by Cassandra Balentine
Label and package production is advancing at a rapid pace. Today, it is possible for brands to digitally print cost-effective short runs directly to objects like cans. Digital printing and decoration enable faster turnaround times, support variable data, increased SKUs, and environmental benefits.
Established in January 2020, SoluCan provides digital decoration for cans. Based in Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada, the company employs a staff of seven and hires new employees as business continues to increase.
The founders of the company, Jean-François Gaudreault, GM and Sébastien Baril, president, have more than 25 years each of experience in the beverage industry.
SoluCan utilizes digital technology to print CMYK designs directly onto cans. It primarily serves beverage companies, including craft breweries. It does this with a Tonejet Ltd. Cyclone end-to-end, direct-to-object system, which was selected both for its food safe inks as well as image quality. The company finds the biggest advantages of digital printing to be speed to market and versatility.
“Our offer is one of a kind,” shares Baril. He says using digital makes its service flexible because there are no printing plates involved or setup time. “That brings a lot of versatility. As an example, we don’t quote on how many SKUs our customers need. We just quote the total quantity. That way, customers can play with their design versions as much as they want. The more they create versions, the more SoluCan’s process becomes a key part of their brand positioning.”
The inks utilized by the Tonejet Cyclone are another sellingpoint. “Being print experts, we were categoric on the fact to avoid UV ink usage, as these inks are not usually utilized in food packaging. Tonejet technology does not use UV,” offers Baril. Once cans are decorated, a varnish is applied and they are thermally cured.
The Tonejet Cyclone presently runs standard 355 ml/12 oz. size cans for SoluCan. It is also planning the installation of a second machine to its production line, the Cyclone C4+, which will run both 355 and 473 ml/16 oz cans.
Environmental considerations were also factored into SoluCan’s decision to invest in Tonejet. The cans produced on the system are environmentally friendly, being 100 percent recyclable. And, with digital production, the company is able to eliminate minimum order constraints as well as the use of additional plastic shrink sleeves or labels.
“Consumers and governments are aware of the negative impacts single-use plastics have on our environment. That creates a tremendous opportunity that we could not miss,” shares Baril.
Turnaround time is typically about three to four weeks, but it varies since the scope of the quantities it supports is so wide. It can take as little as a few minutes to as long as a two or three days to fulfill an order.
The company is able to handle about 3,600 cans per hour. A typical run length is about 20,000. All raw materials in the process are tracked and it benchmarks print quality to the signed pilot can. “Our equipment inspects every can we print for structure and print rendition,” says Baril.
There are some special considerations. For instance, Baril says cylindrical substrates are often challenging to print onto. “Things like distortion and print orientation have to be considered. It’s not the case with the Tonejet technology. The system applies ink and varnishes accordingly. It’s basically the same as printing a flat surface.”
Further, color gamut can be restricted if not handled properly from the start. “CMYK print will always give you a greater challenge when trying specific colors. That is why we support our customers at the earliest stage of their design process.”
Beverage companies have more options than ever before when it comes to decorating canned products. Digital direct-to-can printing is able to eliminate waste, improve creative options in terms of variable data and shorter runs, and enable a faster time to market. SoluCan is an excellent example of an innovative company that has invested in breaking technologies to forge new avenues for its customers.
Oct2021, Industrial Print Magazine