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Digital Printing Options

There is a digital option for almost any criteria package printers have. packagePRINTING asks leading suppliers about what is available today.

November 2010 by Chris Mc Loone
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Digital printing technologies are continuing to become more mainstream—to the point that manufacturers of digital printing equipment are beginning to more outwardly take aim at traditional printing processes. But, digital printing isn't for everyone, and does require capital investment most times to begin offering it as an option.

packagePRINTING queried some of the most active suppliers in the market about what digital printing options are available to package printers, as well as digital prinitng as a technology in general. Respondents include, Vince Pentella, who manages worldwide labels and packaging business development for Indigo division of HP; Kristof Dekeukelaere, Agfa's :Dotrix sales manager, North America; Kenneth D. Stack, Ph.D., senior vice president/general manager, Jetrion Industrial Inkjet Systems, Electronics for Imaging, Inc.; and Michael V. Ring, president, Xeikon.

pP: What are the digital printing options available to package printers?

Pentella: There are two basic primary digital printing methods: inkjet and electrophotography. In packaging printing, particularly for labels, electrophotography—or more specifically liquid electrophotography using HP Indigo technology—is one choice. HP's current Indigo press lineup includes the HP Indigo press ws4500 and the WS6000 Digital Press.

These converting solutions are often used for labels, but also for shrink sleeves, flexible packaging, in-mold labels and folding cartons. Converters can also produce larger packaging work digitally using flatbed large-format inkjet printers such as the HP Scitex FB500, FB700 and FB7500 printers.

Dekeukelaere: Most solutions on the market are focused on the label market. They have limited width and are restricted substrates.

A step up are the hybrid digital presses. They combine flexo and UV inkjet technology which allows inline treating (priming/corona/flexo white) and printing on the substrates of the industry. Whether you print on a 24-pt SBS board, a 25 micron LDPE or aluminum film, you can print it 24.8˝ wide by any length and get it finished as a sheet or on a roll. Even inline finishing like diecutting, laminating, embossing, slitting, etc. become possible. All technologies offer full variable data.

Stack: There are two main digital technologies used today for packaging: toner and UV inkjet.

Ring: When it comes to digital packaging, there are generally two digital printing options: toner-based electrophotographic digital color presses and wide-format UV inkjet. Digital packaging is still relatively new, and while most of the attention of this industry has been focused on the potential for digital labels, we're already seeing high rates of adoption in folding cartons and flexible packaging. The Printing Industries Research Association expects digital printing of flexible to grow by a factor of four or five between 2009 and 2014, which makes this a truly exciting time to be part of this period of innovation. What's driving the demand for digital packaging is the incredible versatility of many of the technologies available. I think there is also a realization that this is "not your father's digital printing." When we say that our Xeikon machines have "offset-like quality," we mean that you don't have to sacrifice image quality to achieve the customization and shorter-run efficiencies that digital printing offers in today's market. Digital printing technology continues to add wider formats and more speed, and greater customization capabilities. Also, this recent recession, I think, taught many people a lesson about being more efficient to control costs and not have idle inventories, and also created a greater market for on-demand, just-in-time capabilities. This is where digital printing really shines.


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