By Cassandra Balentine
Part two of two
As digital print technology matures, it extends to new markets. One area of interest is folding carton production. Targeted by both electrophotographic (EP) and inkjet devices, several print engines are on the market to address this need.
The May issue of DPS magazine features a comprehensive overview of the digital folding carton market, including insights regarding both print and finishing. Here, we highlight select digital printing equipment that handles at least 14 pt. paperboard used for folding carton applications. We also discuss necessary considerations for digitally printing folding cartons.
Several digital printing equipment vendors offer solutions adept at folding carton printing.
According to Ed Pierce, product marketing manager, Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphics Systems Division, Fujifilm was the first designer and manufacturer to commercially introduce an offset-quality sheetfed production inkjet press that supports stock runs in the commercial space as well as being able to expand to include board stocks required in the folding carton marketplace. The J Press 720S runs stocks up to 24 pt. board.
“Incorporating its aqueous-based VIVIDA pigment inks along with Fujifilm Dimatix Samba printheads, we achieve such a large color gamut that most brand owners are completely pleased with what our digital press delivers,” shares Pierce.
Pierce says the J Press is on its second generation and celebrates an “adoption rate that has been on an amazing pace both in North America and globally overall.”
In addition to the J Press platform, Fujifilm also provides the inks and its cloud-based color management ColorPath SYNCH software.
“Not only do we excel in the digital folding carton segment, but we offer industry leading solutions. Fujifilm is constantly innovating our printhead and ink technology coming up with new solutions to be integrated in digital presses that help with faster speeds and inks that are adapted to substrates and applications used in the packaging world. In addition to the printhead and ink innovations, Fujifilm continues to develop existing and new inkjet press platforms for different packaging applications,” says Pierce.
Fujifilm sees many of its J Press customers looking to grow their business with production inkjet platforms. “The growing market for short-run folding cartons is a natural progression and is a successful way to expand capabilities and grow from a financial standpoint as well,” offers Pierce.
HP offers a variety of solutions for folding cartons. According to Oana Manolache, marketing manager, folding cartons, graphic solutions business, Americas, the size of carton or range of applications dictates the appropriate press, but options include the HP Indigo 30000. 12000, 7900, and 5900 digital presses. If a label converter already has a 6000 series they are able to do labels, shrink sleeves, and folding cartons.
“The media versatility of our presses that support folding carton is very broad,” says Manolache. “The HP Indigo 30000
Kodak has more than 50 years of experience in commercial and industrial inkjet. Currently, the company offers the Kodak Prosper S-Series inkjet imprinting systems for printing custom content within the topside of a folding carton at full analog press speed, as well as backside printing on the folder/gluer line. The company develops a purpose-built simplex inkjet press, the Kodak Prosper 6000S, which can be used as a standalone digital press for folding cartons or integrated into a narrow web flexo or offset press to create a cost-effective hybrid printing system.
All Kodak Prosper solutions are based on Kodak Stream Inkjet Technology, a proprietary continuous inkjet architecture that is unlike the drop on demand inkjet used by many other equipment vendors. “We also develop our own nano technology inks and corresponding pre-coating fluids that are optimized for packaging,” says Will Mansfield, director of worldwide product marketing and category management, Kodak Enterprise Inkjet Systems Division.
Kodak leverages its years of experience and portfolio of patents to offer custom engineering services for folding carton printers and converters. “Our cross-functional teams of experts work with customers to develop unique solutions that incorporate their analog presses and existing finishing equipment into a highly productive and cost-effective hybrid printer or full digital production press,” says Mainsfield.
Komori currently offers the Impremia IS29 UV inkjet digital printing system. It prints 3,000 sheets per hour with offset print quality on substrates up to 23×29 inches in size and 24 pt. thickness without the need for special coatings or pretreatment of any kind.
In the near future, Scott Robertz, digital printing systems product manager, Komori, says the company will also offer the Impremia NS40 nanographic inkjet digital printing system. It will print 6,500 sheets per hour with offset print quality on substrates up to 29.5×41 inches in size and 32 pt. in thickness without the need for special coatings or pre-treatment of any kind. The NS40 addresses many of the current limitations of digital printing for packaging.
“With the introduction of B1-format digital printing devices, such as the Komori Impremia NS40, the market for digitally printed folding cartons will grow tremendously. “This is due to meeting the market requirements of print quality, sheet size, sheet thickness, and multiple colors, including opaque white, while providing all of the benefits of completely variable printing,” says Robertz. “The total cost of ownership/return on investment breakeven points for run lengths will dramatically increase due to much improved throughput rate of 6,500 sheets per hour (sph) combined with the large sheet size.”
The Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 is a digital UV inkjet press positioned for digital folding carton applications. The KM-1 is a B2+, 29-inch UV inkjet press, printing substrate thicknesses of simplex applications .06 to 0.60 mm and duplex applications of up to .45 mm. The KM-1 print speeds are for simplex applications up to 3,000 sph and duplex up to 1,500 sph.
Edwin M. Bokuniewicz, product marketing manager, Industrial Print Group, Konica Minolta, adds that the continued development of UV inks and coatings add value to the digital solution.
Xeikon, a Flint Group Company, is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a leading digital print innovator, according to Sebastien Stabel, sales and business development, Flint Group. “We were the first to launch a dry toner digital color press in 1993, followed just three years later by One-Pass-Duplex and in 1997 the introduction of B2 capabilities. Our transformational in house developed technologies also include dedicated dry toner, which is food safe and has high light fastness and true 1,200 image quality. Besides that, we are developing complete packaging suites that not only look at print but also short-run varnishing and other finishers like our flatbed die cut unit.”
The company’s flagship folding carton packaging press, the Xeikon 3500, is designed to optimally serve this sector. Stabel says it produces at true 1,200 dpi for formats up to B2 and longer at high speeds on a range of boards. The technology is available in sheetfed and web solutions. It also supports full workflow integration. For food applications the company provides a food safe toner for indirect and direct contact. With variable run lengths, users are able to choose which length the sheet should be thanks to an integrated cutter. There are five print stations for CMYK plus one station to expand the color gamut required. Its broad color gamut makes it well suited for a range of verticals including cosmetics, food, beverages, and pharma segments.
The company also offers the Xeikon Folding Carton Suite, an end-to-end solution that includes the press, workflow, and dedicated folding carton software and components. Toners are ideally suited for folding carton production, a range of print media, and converting equipment.
Folding Carton Equipment Features
Features to look for include substrate thickness, a gap between printhead and substrate, width, ink formulation and cost, and drying.
“Digital equipment vendors’ offerings are vastly different—more so then those of analog equipment makers. Folding carton printers should research and compare carefully before investing,” offers Mainsfield.
In terms of feature sets for folding carton, Pierce says flexibility is attractive. This includes the flexibility to run stocks from a 60 lb. text up to a 24 pt. board stock. “Having this capability inherently brings a broader target market to the owner that invests in production inkjet digital technology. Also having a larger format brings a higher level of productivity and drives down cost as a result,” says Pierce.
Substrate thickness varies by application, but as a rule of thumb the digital printing system a folding carton printer considers investing in should be able to handle the same substrate thickness as the traditional printing systems already installed, suggests Mansfield.
Manolache shares that media versatility is important for presses designed to handle folding cartons. For example, the HP Indigo 30000 is able to support up to 26 pt. material thickness on a B2 sheet size. The press also supports many off-the-shelf substrates, including synthetic media, because of an integrated priming system.
Regarding the gap between the substrate and printhead, Mansfield says this refers to the distance from the bottom of an inkjet printhead and the carton board. He explains that drop on demand printheads must be positioned closer to the printing substrate than Kodak’s Prosper systems, this presents an advantage to the Prosper by reducing potential damage from the substrate striking the printhead and increasing productivity by allowing a splice to pass under the imaging system without retracting the printhead.
As far as ink formulation and cost, Mansfield suggests looking for the lowest possible inkjet ink cost to allow for greater crossover with offset or flexography and avoid inks that require high levels of humectants or may give off volatile organic compounds in the production process.
Drying should be robust enough to enable high ink coverage jobs to be printed at high speed.
Digital Print Considerations
Increased demand for shorter runs and versioning make digital printers an attractive option for packaging producers. The challenge is finding a solution to best meet the needs of a particular print environment, including the choice of inkjet versus EP. dps
Apr2018, DPS Magazine