By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Today’s digital corrugated board printers offer white ink capabilities and additional specialty ink configurations to help manufacturers accurately match brand colors while creating vivid imagery on non-white corrugated board. While these devices provide exceptional quality and color, white ink is often more expensive than average CMYK. Manufacturers thinking about a digital corrugated board printer should consider their clients needs, additional costs, and training requirements before investing.
Most traditional digital corrugated board printers did not feature white ink capabilities. Instead CMYKK—double black—ink configurations were used and delivered lower dpi print graphics. This changed with increased demand for corrugated board printing.
This is primarily due to the availability of larger, faster printers. “More users see the value of higher quality graphics with shorter run volumes,” adds Jay Roberts, product manager of COTO/UV business, Roland DGA Corporation. While traditional offset printing still dominates this market due to large volume sizes, digital printers gain popularity both for prototyping and short runs, especially when high-end graphics are needed.
In regards to white ink, print providers are not running it all the time. “In most cases, these devices serve as down and dirty printers, used primarily for high-volume jobs where exceptional print quality isn’t really required,” explains Roberts.
When adding white ink the volume goes down considerably, but quality increases. Roberts says this is a trade off that often depends on the specific needs and desires of the product manufacturer, how much a company is willing to pay, and whether adding white helps sell more.
White ink is application dependent and may not be necessary for all. While white backing up color ink on a corrugated board can provide more color vibrancy, it can also be an expensive approach. Larry D’Amico, sales director, North America, Durst Image Technology US, says it’s important to understand white is the most expensive ink to print and can require higher levels of maintenance if not used frequently. “Because of this, you need to make sure that you absolutely need white before committing to this option. In many cases it is more cost effective to simply purchase white board.”
A Barberan S.A. representative states that around two of every 100 machines have white ink. Further, white ink is typically more expensive depending on the amount used and it usually equals more than double the costs of CMYK. “You need to cover all the printed area with white, meaning a usage of ink that is more than double.”
The Importance of White
It is often essential for printers to have a white ink capability when printing to non-white corrugated board. This is due to color vibrancy and high impact, especially on darker boards.
“White ink is a key factor in creating high-impact graphics on brown board,” shares Jose Miguel Serrano, senior business development manager, industrial printing, EFI. “With white ink, users have more creative capabilities for high-graphic packaging and displays.” This is especially useful for jobs that would otherwise have to be produced using analog lithographic lamination procedures.
Very simply, white ink and specialty configurations add vibrancy to printed media. “Just printing color on straight kraft or brown box takes away the luster of the imaging quality of the press,” states Jason Hamilton, director strategic marketing and senior solutions architect, Agfa. “As brands look for ways to differentiate their products, print providers who add this wow factor to enhance self appeal have a competitive edge.”
Additional Specialty Configurations
Ink configurations available on select corrugated board printers include specialty ink colors, varnish, finishes, and coatings that help achieve the customer’s desired effects.
The ability for a printer to offer a variety of finishes is critical to help match other print processes in a campaign. This can be achieved by post-print processes, inline coating, and even ink curing. Becky McConnell, segment marketing manager, wide format inkjet, Fujifilm North America Corporation, says some applications require special coatings and varnishes. Therefore, the work that a corrugated integrator or conveyer is carrying out determines the importance of those other specialty ink configurations. “As far as additional ink colors, they can be helpful in expanding the gamut, which could help in matching brand/PMS colors.”
When it comes to printing on corrugated board, it’s important for manufacturers to select a printer based on its unique capabilities. According to Roberts, the ability to print with gloss and white is crucial, especially for packaging applications. Digital printers offering gloss and white inks are now used to fulfill the needs of larger packaging and prototype markets with great success.
However, Roberts notes that the success of these printers is by no means limited to this market. “Quickly and cost-effectively creating mock-ups or prototypes that look just like the finished product is where UV printers truly flourish. The ability of these devices to incorporate special effects and create precise, realistic sample pieces make them unbeatable for package prototyping applications.”
Analog Backgrounds Adapt
For manufacturers coming from an analog background and adapting digital printing technology, most are not familiar with some of the corrugated specialty procedures and need a crash course.
There is often training and adjustment needed when adapting to digital corrugated specialty products. This may include the press itself, inks, and the software involved. “There is interest in this market and given the size of the investment, customers do a lot of research and evaluation before adding a printer,” offers Serrano.
In fact, many customers running analog lithographic lamination packaging production also have some experience with digital, often on scanning digital printers. To help these customers convert seamlessly to digital technology, press manufacturers like EFI offer 360 degree advisory customer support, training, workshops, and consultancy services after installing a press. “It is not just training on how to operate the printer, but a true technology transfer. We accompany our customers in aspects such as color management, color certifications, design for digital, and selling digital to their customers,” adds Serrano.
Barberan also finds that a crash course for one year is essential to reach perfect machinery and market control as well as good team training. “That’s one of our added values to our customers, the support during the starting process,” notes a company representative.
When it comes to non-white corrugated board, digital printers equipped with white ink and specialty configurations such as varnish or coatings are essential. These devices offer great color vibrancy and accuracy. For manufacturers more accustomed to analog technology, it’s important they focus training and education before making an investment.
Part two of this series looks at available corrugated board printers and their ink sets.
May2020, Industrial Print Magazine