By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Folding cartons can be digitally printed directly to lightweight chipboard material, generally limited by machinery to about 20 pts., depending on the specific equipment.
Digital print engines enable fast turnarounds and decreased run lengths. However, adoption of these technologies may require the need for compatible finishing options. Folding carton manufacturers seek finishing solutions capable of handling appropriate print volumes with a variety of finishing components including lamination, die cutting, folding, and gluing.
In part one of a two-part series, we discuss finishing equipment for folding cartons that target digital print environments.
Necessary Finishing Components
To handle folding carton production, finishing components include coating/laminating, die cutting, folding, and gluing.
“Without one or the other, the production steps cannot be fully completed,” says Kevin Chen, product manager, Duplo USA. For example, coating adds an extra layer of protection that prevents cartons from damage in the shipping process.
Additional processes include embossing, foil stamping, and tipping. Ryan Manieri, marketing manager, MBO America, points out that less common features like camera inspection and variable printing systems are essential in pharmaceutical packaging and when personalization or versioning is a job requirement.
Eschar Ben-Shitrit, VP marketing, Highcon, believes digitally printed folding cartons have similar needs to their traditionally produced counterparts. “The only difference is the lengths are usually smaller, which requires a different approach,” he says.
As output speed and quality offered by digital presses improves, it becomes more attractive to new markets.
Michael C. Aumann, CEO, Brandtjen and Kluge, says features that reduce or eliminate setup and makeready actions are key for smaller print volumes. He suggests operating speed is not as critical, therefore, devices for smaller print volumes may have speed limitations compared to traditional high-volume devices. “The advantage is usually found in a lower device cost at purchase,” he comments.
“The shorter the run, the harder it is to be profitable with a long makeready,” says Manieri. He adds that the traditional die cutting industry is especially affected as runs become shorter and customers demand personalized products.
Marcus Tralau, CEO, KAMA GmbH, agrees and says for short runs, it’s all about reducing makeready times and achieving fast changeovers to make a profit. “This requires a completely new solution,” he says. To achieve this, Tralau suggests focusing on easy handling, low setup waste, and reduced fixed costs per order.
While digital printers handle thick board, some flatbed die cutters can’t do the work or turn a profit due to long setup times. Manieri says labor-intensive elements of flatbed die cutting like attenuated setup time, blanking, nicking, and stripping render this method for longer production runs and point to the need for machines that can die cut short runs for various applications.
Chen says as more printers switch from offset to digital, print volume doesn’t affect the features available because printers are not tied down to produce 1,000 pieces if the project demands 700. “With the customization that can be done on digital print, it is easy to control how much you want to print and the customization for those prints,” he shares.
Digital production allows for shorter runs and enables fewer processes for greater efficiency.
Ben-Shitrit points out that shorter turnarounds have resulted from consumer demand for rapid turnaround, which is now measured in hours rather than days.
Short runs allow print providers to print on demand, explains Tralau. He adds that luxury brand product embellishment is trending due to personalization demands in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Aumann sees auto-lock bottom box designs becoming popular, especially in the short-run specialty box segment. These applications are popular amongst folding carton converters because it integrates high-value specialty and decorative effects.
Format and substrate flexibility allows users to produce a range of products. Manieri says finishing trends are relative to market demands. Flexibility and modularity support short-run production, allowing printers to consolidate into one system. This enables one-pass finishing and reduces required touchpoints during production.
“When finishing modules can be integrated directly into an existing production line with ease, printers and finishers offer their customers even more flexibility,” says Manieri.
Regardless of trends, folding carton application in general has become more popular. “Packaging is a big industry that companies are investing a lot of money into,” says Chen. He believes it will continue to take off as brand owners begin to realize the benefits of digital.
For those investing in digital packaging, finishing considerations are a necessity. The range of capabilities equipment offers, its design and durability, and changeover quality are all factors to consider.
Kevin Corwin, product manager, Insignia Die Cutting, Rollem, says vendor support is a key factor when shopping. “Since this area of finishing is new to many printers, they should be confident in the support and assistance the vendor can provide during their learning curve.”
Quality consistency in folding carton runs is higher than the standard graphics finishing job. Aumann says quality consistency from carton one through 10,000 is critical. Coatings must be properly matched with necessary requirements for gluing, hot stamping, labeling, print, and tape application.
“Stock and stock weight selection is also critical,” adds Aumann. In some scenarios, digital printers are not accustomed to processing heavier stock weights required in folding carton applications. He suggests print providers be aware and research stock weights.
Some print providers may even fear the availability of finishing equipment compatible with large sheets. Chen reassures that if there are presses that print larger sheets, there will always be finishing solutions to accommodate them.
Folding Carton Finishing
Finishing solutions support digitally produced folding cartons that feature short runs and versioning. “There is little advantage to digital printing if the entire process is going to cause a bottleneck at the finishing stage,” says Ben-Shitrit.
In part two of this two-part series, we provide an overview of the latest digital finishing folding carton solutions.
August2017, DPS Magazine