Color by the Numbers

Crown Beverage implements color measurement system for Coors.

A large printable surface area combined with a wide range of sizes, shapes, and decorating options make beverage cans the ideal packaging format to create brand presence on the shelf and in consumers’ hands. While creatively enticing, however, the proliferation of options for can decoration give rise to a tremendous number of opportunities for unwanted variation and distortion in the printing process, where consistent, repeatable color measurement is the key to color quality control.

Crown Beverage Packaging, a business unit of Crown Holdings, Inc., is a worldwide leader in metal packaging, with $8 billion in sales and more than 20,000 employees and 130+ plants worldwide. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Crown Beverage Packaging North America works with some of the largest consumer goods companies on the beverage side, including Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Dr. Pepper, Snapple, and many other private label brands. The company recently helped Molson Coors Canada streamline its printing process and enhance color consistency across different packaging facilities with the new SP64 spectrophotometric color measurement system from X-Rite. By asserting an automated color standard, color harmony now can be achieved across locations, thereby boosting the efficiency of the can printing operation and reducing both time-to-market and associated production costs.

Enhancing the brand experience

According to Marketing Manager Tom Hughes, Crown Beverage’s mission is straightforward, i.e., to help its customers build and strengthen their brands with the consumers they deal with every day. To accomplish this, the company focuses exclusively on beverage can design and production, working with the customer and the customer’s designated prepress house, and leaving cartons and labels to other suppliers.

The can printing process itself is unique. Unlike standard printing, which is 4-color process, wet on dry, there is no drying between the application of each color. The cylindrical can is sent through the press via air vacuum to a mandrill. The printing plate transfers each color onto multiple blankets, where they are registered wet-on-wet at speeds of up to 200 cans per minute. The complete image subsequently is wrapped around the cylindrical can and overvarnished with no drying time.

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