By Melissa Donovan
With increased demand for digitally printed, short-run packaging and prototypes, there is enhanced interest in three dimensional (3D) visualization solutions. Viewing a package prior to print cuts down on costly rework, quickens time to market, and is a cost-effective method of trying out new and unique design ideas. With 3D, proofing becomes even truer to real life.
Big brand owners to print providers, sign companies, and design agencies benefit from implementing 3D visualization programs into their workflows. Today’s software is user friendly and offers features that assist in managing shorter deadlines as well as dealing with brand mangers looking to diversify their product packaging from the competition.
Manufacturers, printers, converters, and design agencies face shorter deadlines. Responding to the pressures of enhanced time to market means adapting solutions that make these shorter deadlines achievable. 3D visualization software is one tool that can do this. Part of the increase in its demand involves the spike in quick turnaround times.
In response to customers’ own deadlines decreasing, print providers and sign and display companies, for example, need solutions like 3D visualization software. “They need something that provides them with the ability to analyze the final box or display and verify fold and cut lines before sending to a cutter,” explains EJ Nodurft, product director, Box and Display, SA International (SAi).
“The packaging market is increasingly moving to shorter runs with very quick turnarounds. This means there is neither time, nor budget, to produce physical mockups—they’re simply too time consuming and costly considering the very thin margins that we see today in packaging production,” agrees Susie Stitzel, product manager – design and 3D solutions, Esko.
David Palmieri, director of strategic accounts and business alliances, USA, CGS Publishing Technologies International LLC, believes that trouble shooting a design at an earlier stage saves printers money and time. “Money and time that would have been spent on multiple mockups or on catching design mistakes at print. A virtual prototype helps conceptualization and troubleshooting a design, so that when a physical prototype is created, it’s done well the first time.”
“In a market focused on mass customization where short-run packaging and prototype solutions are becoming more essential, 3D tools are the ideal solution to manage design and make pre-press phases effortless,” admits Giuseppe Prioriello, founder/CEO, Packly.
Another reason for increased demand of 3D visualization solutions includes changing expectations from brand managers. According to Nick Gilmore, CEO, Creative Edge Software, principle stakeholders are younger and more fluent in digital media. As such, they request more immersive brand development experiences. Creative Edge customers say many of their own customers insist on 360 degree visualization at the earliest stage of product development and routinely want to see their brands visualized in different environments.
Also, advancements in 3D rendering technology make visualization solutions of this nature demand more prevalent. “3D technology has come a long way in terms of rendering quality and speed to create a 3D model,” says Michael Bialko, product manager, packaging workflow, Kodak.
Ray tracing is the common technology used to achieve photographic renders. Speed, according to Gilmore, is what prohibits all levels of packaging creatives from using full ray tracing capabilities. There is a quicker way to 3D visualize, using OpenGL, but this is more for gaming and doesn’t have photographic rendering quality on par with ray tracing. Recent advancements from companies like Creative Edge have succeeded in combining the speed of OpenGL with the photographic rendering quality of ray tracing.
3D visualization software addresses the design and conceptualization phase of a product. It is also ideal for proofing a package prior to going on press to avoid any last minute changes post-print. These are daily challenges for many packaging providers.
CGS’ ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer when paired with Creative Edge’s iC3D is a turnkey solution for flexible package proofing and 3D mockup production. Utilizing the SmartShrink distortion, iC3D compensates for the natural distortion that occurs when shrink material is applied to a package’s surface. “Common pain points, such as conical warping, label, or wrap placement and shrink distortions are solved. For companies commonly working with shrink film, the ability to accurately visualize pre-distorted artwork is essential for identifying any issues,” explains Palmieri.
As packaging becomes increasingly complex in shape and design, the ability to create custom shapes and in particular non-cylindrical bottles, is an indispensable tool. iC3D’s Shape Modeller provides users with the ability to prototype unique bottles or packages. “This investment enables companies to future proof their operations as new design trends emerge, maintaining their competitive edge,” shares Palmieri.
The Creative Edge iC3D Real-Time Ray Tracer allows for photorealistic design mockups at any stage without the need for specialist programs or third party services. It also enables simultaneous photographic rendering of changes as they are made. According to Gilmore, a high-quality 1024 sample ray traced image at 6,000×3,500 pixels in size would have once taken three to four hours to render and with the iC3D software now only takes one minute and 49 seconds.
EngView Suite uses smart drafting and realistic 3D virtual modeling. It includes a comprehensive library of parametric components and designs. “3D visualization software allows manufacturers to verify all aspects of the structure design and graphic design software prior to going into production, leading to less costly errors that would not be caught in 2D design software,” admits Shawn Kirsch, North America sales manager, EngView Systems.
Esko Studio features print modeling and rendering technology. Given a packaging substrate, Studio knows how the inks and finishing will look in specified print order. It renders each ink or operation, in order, to show what the final effect will be in production. “Often, the specialty inks and finishing that we see in packaging are produced as a separate production operation and not inline with the actual printing. The ability to predict how such a multi-step production process will perform is invaluable when timing and budgets are tight. 3D visualization eliminates on-press delays caused by unmet expectations, keeping the production equipment doing what it does best—producing great packaging,” shares Stitzel.
Kodak’s 3D solution allows designers to not only create the container, but the product the container is filled with. Then the user can build a virtual store to place the product on a shelf. “Digital printing costs are expensive and with runs getting shorter, cost is critical. Creating a 3D visual package allows the designer to see their product before it hits the store shelf,” adds Bialko.
Packly’s 3D model generator creates in real time 3D box previews with custom sizes and personalized artwork. Custom 2D artwork can turn into an interactive 3D virtual model to be shared through a web link. “The 3D visualization shows the structural appearance of a product by automatically turning the 2D technical drawing into a 3D image,” says Prioriello.
SAi Box and Display software offers a gallery of over 250 box and display templates. “Many customers use CAD programs to create the shapes necessary for boxes and displays. Traditionally, these solutions may lack the ability to visualize or analyze what the final product will look like once folded. This can make day-to-day operations quite time consuming as print shops may be subject to costly iterations that can delay production. Customers can expedite the design phase and seamlessly change the dimension on existing templates with SAi Box and Display software. Once a change is made, the cut and fold lines automatically adapt to take this into consideration,” shares Nodurft.
Handle Any Job
Kaleidoscope is an independent brand consultancy with a global reach. Its offices are found in Chicago, IL; New York, NY, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as Dubai, Kuwait, and London. In business since 1995, the company offers brand packaging support services including color development, model making and prototyping, packaging comps and mock ups, sales samples, design implementation, production art, digital renderings, and fulfillment.
In 2017, Kaleidoscope added Creative Edge’s iC3D rendering and distortion software and a year later purchased the CGS ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer system. Prior to ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer, the company was using Fuji FinalProof but as the technology phased out, it needed to find an alternative.
“Fuji and CGS originally brought ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer to our attention a couple of years ago. We were interested in it because we saw it as a fast and affordable system with very good quality,” shares Pete Sorrentino, director of realization and operations, Kaleidoscope.
The Kaleidoscope team aspires to be able to handle any job, no matter the materials or workflow. ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer allows printing on a number of materials from rigid to flexible with extended color gamut inkjet printing to achieve this goal.
It pairs ORIS Flex Pack Web Visualizer with iC3D to cut down on the time needed to create renderings, distort files for shrink wraps, and produce “hold in your hand” prototypes. “That is a huge point of difference for both us and our clients,” says Sorrentino.
Complementing Kaleidoscope’s software solutions are an HP Inc. Indigo and several large format inkjet devices. Sorrentino credits digital printing in allowing the company to move quickly with great quality.
For finishing, it pairs the HP Indigo with an A B Graphic International Digicon, which allows for coating, laminating, slitting, and die cutting. A Karlville Development LLC shrink sleeve seamer is utilized for short-run shrink packaging. Esko Kongsberg cutting tables are preferred for shorter runs.
Quick and Complex
Cyber Graphics LLC, originally known as Bryce Graphics, had its start providing pre-media and plate media services to the internal print division of The Bryce Corporation—its parent company—in 1987. A few years later the company registered itself as Cyber Graphics and started selling its services to outside printers and manufacturers.
It is located in Cleveland, OH; Nashville, TN; Milwaukee, WI; and Neenah, WI, with headquarters in Memphis, TN. 120 employees work for the company. Cyber Graphics’ customers rely on the business to streamline the production of packaging graphics so they can accelerate time to market and focus on building their business and bottom lines, according to John Davis, creative director, Cyber Graphics.
Clients include consumer product companies, brand managers, printers, converters, and design agencies. For example, it creates 3D renderings for Simply 7 branded products from Dishaka; generates flexible packaging pillow bags, pallet renderings, and folding carton designs for Truco; and creates 3D renderings of flexible bags, pallet renderings, and full end cap point of purchase displays for Natural Intentions.
The company offers both physical and digitally rendered prototypes. Most of its prototypes or digital runs are in smaller quantities—one to 200 prototype pieces best fit its in-house capabilities, which includes inkjet printing. It complements its print capabilities with digital cutting tables from Esko and Zünd.
“We do quite a bit of work for a major pharmaceutical brand owner who relies on our ability to print, cut, and form folding carton prototypes. Using digital cutting tables is much better than a skilled prototype assembly person and an X-Acto knife—it saves on cutting time, bandages, and cut fingers,” shares Davis.
While Cyber Graphics has used 3D rendering technologies since they were introduced, it struggled with the complicated and hard to generate 3D packaging models. In 2010 it attempted to remedy the situation by adding a suite of other 3D products, but it wasn’t the solution it was looking for. During its research, it came across Creative Edge’s iC3D, which Cyber Graphics felt would be a better solution for its needs, especially in regards to 3D flexible packaging.
“We evaluated the software and concluded that if we were going to make a significant investment in additional software, it needed to be 100 percent production friendly to eliminate the need to have a separate art file for 3D rendering and another one for printing plate production,” explains Davis.
He reached out to CGS, a Creative Edge iC3D reseller, and in May 2013, Cyber Graphics became a beta tester of the iC3D program. It provided input specifically in regards to improving 3D flexible packaging models. “We provided critical feedback to ensure that the 3D models fit our production files that are used on actual form, fill, and seal equipment,” he adds.
According to Davis, there was no real learning curve while initially working with the program. The team at Cyber Graphics faced challenges involving how to generate custom models using Shape Modeller, shrink counter distortion, and making flexible packaging heat seals work accurately—but these were quickly overcome.
“I love how we can combine folding carton with flexible packaging and then also create a pallet rendering all in one software solution. We can generate a working model with our customers’ graphics applied in a matter of an hour or less depending on the complexity of the package and the shelf layout—if needed,” he admits.
With Creative Edge’s iC3D, Cyber Graphics is positioned to truly cater to its customer base. The solution provides the ability to modify templates already in the system to create an almost bespoke solution per customer. For example, Cyber Graphics creates a custom flexible packaging item called ConservaCube for Primary Packaging. Davis reached out to Creative Edge and asked them to duplicate this model in the software, and they did. Now that model template is available for all ConservaCube 3D model requests.
“Modifiable templates are available in many different package styles from pillow bags, stand up pouches, and candy bar wrappers to folding cartons. This speeds up the process of creating a flexible package that contains air inside along with the product. Creating a flexible package in any other 3D program requires a lot of CAD-type knowledge that most designers don’t have,” explains Davis.
Leveraging 3D Visualization
Digital printing provides a cost-effective way for companies to offer short runs of packaging, prototypes, and even product holders. The design and subsequent proofing process can be challenging and 3D visualization software is a tool that can overcome many of the obstacles print providers, manufacturers, converters, and design agencies may face throughout the process. Utilizing 3D visualization solutions assists in meeting the quick turnarounds commonly associated with today’s marketing campaigns.
Jul2019, DPS Magazine