By Cassandra Balentine
The beauty of digital printing is that it enables cost-effective customization for a variety of applications. However, as technology continues to gain ground, adopters require specialty configurations that go beyond traditional uses.
For manufacturers, having an in-plant option for printing specialized products is attractive. “When on demand digital printing is introduced into a manufacturing plant, the immediate benefit is improved efficiencies by reducing downtime for job changes and ensuring the equipment is always available for production,” says David Holliday, director of product marketing, Greydon. “No need to worry about running out of any pre-printed item since only blank material needs to be ordered.”
Bill Papp, product manager, Document Data Solutions, LLC (DDS), believes anything personalized gets attention, therefore personalized/custom packaging offers an advantage. “We have seen this in the mailing industry for many years, with mailers embellishing postcards and envelopes with personalized messaging targeting a specific recipient. Recently, this trend has made it into packaging with similar success.”
Several vendors offer specialty printing solutions that utilize digital print technologies to enable in-house customization capabilities on packaging applications. From coding and marking with high-speed inkjet to options for printing onto gift packaging and on demand folding carton production, digital print solutions are available. Many are utilized in house by manufacturers.
Above: HP recently introduced the FI-1000, which utilizes the company’s PageWide Thermal Inkjet Technology.
DDS offers monochrome and full-color print systems with widths ranging from a half an inch up to a full 27 inches in both sheet- and continuous-feed configurations.
The company can retrofit an inkjet print solution to most analog printing or finishing lines—thus adding variable data print capabilities to existing equipment. It offers several printing systems with a variety of print technologies and inks to satisfy a range of demands.
DDS incorporates both drop on demand and thermal inkjet print technologies into its various product offerings. “The unifying element is our exclusive Universal Print Controller, which has the capability to drive several different print technologies with a common workflow, reducing complexity for the user,” shares Papp.
High-speed print systems require a workflow capable of automatically loading and processing multiple jobs without stopping. DDS’ systems can print jobs together, allowing the operator to load several hours of production with a few mouse clicks. “DDS offers several automated workflow options, which prove to be the perfect answer to many of our customers’ toughest workflow challenges. Also, the system’s ability to accept ICC color profiles is critical for good color reproduction,” says Papp.
The target market for DDS’ solutions include packaging, such as bags and boxes; short run, event-specific food service items; and/or mementos for sporting events, concerts, birthdays, and weddings. “Really, any company needing to imprint variable or personalized information onto a box, carton, or flexible packaging would benefit from the addition of an inkjet print system. Inkjet solutions are also a good fit for companies needing quick turnaround capabilities,” explains Papp.
Manufacturers using digital print technology gain the ability to print as needed, which reduces inventory requirements and associated costs.
Greydon provides inline printing and coding solutions for flexible packaging and medical devices, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, and food products. The company’s solutions are used in horizontal form fill seal packaging machine applications. Greydon is a product brand of ProMatch, a global provider of packaging line solutions.
Greydon Genesis is a digital inkjet printer designed to produce high-quality, durable output on a range of flexible packaging substrates. It incorporates high-resolution digital piezoelectric inkjet printheads that print in one or two colors or full CMYK process color. Inks are quickly UV cured to ensure no migration through the packaging.
Genesis was originally designed for medical device manufacturers, where the ability to print high-quality barcodes and text helped with labeling compliance. Since becoming well established in this market, the technology is also used in other applications, such as stick packs and pouches.
When installed on a parent packaging machine, Genesis is usually configured to print across the web—during the dwell part of the operation. This allows for a compact footprint, easy installation, and excellent print registration. The technology also handles most image file types and can be interfaced with a database or enterprise resource planning system for managing print formats and variable data.
“Personalized packaging can reduce downtime when changing SKUs and is also an important part of the customer’s lean manufacturing efforts. By customizing materials on the packaging line, the number of printed packaging items is dramatically reduced,” shares Holliday.
Printing online reduces waste when changes are needed—common in regulated industries such as medical and pharmaceutical—and allows for the flexibility of introducing new products quickly.
Target markets for Genesis technology include companies with a reasonably large number of SKUs, short runs, and a lot of changes. These organizations benefit from the flexibility offered by personalized printing.
When moving to an all-digital workflow, Holliday points out that there is a learning curve in managing digital printing files— this usually involves marketing and regulatory staff—as well as learning to operate and maintain new equipment.
Greydon supports its customers to ensure that each company’s personnel are ready to adapt to the new workflows as quickly as possible.
From the digital print side of Heidelberg’s business, customized packaging comes in many shapes in sizes. From the most cost-effective investment levels, it offers the Heidelberg Versafire EV and EP toner-based products, which have the capability to run media up to 16 and 24 points, respectively.
The digital presses work with Heidelberg’s Prinect Digital Front End and easily integrate within a manufacturer’s workflow. The Heidelberg Versafire EP and EV are also utilized with inline or near line coaters required by folding carton manufacturers.
On the higher end of industrial print volume, the Heidelberg Primefire 106 color inkjet B1 format press is available. The machine is fully commercialized and in serial production with installs in China, Europe, and North America. The Primefire 106 is capable of running over 1.5 million B1 sheets per month with an uptime of over 80 percent.
Folding carton manufacturers benefit from the commonality of format size with their die cutting operations and tooling, substrate compatibility, image quality, color-to-color registration, image-to-sheet registration, and PMS color matching to offset. Dan Maurer, VP, digital print, Americas, Heidelberg, adds that custom modules—like Foilstar, double coaters, or even hybrid printing of offset and digital—are possible on the Primefire.
The Primefire 106 shares the platform of the Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 offset press, but is driven by piezoelectric drop on demand inkjet technology from its partner Fujifilm. Combined, the platform creates a controlled and protected printing module that ensures uptime for industrialized production. “The quality of the print and the incoming sheets are constantly monitored by sensors and cameras to ensure the substrate never comes in contact with the inkjet printheads and that the inkjet printheads do not incur clogged nozzles,” shares Maurer.
The target market for Heidelberg’s specialty digital packaging systems is folding carton manufacturers specializing in short runs, high-quality products, and those that act as collaborative partners with brand managers and marketing departments. Other target markets include the new segment of web-to-box or web-to-carton providers.
Because digital technology reduces the cost of production for short-run jobs, Maurer says it helps make the packaging printer more profitable. “If you aren’t providing this business advantage as a supplier, you have not served your customer,” he states.
According to Maurer, personalized/custom packaging is a small part of folding carton converted tonnage right now, but it is a fast growing area. “Brand managers from the largest companies—specifically in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries—are looking to personalize/customize packaging to differentiate themselves from the competition. Additionally, with counterfeit products a constant threat, personalized and customized packaging provides a way to deter counterfeit products from getting to store shelves. Short-run personalized/customized packaging is also becoming more prevalent for test marketing, special events, regionalization, and versioned product,” shares Maurer.
HP offers its HP OEM Fixed Imager 1000 (FI-1000). The company decided to develop this solution to fit between the high-end industrial printing presses and the low-end desktop label solutions that are on the market. Marguerite Blackman, SPS Product Manager, HP, says the company has entered the emerging tabletop space offering wide, high-speed direct to package printing with durable pigment inks. “The FI-1000 OEM solution enables businesses to bring short-run, full-color personalized printing to their tabletop, under in-house control,” shares Blackman.
It is primarily used for specialty packaging, including gift and shopping bags, personalized gift boxes, shipping packaging, cartons, and envelopes. It targets specialty packaging markets including OEMs and end users—such as print service providers and small- to mid-sized businesses looking for in-plant, short-run, full-color specialty packages. Examples include churches, non-profit organizations, political campaigns, and universities.
In terms of a learning curve on devices like the FI-1000, Blackman says SPS OEMs typically have experience with thermal inkjet technology and are developing their own paper path, controller, user interface software, and tabletop/mail table integrations.
The technology behind the FI-1000 is HP’s PageWide Thermal Inkjet Technology. The device sets itself apart from the competition with its width of 11.7 inches; speeds of up to 18 images per second, and durability with pigment inks. The FI-1000 offers lower costs on both initial investment and running costs with print bar life achieving up to 12 liters per color, depending on actual usage, according to Blackman.
The wider print engine can deliver more elaborate, on demand color packaging and envelopes for shorter run, personalized direct to package printing. “Brand owners are constantly looking to differentiate packaging to make products stand out. HP opens extensive opportunities for OEM partners with a range of inkjet printing capabilities to meet fast-paced market speeds,” offers Blackman.
InkJet, Inc. offers printing and coding equipment that allows manufacturers to produce various codes, logos, and messages on primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging.
The compafany produces a range of printers and technologies, including continuous inkjet, thermal inkjet, high-resolution piezoelectric drop on demand, and Co2 laser. “Each of them—with the exception of the laser—is driven by ink and fluids specific to the customer’s process, substrate, and needs, including size, dry time, and shelf life,” shares Marc Berger, director of marketing, InkJet, Inc.
The target market is any manufacturer with the need for marking and coding. Berger says this is all of them, as well as anyone using print-and-apply labels. “Using an inkjet printer for industrial use on packages saves time and money over labels,” explains Berger.
Many of its customers consist of food packagers, bottling and canning companies, wire and cable, pet food, and cannabis packaging. Applications can be sell-by or best-by dates, lot codes, product codes, marketing messages, contact information, logos on various products and packages, and boxes and cases.
InkJet, Inc. prides itself on the reliability and durability of its printers. It also offers several differentiating factors. The company manufactures its inks and fluids, as well as replacement inks in OEM printers. It has a team of experts that can provide technical support in a timely manner.
“With the support of InkJet, Inc.’s product management, install, operation, and support teams, learning about printing and coding machines and the ink is a pain-free experience,” shares Berger.
He believes the benefits of personalized and customized packaging includes the critical need for tracking and traceability as it relates to time-sensitive products in the food and beverage industry. “Obviously, this is for the consumer’s safety and peace of mind as it relates to recalls. The benefit of being able to brand packaging with logos and marketing messages provides a return on investment for manufacturers by keeping their identity in front of their customers and making it easier to do business with them,” he offers.
Out of the Box
As manufacturers continue to innovate, print needs evolve. While the benefits of digital are clear, it is difficult to place all technologies in a specific category or box. Therefore, it is important to consider specialty packaging solutions. While the technology driving these solutions is the same for commercial applications, the uses expand beyond print on paper into customized configurations for specific requirements.
Mar2019, Industrial Print Magazine