Seeing Success with Digital Finishing
As staying competitive at the retail level remains a top priority for brands, converters are finding creative ways to help. Through the use of digital finishing technology, package printers are now able to offer embellishments including spot UV, 3D embossed textures and embossed foil elements. Even more intricate processes such as variable data foiling and variable data cutting provide personalized, customized and secure aspects to a package.
MARRS Printing & Packaging, in City of Industry, Calif., has made its clients’ brands command attention by using coatings to create highly-decorated packaging with multiple treatments. The company achieves this with an HP Indigo 30000 digital press for folding cartons, which it added in 2015, and an MGI JETvarnish 3D and iFOIL system that it added that same year, to complement the digital press.
MARRS and MGI together have won two consecutive [International] DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation. Judges from major brands around the world (Nestlé, Pepsico, etc.) voted on the quality of Marrs’ JETVarnish 3D output to recognize and honor the shared achievement. This is the first time in the history of the program that a manufacturer and customer have won two awards together.
What the company likes about the MGI JETvarnish 3D and iFOIL system is that it can also produce regular glossy spot UV, 3D embossed textures and embossed foil on the same machine, in one pass.
Having these capabilities comes in handy for the wide variety of vertical markets the company serves, but especially for the cosmetics and beauty industries, in which it has found a major niche.
“If you go into any major retailer you can see that the beauty industry has expanded and continues to expand,” says Maria Jones-Sechrest, director of sales and business development, at MARRS Printing & Packaging. “The packaging is a big factor because there’s only a small amount of shelf space and retailers are trying to get the consumer’s attention quickly. So having all these capabilities that you can offer clients is a big plus.”
According to Jones-Sechrest, MARRS has in-line and off-line UV coating, but the type of foil and UV coating that can be produced by the MGI technology is very precise. “It isn’t anything like traditional foil or traditional UV coating. It’s quite dramatic,” she points out.
Another unique capability of the digital finishing system that Jones-Sechrest praises is its ability to apply a raised effect, UV coating and foil at various levels. This layering technique can create packaging that appears to be embossed, while not impacting the substrate. Since it’s not an impression that pushes through the paper, it allows the operator to decorate both sides of the sheet.
“That’s an advantage that we didn’t have before and that looks really attractive,” Jones-Sechrest points out. “Also, you can have varying degrees of that layering effect all on the same sheet at the same time, so certain areas could look like they are more embossed than other areas. That would be really hard to achieve in a traditional embossing and foiling method.”
For MARRS, a major advantage of using the digital finishing system from MGI is its ability to expand customer options with rapid prototyping — it can quickly (within 24 to 48 hours) and inexpensively, produce a sample for a new product launch for a meeting. Customers supply the artwork and then a few samples are run on the company’s HP Indigo 30000 digital press and then it is run through the MGI system with either the foil or the UV coating.
“It’s quite a wow factor when they get to see the actual piece,” says Jones-Sechrest. “The technology has also given our smaller- and medium-size clients more flexibility to change their design, which has also been a big plus.”
So far, MARRS’ clients have loved the effects that can be achieved with the MGI JETvarnish 3D and iFOIL system.
“Our customers love it because they can incorporate some of the cool embellishments possible with the digital finishing system into their packaging or upcoming projects,” she concludes. “So they have learned that there is quite a bit they can do with the technology.”
New England Label (formerly Reid Label & Digital Graphics) in Andover, Mass., has also incorporated digital finishing into its workflow with a Digicon Series 1 and Series 3 from A B Graphic International. The company installed the first Digicon Series 1 in 2008 and the Series 3 in 2015. Bob Stewart, VP, says that the company chose to add the equipment from A B Graphic because of the manufacturer’s great reputation.
The Digicon Series 1 and Series 3 allow New England Label to quickly deliver end product, adding value with laminating, hot foil stamping and embossing to its clients. The Digicon Series 1 is run off-line and the Digicon Series 3 is run near-line/in-line, along with the company’s HP Indigo WS6800, HP Indigo WS6000 and HP Indigo 5600 digital presses.
At one point, Stewart notes, the company had 16 flexographic presses. Today, it operates three of those, and the rest of that business is run on three digital presses with the two Digicons.
“The combination of digital printing and digital finishing just gives us tremendous opportunities for serving our customers in a quick fashion,” Stewart says. “Our standard makeready time on our A B Graphic presses is under seven minutes, and our average makeready on our Indigo presses is four minutes or less. So it is the press makeready and setup times that provides the greatest advantage.”
Other benefits that Stewart has noted with the Digicons are the accuracy in diecutting, the speed in producing labels and how simple the machines are to operate. Prior to the Digicons, if a hot stamping component needed to be added, this would slow down the press. “The Digicons do not require us to do that at all and the setup and makeready for the hot stamping is very simple, beautiful and accurate,” he says.
Some of the additional types of effects that New England Label is able to achieve with the HP and Digicons, are security diecuts and embossing, security varnishes, and over-laminates, along with print reflective and security pigments, adding an over-laminate that reflects light in a different way, similar to the effect seen on U.S. driver’s licenses.
In addition, the company produces front-panel overlays and Information For Use books (IFUs) for the medical device industry, along with tags, booklets, posters and banners. With the label industry enjoying the uptick in label demand from the increase in microbreweries, the Digicons, coupled with the HP Indigo technology, allow the company to get very creative in creating labels that pop for its clients in this segment.
“The beer market is looking for as much creativity as they can possibly get,” Stewart says. “They create such a great label that we have not had to once refuse to do it. We’re able to hit it every single time. And they’re gorgeous.”
According to Stewart, New England Label has been able to achieve its goals thanks to the marriage of the HP Indigos with the Digicons — allowing the company to become an integral part of its customers’ manufacturing.
“We now print for one of our major customers to their MRP system so that we know a week or two in advance exactly which product they are going to be making and when,” Stewart explains. “We are able to produce and deliver the parts directly to their manufacturing line and we can do it in 27 different languages. We couldn’t do that with conventional printing.”
The HP and Digicons were also put to the test when another client, a major supermarket chain, needed labels for 100,000 one lb. containers of lobster meat. The company had less than a day to turn the job around.
“The client called us on Thursday for an order that was needed by Friday,” Stewart says. “We ran that order on our digital press, and two hours later, we were diecutting and were able to meet their deadline. You couldn’t get it done that quickly with a conventional press, it’s just not possible.”
Stewart says being able to provide these types of services to its clients keeps the customer’s price low without the need to inventory items. “They can even change quantities at the last minute, which has been a huge benefit to them,” he concludes.