By Cassandra Balentine
Folding cartons represent a popular segment of the packaging industry. As trends towards shorter runs continue, equipment dedicated to folding carton production emerges to meet the demand. While traditional methods still make up a majority of the folding cartons produced today, digital is a growing and important part of the application’s future. Major trends, such as localization needs and marketing innovation lead the move for adoption worldwide.
“Right now, the folding carton converting space is still dominated by offset,” suggests Filip Weymans, director of segment marketing and business development, labels and packaging, Xeikon. “Unfortunately, with offset, you have the disadvantage of long makeready times and higher costs, so it’s only cost effective for longer runs.”
This familiar story lends itself to the adoption of digital technologies. “Trends in retail and fast-moving consumer goods markets are pushing brands to seek digital packaging to streamline their supply chains, reduce inventory and obsolescence, manage and grow variety, improve sustainability score cards, and most importantly, communicate with consumers in a more targeted manner,” says Yuval Golan, product manager, strategic marketing, HP Indigo, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
“Consumer marketers embraced full-color imaging because it helped products compete on crowded retail shelves, on Web sites, and in print promotions,” suggests Paul Foszcz, product manager, Fujifilm North America, Graphic Systems Division. “Folding carton printers have accomplished the difficult transition to successfully printing the very high-quality images demanded by marketers on less than optimal stocks. The current challenge for folding carton producers is to provide shorter runs for regional, promotional, or private label campaigns,” he adds.
Hamidah Mansor, worldwide digital packaging business manager, Xerox Corporation, anticipates that most digital folding carton growth in the next five years will occur in healthcare and pharmaceutical applications. He cites frequent changes due to government regulations, new product introductions, and shorter production lifecycles as drivers of print on demand and packaging requirements.
Golan adds that many brands have used digital labels for years, and now they seek other forms of packaging—such as folding cartons—and demand that suppliers find alternative solutions. “The opportunity for packaging centers on high-value, personalized folding carton applications for marketing campaigns; markets with a variety of products as well as frequent artwork and copy changes, such as the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and supplements, personal care, and hair color markets; high-end and luxury markets including cosmetics, confections, and spirits; customers with lower volume needs, including private and store brands and small and medium packaged goods companies; and jobs that require variable data printing or brand protection.”
Smithers Pira, a worldwide research firm focused on packaging, paper, and print industry supply chains is watching the segment closely, anticipating in its The Future of Folding Cartons to 2018 report, that overall, the global market for folding cartons will grow 5.1 percent annually to reach $184 billion by 2018.
While digital currently makes up a fraction of these projections, the trends described above, in addition to the investment in future technology by major digital press manufacturers, indicates its growth potential.
Many digital press manufactures have put in the time and development to address the growing need for digital folding carton production. Here, we provide information on dedicated solutions for digital printing and finishing of folding carton applications.
Canon Solutions America announced the Océ InfiniStream technology in 2012, developed for folding carton production. The liquid toner technology enables variable imaging on standard carton board of up to 600 microns thick. The modular print tower concept allows speeds of up to 120 m/minute with a 28-inch wide web, resulting in up to 14,400 B2 sheets or 7,200 B1 sheets per hour, irrespective of the number of colors used.
Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, offers the J Press 720S, a digital color inkjet B2 sheetfed press. It offers a configuration similar to offset to help operators find the adjustments intuitive. Sheet transfers are accomplished with traditional cylinders and typical delivery transport with grippers. It uses Fujifilm VIVDIA inks combined with Fujifilm Dimatix inkjet printheads.
The J Press 720S handles short-run packaging for versioning and local applications. Foszcz says it’s ideal for test marketing packaging for product launches, and niché products. Offline coating is accomplished with a bridge to an aqueous or UV coater.
HP Indigo’s flagship offering for folding carton production is the HP Indigo 30000 Digital Press. The sheet-fed solution offers proven print quality with seven-color printing on carton stocks of up to 600 micros thick. The 29-inch format is designed to provide breakthrough productivity and fits seamlessly into existing workloads.
According to the company, its One Shot Color technology delivers perfect color registration and enables printing on a range of surfaces, including coated and uncoated boards, metalized boards, and plastic sheets. The HP Indigo 30000 Digital press also supports advanced, end-to-end solutions with the HP SmartStream Labels and Packaging Print Server, designed by Esko, for complete color management with accurate and efficient color matching. An inline priming unit supports off-the-shelf paperboards, and an inline selective coating unit, the TRESU iCoat 30000, allows selective coating with fast changeover.
In addition to the HP Indigo 30000 Digital Press, many customers produce folding carton applications on the HP Indigo 10000 and WS66000 Digital Presses. In Enhanced Productivity Mode, the HP Indigo 10000 and 30000 Digital Presses produce up to 4,600 full-color sheets per hour. The HP Indigo WS6600 Digital Press produces up to 130 feet per minute.
The Screen Truepress Jet SX is a cut sheet, B2-sized inkjet press capable of printing up to 24 pt. treated and untreated paper in simplex and duplex formats. Additionally, the TPJ SX ink is Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act certified. Maximum resolution is 1,400 dpi with four-level grayscale printheads that can print on pre-die-cut stocks. It is capable of printing upwards of 750,000 B2 surfaces per month.
Xeikon recently expanded its capabilities for folding cartons with the launch of its Folding Carton Suite. The Xeikon 3000 Series of digital color presses can be classified into production level presses, the Xeikon 3500 and 3300; the mid-range press, Xeikon 3030Plus; and for the entry level, the Xeikon 3050 and 3030. The enhanced Folding Carton Suite possesses several production advantages including full rotary printing, wider web widths, dry toner technology, a cutter module, substrate flexibility, field upgradability, and high monthly duty cycles.
Xerox provides an end-to-end folding carton solution from client order management to finished blank cartons. The iGen Xerox Automated Packaging Solution is a fully integrated inline digital folding carton solution, featuring workflow components for design, ordering, digital asset management, print production, inline coating, die-cutting, de-embossing, and optional hot foiling. The iGen printing press handles up to 24 pt. paperboard of a maximum sheet size of 14.33×26 inches.
The iGen Xerox Automated Packaging Solution produces up to one million sheets of the largest sheet size, at full capacity on a 3×5 shifts per month.
Kodak provides hybrid inkjet digital solutions that leverage existing folding carton equipment to drive new business by integrating high-speed Kodak Prosper S Series Solutions. “The systems allow customers to combine high-quality offset printing with partial page 100 percent variable data to produce high-value personalized, versioned, or short-run applications. Each Prosper S Series inkjet printhead is capable of printing 4.16 inches and up to 24 S Series printheads can be integrated into single folded carton offset equipment for black, spot, or CMYK color printing,” says Bill Schweinfurth, worldwide category business manager, inkjet components, Kodak.
Finishing is another essential component to folding carton production.
KAMA offers a workflow solution for short-run folding carton production, including complete converting from printed sheet to finished product. Among its offerings is the KAMA DC series, compatible in up to B2 format and featuring AutoRegister, which aligns each sheet to the image to guarantee accurate registration.
At the end of 2014, Marcus Tralau, founder/CEO, KAMA GmbH, says the company will launch the first inline gluer for short-run folding carton production. The system is patent pending and designed for folding and gluing straight line and crash lock boxes.
KAMA also offers Cockpit, a working place for makeready combined with a PC to link the machine to in-house IT networks and management information system. It can be equipped with the Cliché Positioning Systems CPXm to reduce makeready time for hot foil stamping jobs by up to 90 percent.
Highcon offers the Euclid, a production digital cutting and creating machine for folding carton production. The Euclid is designed to transform cutting and creating from an analog to digital workflow in order to streamline the post-print process and offer limitless design options, increased efficiency and flexibility, and faster time to market.
The Euclid separates the two processes of cutting and creasing. First, the crease is prepared—the Highcon Digital Adhesive Rule Technology (DART) Polymer is written onto the DART Foil, instantly forming high-quality creasing rules in a matter of minutes with no need for traditional die. The entire setup process takes about 15 minutes, estimates Eitan Varon, EVP, Highcon. Once the setup is complete, sheets pass through the DART and from there, go straight onto the cutting process, which is carried out by an array of high powered lasers and optics. The digital process requires basic operator skills and it handles materials up to B1 size from 0.25 to 0.6 millimeters thick.
Scodix provides the Scodix Ultra Digital Enhancement Press, which is designed to bring a new look and tangible dimension to packaging, creating an eye-catching and touch-demanding look and feel, suggests Shir Baor, marketing product manager, Scodix.
Based on Scodix SENSE technology it includes Scodix RSP Technology, Scodix High Impact, Scodix 99 GU, and Scodix Variable Density. “The union of these technologies enables the Scodix Ultra to deliver results that meet and exceed the critical production requirements of even the most demanding folding carton converters,” says Baor.
The digital, stand-alone solution supports both barcode and variable data applications. It is compatible with offset, laminated sheets, and digital print. It automatically processes a range of paper formats and substrates with no need for additional set up.
Improving changeover times and reducing makeready is the primary benefit to digital folding carton production. Digital equipment designed for these applications offer advanced feature sets to specifically address concerns.
For example, HP’s 29-inch format accommodates most packaging layouts. Additionally, it is designed for substrate versatility to enable the production of popular folding carton jobs. The HP Indigo 30000 features multiple fully automated feed sources for non-stop printing and on-the-fly job changeover without needing to stop the press for replenishment.
Screen also addresses this with the TPJ SX’s B2-size format, which Ken Ingram, VP of sales, the Americas, Screen USA, says allows users to use existing finishing equipment.
The Fujifilm J Press 720S also offers a B2 format.
For registration concerns, the HP Indigo 300000 offers the HP Indigo One Shot Color technology, which Golan says delivers perfect color registration in one impression, eliminating makeready waste.
For color accuracy, Golan says HP Indigo’s ElectroInk technology delivers print quality that is “indistinguishable” from offset. Seven on-press ink stations offer a wide color gamut, helping converters meet stringent corporate branding requirements. The color gamut is managed by the HP SmartStream Labels and Packaging Print Server and is monitored by an inline spectrophotometer.
Xeikon’s Weymans says the 3000’s fifth station is utilized for off-the-shelf gamut expansion to accurately produce a range of brand colors.
Additionally, Xeikon’s Folding Carton Suite features a unique fuser drum to enable the production of smooth and consistent prints on uneven and textured media, especially recycled board stock.
Screen’s TPJ SX instant dry ink allows for immediate post-press processing.
Fujifilm’s Foszcz points out that the color gamut for the J Press’ VIVIDIA inks is larger than offset inks so it includes spot colors near the gamut. The Fujifilm Dimatix printhead MEMS production techniques provide uniform droplets and positioning resulting in very high color consistency exceeding that of offset inks.
Xerox says that the iGen Xerox Automated Packaging Solution requires no setup or changeover. “Once the makeready is complete, proof and production can be implemented right away,” says Mansor. Additionally, Xerox software solutions, such as Printcise, together with the FreeFlow and Print Server, provide quick and simple ways to integrate from prepress to post press.
Foszcz predicts that marketers will ultimately increase their use of variable data printing (VDP). “Marketing adoption of VDP has been limited by the quality of databases, but as the information improves, products like the J Press 720S will combine variable data at full speed plus high-performance printing to meet that demand.”
For example, he points out that coupons can be integrated easily on the package. With variable data, coupons or referrals to Web sites can be coded to measure effectiveness and to allow real-time offers for consumers, even while in the retail location.
While the packaging needs of Europe and the U.S. differ, adoption is fairly consistent, but driven by separate goals.
HP’s Golan points out that Europe is a much more fragmented market with many countries, languages, brands, and retail channels, making it ideal for digitally produced folding carton packaging.
Without the capability of digital printing folding cartons, there is a lot of waste of obsolescence inventory due to production in large volumes,” says Xerox’s Mansor.
In North America, it is the cost to produce short runs of folding cartons that is primarily driving the demand for digital solutions. “The need to implement versioning is driven by product SKUs in proliferation of each product type,” says Mansor. “Consider how many different flavors of toothpaste exist today. This trend is propelling production of packaging to produce short runs of each version, which is more economical with digital technology,” he adds.
Golan says that American companies are demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit and eagerness to lead the analog to digital transformation in packaging.
Ingram points out that language localization and breadth of region-specific products in Europe will drive short-run folding carton adoption at a faster rate than in North America. “North America will adopt, but at a slower rate as per piece cost is higher and many buyers are primarily cost focused and secondarily results focused.”
Digital Folding Cartons
The focus on digital folding carton production indicates market interest and demand. While digitally produced folding cartons currently only represent a small portion of this growing market, it plays an important role.
The benefits offered inherently by digital, specifically cost-effective shorter runs and variability, serve the demands placed by brand managers looking to remain innovative and competitive to meet evolving packaging needs. dps
Sep2014, DPS Magazine