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Digital vs. Traditional Print Packaging A Growth Market. Good News!

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  • Digital vs. Traditional Print Packaging A Growth Market. Good News!

    drupa Expert Article 8. Edited for PrintPlanet
    Author: Michael Seidl


    Summary
    Digital printing has succeeded in establishing value in the traditional areas of the print media industry, but adoption has been slower in packaging. The exception is label printing. The requirements of the packaging industry are completely different from those in traditional printing, and the players have taken more time to adopt a digital future. But, increasing numbers of producers and customers are recognizing the benefits of digital packaging.

    According to the latest forecasts, the volume of the worldwide print market is set to grow to €420b by 2020 from a current level of around €407b. Projected figures show very clearly that print packaging is the only print industry area that will grow significantly, with a yearly increase of 3.3%, to €141b by 2020.

    A turning tide
    Consumers demand greater choice, and brands must work to differentiate themselves in order to acquire market share. Packaging is playing an increasingly important role in winning over consumers at the shelf by appealing to all of their senses.

    The market can be divided into four sectors:
    1. Labels,
    2. Flexible packaging
    3. Folding cartons
    4. Corrugated
    Each area has its own dynamics and characteristics.

    The label market was the first to recognize the benefits of digital printing, with others following at a slower pace, and has a 10 - 12 year head start on corrugated for digital printing implementation.

    Single person households
    What makes digital printing attractive are demographic developments. Increasing numbers of single person households have purchasing behaviors that differ from larger families, while households of the 50-plus generation also have unique requirements. Consumers are increasingly more sensitive about convenience, cost and environment. This means packaging producers are handling a larger number of smaller orders.

    Increasingly, producers and customers are recognizing the benefits of digital packaging. One of the "breakthrough moments" was the Coca-Cola Share-a-Coke campaign. Just a few months after Coke printed names on cans, Ferrero followed suit with variable Nutella labels.

    A growing market
    Within the global print market, packaging is the only area that will grow significantly. This includes folding boxes, labels and flexible packaging. In terms of printing, flexo printing is projected to see 2.6% growth, and digital printing 8%. Today, only 7% of packaging is printed digitally, but that share is projected to grow significantly.

    "Just how much digital print technologies will impact production depends on how quickly digital printing presses for packaging are developed. A further – very important – factor is the cost of procurement, maintenance and repair, as well as the cost of inks. Once these challenges are resolved, digital printing will impact production significantly, even revolutionize it," according to Hubert Marte, of Austrian Corrugated Cardboard Forum.

    The Future of Package Printing to 2019 report by Vlad Savinov, Smithers Pira, 2014, anticipates an annual growth of 17% for digital printing. This makes it the fastest growing packaging technology, projected to reach $19b by 2019.

    As consumer choices grow, brands are anxious to differentiate themselves from competitors. Packaging plays an increasingly important role in acquiring consumers “at the shelf”.

    Marte comments: “The growing trend toward smaller packaging units, stricter safety regulations and booming online sales will continue to drive growth in the packaging market.”

    Advantages of digital printing for packaging
    Consumers are continuously bombarded with information and messages that they ignore. Packaging is one of the last media channels that still attracts attention. To achieve this, products must stand out on the shelf. Brand owners are responding with ever-faster product cycles and more relevant packaging, contributing to smaller lot sizes and shorter production cycles.

    HP has now installed more than 1,000 digital presses, and believes digital printing has become mainstream. Xeikon has over 300 systems installed; more than 50% of its sales now come from the packaging industry.

    Traditional companies such as Heidelberg have gone down the digital path via Gallus, and since Labelexpo 2015 are fully on-board with the Gallus DCS 340. This converting system, developed jointly by Heidelberg and Fujifilm, is equipped with the latest generation of inkjet print heads, with print quality equal to offset. It delivers high-end UV inkjet print quality with a native resolution of 1200 dpi at a speed of 50 meters per minute, with the flexibility and efficiency of digital printing combined with the benefits of flexo. It also offers integration of inline finishing modules. The Gallus DCS 340 prints digitally from roll to the finished, die-cut label in one pass. Autajon (France) has ordered 4 systems.

    Label print shops increasingly recognize digital printing can be used as a logical adjunct to long print runs in flexo or offset, and designs can be changed rapidly. Flexible packaging, folding cartons and corrugated will soon be riding this tide.

    Flexible packaging
    The market for flexible packaging is significant and will continue to develop digitally in the coming 5 years. People eat and drink on the move–nomadic mobility. As a result, flexible packs are replacing fixed packaging. In the food sector in particular, flexible packs are easy to handle, and fulfill the current trend for convenience, less waste and a smaller carbon footprint.

    Digital printing provides flexible packaging manufacturers the opportunity to grow. The formula is simple: high quality packaging, produced digitally, with J-I-T delivery. This is why the technology is currently gaining ground, supported by presses such as the HP Indigo 20000 that issued a clear signal to the packaging market with its launch.

    Swiss firm O. Kleiner KG was the first company to install an Indigo 20000 and specialize in the production of flexible packaging using flexo, gravure and more recently, digital printing. They have leveraged the printer to produce small runs as add-ons and to provide new options for customers in smaller runs. A good example of this is closures for small batch jam jars. Further applications include test packages and personalized packaging.

    Folding cartons
    Digital printing is still relatively new in this sector, even though there are now several examples. The folding carton industry tends to use the technology for small and differentiated runs or before or at the end of large, conventional runs. Digital folding carton printing is currently in the early adopter stage.

    Peter Sommer from Elanders created a fascinating project with Ritter Sport chocolate. A special website allowed consumers to order personalized packaging for their chocolate. This venture really paid off, as customers were willing to pay considerably more. There are now a growing number of similar projects as print shops help deploy customers’ creative ideas.

    Corrugated packaging
    To date firms processing corrugated have been slow to adopt digital printing, with the exception of those using flatbed systems (HP Scitex, Durst, Mimaki, swissQprint). By and large, not many systems met their needs. This will be changing relatively quickly due to suppliers such as Bobst or the HP / KBA joint venture, both of which will be exhibiting at drupa 2016.

    Large players in the industry see the advantages of being able to respond to market requirements more quickly, as well as optimizing workflows and re-thinking production facilities.

    In November 2015, HP and KBA presented the world's first HP PageWide Web Press T1100S in Würzburg, Germany. This gigantic inkjet rotation with a web width of 2.80 meters and digital pre-printing of the top layer opens up new options for flexible and economic production of corrugated packaging.

    The first customer for the HP T1100S was DS Smith Packaging. The company was interested because the system offers considerably greater productivity and flexibility, particularly with small and medium sized runs. With a process speed of 30,000 square meters per hour, the press is also cost-effective for large runs. The Brits have been experimenting for a year with a T400 purchased specifically for this purpose.

    At drupa 2012, Bobst CEO Jean-Pascal Bobst announced his company was developing a digital printing system. The project is now being beta tested at Model in Switzerland and Schumacher in Germany. This industrial digital solution for printing corrugated packaging and displays uses Kodak's Stream Inkjet technology. It offers intense color reproduction, one of the highest print resolutions available and runs food-compatible printing inks. It prints on
    a wide range of uncoated and coated corrugated and allows personalization of packaging and displays at high speeds.

    Two examples
    German start-up mymuesli recently installed a Heidelberg Jetmaster Dimension at its site in Heidelberg, for printing customized packaging. Customers can design their own muesli container with a picture and text. The Dimension is the first machine of this type that Heidelberg has installed directly in a retail outlet.

    The filling machine manufacturer KHS has, together with Xaar, initiated printing directly onto PET bottles at the Belgian Martens Brouwerij. The digital direct printing system uses Xaar 1002 GS6 print heads. Text and graphics are printed using low-migration LED inks in 4C plus white. This means that 12,000 bottles an hour can be printed and graphics changed in minutes.

    Looking ahead
    Visitors to drupa 2016 will see new digital technology in packaging. One will be Bennty Landa’s nanotechnology packaging system. This is a growth market–good news for the industry!

    The author
    Michael Seidl is publisher and editor-in-chief of various specialist publications in Central and Eastern Europe
      Posting comments is disabled.

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