Using Wide Format for Package Printing
Reed Hecht of Epson America points out the advantages of using wide-format inkjet printing for short-run applications, in part, aided by developments in solvent inkjet technology.August 2013 By Reed Hecht
Browsing store shelves and online shopping, we see product packaging that is far beyond humdrum packaging of the past. Brilliantly wrapped containers and printed packaging now capture the consumer's attention, full of dazzling effects, white and metallic inks, photorealistic quality, and vibrant colors.
While companies continue to use conventional processes, the industry cannot ignore the growing impact of wide-format printing in the label, plastic, corrugated, and folding carton markets. Some are boldly taking the leap into a new digital workflow, while others are making the transition by augmenting their existing processes.
Short-run and market-specific
With the advent of white and silver metallic inks and specialty media materials, package printing is starting to open its doors toward wide-format digital printing. Although analog presses still lead in package production printing, a growing number of shops also incorporate a wide-format inkjet printer for proofing and some small-run production jobs. Many have their eyes on cost-effective alternatives to their conventional presses for a variety of print jobs, especially for shorter runs and targeted markets. Digital label printing has taken hold, and there is the potential to expand into other applications for more profitability.
One print shop in particular recently recognized the value proposition of digital inkjet, and was ready to add more wide-format printers after only two months of use. The company had been using a relatively costly screen-printing process to produce white and metallic effects, and a wide-format printer helped to improve upon that process. In a world where brand managers increasingly want shorter runs to target markets, the shop was finding it difficult to justify the total cost of operation of using only conventional presses.
With digital printing, shops can now quickly produce package proofing, prototyping, or the final package at a fraction of the cost, whether a one-off mockup, 20 versions for the client to review, or limited production of a shrink-wrap to test market a specific region. Today, they are able to print packaging more easily and accurately, creating variations for short-term runs and test markets before taking the design to the big presses to produce higher volumes.
New solvent inks and media
The wide format trend is growing, especially with the development of solvent inkjet technology. With white and silver metallic inks, a new generation of 64-inch solvent printers has the capability to produce today's eye-catching package proofing, prototyping, and packaging. Shops can efficiently produce short-run labels using the printer, a laminator, and cutter. Now that solvent printers can do short-run production in this market, it's possible to create custom labels and packaging at high speeds for less cost.