At the recent LabelExpo Europe, Creative Edge Software launched iC3D version 6.0, which offers a complete digital library of specialist print finish effects and a circular design/production capability for holographic and Fresnel Lens materials.
EngView Package & Display Designer Suite is a CAD/CAM software for 2D and 3D packaging design and point of purchase (POP)/point of sale displays. It provides a range of tools that speed up and automate the day-to-day jobs of structural designers, graphic designers, die makers, and sales people involved in the creation, communication, and production of packaging. The software is integrated with Adobe Illustrator. This helps professionals visualize the 3D model of the packaging with the product inside and apply graphics to the 2D structure.
The recently introduced version 7 of EngView Package & Display Designer Suite presents major optimization features that increase the efficiency of packaging professionals and optimize production. EngView software offers a mixture of drafting techniques. A new enhancement in the 3D Presenter module makes it possible to visualize the folding of curved creases like pillow pack boxes.
To facilitate end customer communications and shorten approval time, version 7 offers new export formats for sharing 3D designs in a web browser.
For graphic designers, the suite features extended integration with Adobe Illustrator. This results in the generation of high-resolution files for printing and cutting. Created in the CAD software, a layout is visible in the integration, allowing for automatic step and repeat of the vector graphics over the sheet. This enables designers to generate high-resolution production files for printing and cutting.
Version 7 now includes a web-to-pack platform, packGATE, which helps producers sell personalized packaging online.
Esko provides a range of software solutions for proofing and package design, including Studio. Studio is a 3D packaging software for designers, trade shops, and converters. It is designed to help users produce better artwork by enabling users to virtually hold a package creation.
Hybrid Software partners with Creative Edge Software for 3D visualization and has embedded the iC3D product into its PACKZ editor and CLOUDFLOW workflow system.
SAi Box and Display is ideal for businesses looking to quickly and easily design custom corrugated boxes and packages. Box and Display design software includes ready-to-use 3D design templates for folding carton, corrugated plastic, cardboard, and honeycomb rigid material to simplify the structural design of boxes, packages, and corrugated POP displays.
Users are able to select from a library of ready-to-use display and box templates and repurpose easy to adjust templates in seconds.
With animated 3D folding view, users view designs from all sides in full 3D, animate the folding elements separately or together, and catch mistakes before going into production.
Design and Proof
Today, marketers have to move fast. With so many capabilities afforded by digital print technologies, to remain profitable it is essential that the entire design, proofing, and production process is seamless. The latest in 3D visualization tools help streamline the process, enabling cost-effective proofing that can be done on the fly. As the role of print shifts, packaging remains strong. These tools help ensure the process is simple and efficient for all involved.
Feb2020, Industrial Print Magazine