By Olivia Cahoon
Corrugated products in the manufacturing segment include point of purchase (POP) displays, large boxes, and runs of less than 10,000 for items like food, shoes, and wine.
To make short runs cost effective, corrugated packaging manufacturers look to the newest digital technologies to provide customization efficiency.
Above: CDP, based in Concord, NC, installed the first EFI Nozomi C18000 single-pass digital printer in the U.S. in 2017. The corrugated packaging provider produces custom industrial boxes, pallet and floor displays, permanent POP displays, power wings, retail-ready packaging, and retail signage.
Growing into Print
Established in 2002, Complete Design & Packaging (CDP) is an independent corrugated packaging provider in Concord, NC. The company started with five employees focused on design and service while operating minor equipment. Large scale printing and die cut jobs were completed by collaborating with local converters. Originally, CDP offered its services within a 75 mile radius of its 35,000 square foot work area.
Today, the company provides design, digital printing, die cutting, flexographic printing, litho laminating, manufacturing, fulfillment, and warehousing services. Its high-end analog flexographic and litho lamination capabilities primarily serve retail packaging applications. The company has grown to 85 employees with a 120,000 square foot manufacturing and fulfillment space and a 40,000 square foot warehouse and distribution center. Its services are available in the U.S. nationwide in addition to Mexico.
The packaging manufacturer offers warehousing for clients with limited space, large products, and high-volume orders. For customers with repeat orders, the company manages and stores finished inventory and releases quantities to clients as needed.
CDP also prototypes and short-run digital prints. It produces corrugated packaging and displays for marketing, POP, promotional, prototyping, and retail industries. Its packaging applications include custom industrial boxes, pallet and floor displays, permanent POP displays, power wings, retail-ready packaging, and retail signage.
Clients include food and consumer product manufacturers in a range of industries from home improvement to home electronics. CDP has produced packaging used at Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and other warehouse clubs and big box stores throughout the Southeastern U.S.
Entering the Digital Space
20 percent of CDP’s work is digital corrugated printing, which it began in 2011. By 2014, it purchased a 60×120-inch CET Color Q5-500 flatbed UV printer with goals of providing printed prototypes. With the press the company increased its attention to retail and display.
After implementation, it quickly became obvious that the company could provide short-run orders to make up production shortages. “At the time of purchase, CET offered the highest print quality, best bond to corrugated, and faster speeds than other options,” explains Howard Bertram, president, CDP.
For three and a half years the CET Q5-500 was used. During that time, Bertram monitored emerging trends among clients and prospects. He noticed a steep incline in demand for digitally printed corrugated packaging. “My research shows that the supply will rapidly grow with new printers coming out in the market, but the demand will outpace the supply for many years,” he adds.
The benefits of digitally producing corrugated packaging include no print plate tooling or litho labels, less waste, consistent color, speed to market, quantity flexibility, no setup time, and variable data capabilities. CDP soon began its search for a method to obtain these benefits and to help customers capture a broader range of brand building opportunities with high end, localized, and customized packaging.
In 2017, the packaging manufacturer viewed the first EFI Nozomi C18000 corrugated package converting installation in Spain. “We were initially shocked at how large the machine is. But EFI’s attention to detail within the primer and print sections is what attracted us most,” says Bertram.
Nearly 30 days after viewing the EFI Nozomi C18000 in Spain, CDP finalized its purchase and became the first business in the U.S. to install the ultra-high-speed production printing technology.
“EFI offers the highest quality and most flexibility among competitors,” admits Bertram. CDP intends to use the six-color press for cost effective, high quality, direct to board digital printing while extending its client brand presence in retail corrugated packaging.
The EFI Nozomi C18000 single-pass printer handles widths up to 71 inches wide, paper board thicknesses from 14-point cardstock, and a variety of corrugated flutes. It includes top and bottom feeding options for maximum flexibility with speeds up to 246 linear feet per minute and throughput up to 6,600 2.6×3.3-foot boards per hour. It reaches resolutions up to 360×720 dpi with four level grayscale imaging.
The press utilizes 100 percent inline, post print, quality inspection for image defects. The inline inspection system manages print optimization technologies like inkjet nozzle, alignment, and uniformity correction. Its camera system is used for remote monitoring of complete printing processes to optimize print quality in real time. Additionally, its quality inspection system uses tunable thresholds to reject failed sheets with board or print defects.
According to Bertram, digitally printed packaging is revolutionizing the corrugated industry and by implementing the EFI Nozomi C18000 the company is in for a complete game changer. With the press, CDP intends to offer its current and prospective customers print flexibility for customized promotions, speed to market, and brand awareness. “The ability to print smaller quantities with a more specific brand message to a regional audience creates consumer brand loyalty that marketing departments are unable to cost-effectively achieve today,” shares Bertram.
The EFI Nozomi C18000 features a permanent printhead architecture that reduces downtime by eliminating the need to replace consumable printheads. Its inline primer allows for control over dot gain and ink absorption on different types of corrugated top sheets.
At press time, the printer was scheduled to arrive in late November 2017. CDP’s goal is to add about 6,000 square feet of digital production per month by the end of 2018.
With the addition of any new technology comes learning curves. However, the company is prepared to adjust its routines and expand its ability to handle the new digital technology. “We plan to align ourselves with a select few customers and friendly competitors facing the same digital opportunity and maneuver each challenge by sharing our experiences with one another,” shares Bertram.
Ink, Media, & Workflow
With the EFI Nozomi C18000, the manufacturer intends to use EFI ink systems for UV applications. EFI UV LED inks are supplied in a variety of volumes including bulk containers. Inks are available in CMYK, orange, violet, and white.
CDP also plans to use the best coated sheet stock for its press, which will offer the company the best results for customers. The EFI Nozomi C18000’s LED imaging capabilities provide accurate color imaging on nearly any board substrate including Kemi, mottled, bleached, and kraft materials. Packaging produced with the printer is fully recyclable and certified for OCC recyclability and repulpability from the Western Michigan University Recycling, Paper, and Coating Pilot Plant.
An EFI Fiery NZ-1000 high-performance digital front end (DFE)—based on Fiery XB bladed architecture—drives the EFI Nozomi C18000. The DFE provides job processing to eliminate downtime spent waiting for jobs and offers advanced EFI Fiery job preparation and color management tools for high quality.
Compared to traditional manufacturing techniques, Bertram believes digital printers are sophisticated machines that are easy to operate. This is due to the absence of printing plates, setting up sheets, or changing ink between runs.
“The traditional way to print on corrugated—using ink, mounting print plates, and running setup sheets to register the print colors—is a more complex process and produces an inferior print image result when compared to digital,” offers Bertram.
With the addition of the EFI Nozomi C18000, CDP hopes to broaden its market reach. “Mass produced digitally printed materials for the corrugated industry is new, so the market is wide open. In my opinion, there are no limitations regarding its potential to sell into a specific industry,” concludes Bertram.
Packaging manufacturers like CDP adapt to the evolving packaging industry by implementing digital printing technology like the EFI Nozomi C18000. CDP hopes to improve efficiency and satisfy clients with innovative designs, fast turnarounds, and superior quality.
Jan2018, Industrial Print Magazine