By DPS Staff
Digitally printed label and packaging applications expect continued growth. Over the past few years, digital print engine manufacturers have targeted this work, launching new products and solutions to help improve efficiencies for shorter lengths and variable runs of labels and packaging.
According to InfoTrends’ recent Color Digital Label and Packaging (CDLP) Market Forecast: 2012-2017, published in September 2013, label and packaging converters worldwide spent $201 million on new CDLP presses in 2012. The report is based on adoption of both electrophotographic (EP) and single-pass inkjet print technology.
The firm states that the digital press market will grow strongly, with a 17.7 percent compound annual growth rate in digital press revenues in the forecast period. Additionally, InfoTrends states that a key component of this growth is the arrival of much higher capacity CDLP presses. The success of the market is based on narrow web color EP and color inkjet presses for printing product labels, and to a much smaller extent, folding cartons and flexible packaging.
As these solutions are adopted, we begin to see innovation across the board as traditional label and package converters realize the benefits of digital. Following up on last month’s article on label presses, and this issue’s look at flexible packaging, here, we profile two companies that effectively walk the line between traditional and digital print.
Like many great businesses, Display Pack was established in a one-car garage by founder Roger Hansen in 1967. Since its inception, the company places an emphasis on integrity and continuously meeting the needs of every client.
In 1971 the company began thermoforming, die-cutting, and coating paperboard. Actual printing began in 1980 when Display Pack moved into its current 400,000 square foot building. Today, celebrating its second generation of Hansen family ownership, the Display Pack team now includes hundreds of employees that operate out of two manufacturing facilities in CA and MI, where it offers the design, manufacturing, and shipment of innovative packaging for a worldwide client base.
In approximately 2007, the company began to look at digital printing as a possibility for packaging, but proceeded with caution due to technology limitations at the time. “As packaging continued to trend towards custom designs with lower volumes and quicker turnaround times, digital printing fit our customers’ needs,” says Elliott Eckert, graphic arts manager, Display Pack, Inc.
The company purchased its first digital press, a Kodak NexPress SE3900, in November 2010 and started digital production the following month. It still operates the same press today.
One benefit of digital packaging is the approval process. “There is far less effort going from an approved graphic to printed product when compared to offset printing,” says Eckert. He explains that this includes less time in prepress, the elimination of printing plates, and the reduction of makeready.
However, with those savings come new challenges, such as color matching, smaller sheet sizes, and slower production speeds. For each job, the company must consider size, color, quantity, and consistency when deciding to offer a job digitally versus offset.
According to Eckert, the company primarily prints on paperboard with its NexPress digital production device. Applications include folding cartons, insert cards, and trapped blister cards. For finishing, they run a Baum pile sheet feeder and an inline Epic CTi-660 coater. “There were many factors that led us to this equipment,” says Eckert. Primary factors included the 14×26-inch sheet size, speed, and the fifth imaging unit, which accepts red, green, or blue ink, enabling them to increase color gamut and ability to match spot colors.
“Spot colors play a huge role in packaging and sometimes we can’t hit those with the NexPress,” says Eckert. “Ideally, our team is involved up front in the design of the packaging and steers the customer towards graphics that will work well printing offset or digital. This allows us to consistently meet quality expectations across a family of packages.”
Eckert notes that the competitive marketplace drives packaging innovation in graphics and structure. “Digital printing gives us an edge when designing packaging, allowing multiple SKUs at shorter run quantities with a faster turnaround time. This means our customers can quickly and effectively market their products with a minimal investment,” he says.
Display Pack says that it is receiving positive feedback from the brand managers they serve. “They like the freedom to periodically change graphics with a minimal investment compared to a larger print run,” says Eckert
Digital printing capabilities provide Display Pack with greater flexibility in how they organize jobs to maximize productivity and profit. “We have also increased efficiency in other areas downstream from digital printing to shorten our lead times,” notes Eckert. He explains that for certain customers, the turnaround time on digital orders is three days from the receipt of the purchase order to the shipment of die-cut package components.
Eckert estimates that today, approximately ten percent of its business is digital print related. This is mainly due to the fact that digital volumes are inherently lower. He expects this to grow if current trends continue.
Dion Label Printing is a packaging specialist located in Westfield, MA. The company produces labels, shrink sleeves, tags, tickets, and custom products for a variety of industries.
It began in 1969 when John Dion, an employee at a New England plastics molding company, offered to take over the company’s label printing division when it made the decision to move most of its operations to the South. Dion opened up shop in his basement with two printing presses, a paper cutter, platemaker, and small label maker. There, he and his wife, Jane, handled artwork processing, platemaking, and actual production.
The company enjoyed steady growth, moving to the garage, then a major client’s office, and finally to its own newly built 4,000 square foot facility in Western MA in 1981. Several generations of the Dions have joined the company since its beginning. It has undergone many expansions and currently operates out of a 30,000 square foot facility with more than 65 employees and seven major departments.
The company employs a combination of multiple Hewlett-Packard (HP) Indigo W6000 presses, flexographic presses, and shrink sleeve equipment. It also uses sustainable practices to create new, premium solutions for its clients. Finishing capabilities include hot stamp, cold foil, silkscreen, embossing, debossing, and specialty coating.
Industries served by the company include cosmetic and beauty, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, industrial, ski and recreation, medical, toy, and retail. Applications are created using a range of media and substrates, such as pressure-sensitive papers and films, non-pressure sensitive papers, tags and films, direct thermal/thermal transfer paper, Mylar/polyester, polypropylene, polyethylene, Lexan/polycarbonate, synthetic papers, vinyl, heat-sealable lidding, foil laminated papers, polystyrene, and foil pouching.
Many of its applications are created digitally, including its label, tag, pouch, and shrink sleeve options. According to Stacy Falconer, business development director, Dion Label Printing, the company added digital services in 2004 due to a trend towards smaller runs, complex graphics, and increased SKUs.
Today, she estimates that digital makes up 40 percent of the company’s overall business.
“Since we print both analog and digital, we often review the goals of the project with a brand manager,” says Falconer. She explains that if an application lends itself to digital—due to factors such as graphic complexity and run length—they work with the brand manager to discuss the options.
“Showing the benefits of digital is fairly easy,” remarks Falconer. “Printed press proofs go a long way in showing the customer the advantages of printing labels via digital printing.”
She adds that brand owners appreciate the versatility digital print offers. “They are able to keep inventory per SKU low, increase security with batch numbers or utilize sequential numbering, personalize packaging to a target market, and see actual prototypes prior to printing a full production run.”
In addition to hardware, Dion Label Printing has added several software applications that enable a fully integrated automation system. This allows the company to go straight from order entry to press with repeat labels.
Growing with Digital
Digital print technologies provide the benefit of short runs and variability to a range of industries. The label and packaging market is one of the latest adopters of digital print and finishing technology.
As customers begin to request more SKUs, shorter runs, and fast turnaround times, more organizations take on digital components to complement existing traditional methods of label and package printing. Display Pack and Dion Labels are two examples of industry innovators, promoting a balance of traditional and digital print technologies to offer the best solution for any given customer or project. dps
May2014, DPS Magazine