The PRINT17 trade show at McCormick Place (Chicago, IL) unveiled impressive new developments in “Direct-to-Corrugate” digital printing that will increase speed to market and provide stronger branding. Here is a summary of what I learned from attending two seminars related to digital printing hosted by Cory Francer (Editor-in-Chief, PackagePRINTING) and panelist David Joseph (Marketing Manager, HP).
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During the “Packaging 101 for Commercial Printers” seminar, Francer stated that “Digital printing has played a role in the corrugated arena for some time. Because of the multi-pass technology, it was not well-suited for high volume production packaging. To date, it has been better suited for short runs, mockups and prototypes.” However, Bennett (Lee’s Summit, MO) was the first corrugated converter in the United States with single-pass, direct-to-corrugate digital capabilities via the Barberán Jetmaster 1680 (installed August of 2015). And, at drupa 2016, multiple suppliers presented single-pass, direct-to-corrugate digital presses that can make high-speed digital corrugated printing a reality.
While at the “Opening the Box to Profits: Packaging and the Future of Print” seminar, I learned that HP is on the verge of introducing the “PageWide C500 Press” to the corrugated segment of the packaging industry in 2018. It is a direct-to-corrugate, single-pass/high speed thermal inkjet (aqueous inks) digital press designed for any size corrugated facility that can print everything from basic shippers to high-quality boxes, on coated/uncoated papers without the need for lamination.
I was able to meet with David Joseph, HP Marketing Manager, to discuss the PageWide C500. He stated that “the PageWide C500 Press is another step toward digital conversion of traditional printing. It will help converters to differentiate their capabilities by offering savings in waste and setup time and improved supply chain efficiencies, while providing high-quality color graphics, easy customization, and unique versioning capabilities.”
HP’s strategy to tackle the multiple-producing-locations scenario is interesting. They plan on working with small/medium traditional commercial printers who are willing to invest in the PageWide C500 and enter the corrugated printing arena by forming a network of “direct-to-corrugate” printers across the country thus competing with the likes of Packaging Corporation of America, Georgia-Pacific and Great Northern Corporation to name a few. He mentioned that HP is perfecting their aqueous inks so that corrugated used to pack food will not be an issue when the press is available. HP is working on controlling the dust that tends to settle on the corrugated board as it runs through the single-pass press as well.
I believe that this technology is advancing fairly quickly and will be more readily available to the corrugated print and conversion industry in the near future. In addition, manufacturers (food/non-food) need to better understand the true savings of eliminating plates and how the “Big Box Houses,” which they currently buy from, will react to this emerging technology. Just think, as this technology advances, there soon will be no need to develop a separate graphic standard for the corrugated master case (a.k.a. the Shipper) because of printing limitations (registration, coarse line screens, trapping, minimum number of colors). In other words, we at NK will soon be able to work with Marketing VPs and Brand Managers to push the creative envelope even further by developing graphic standards that can be carried through from the inner packaging component to the Shipper. The potential to create stronger branding from the inside out is right around the corner.
Photos courtesy HP