InterTech Awards Offer Glimpse of Industry's Future
Most printing and packaging technology awards programs are focused on the present, honoring the innovative products that are poised to have an immediate impact on the industry. The InterTech Technology Awards however, are all about the future. The awards, presented annually by The Printing Industries of America, honor technologies that have hit the market already, but are forecasted to have a sustained impact on the industry.
The winners of the 2017 InterTech Technology Awards were announced on Friday, July 21, and while the awards program encompasses all aspects of the printing industry, there are a few key takeaways that can give us a look into packaging’s future. Here is what jumped out to me:
- Eyes on Inkjet
- Saying that digital printing will be a key part of the packaging industry’s future would be an understatement and hardly qualify as news. However, looking at the 14 InterTech winners reveals that inkjet printing is the digital technology on the rise. There were two packaging presses honored this year, The Gallus Labelmaster 340 and the Komori Impremia IS29. The fact that the Gallus press is a hybrid flexo/inkjet solution for labels and the Komori is a UV inkjet solution capable of producing paperboard packaging that matches offset quality, shows how this technology is poised to play a major role across the packaging spectrum for the foreseeable future.
- Software Gets its Due
- While it’s easy to envision how a new press or finishing system will impact the future of the industry, the undeniable impact of software can be a little more abstract. With package printers and converters under a heavy amount of pressure to increase their efficiency, opportunities to introduce more automated processes into their production will be considered. This year’s awards showed how printers can improve their efficiency in color management through ColorLogic’s ColorAnt 4.0 software. Heidelberg’s Prinect Press Center XL 2 with Intellistart 2, a control unit that incorporates a software system that boosts efficiency and automation, was also honored. HP PrintOS was presented with an InterTech award for its ability to give printers access to their HP presses via a cloud-based, mobile interface. On the proofing side, CGS Publishing Technologies International received an award for its ORIS Flex Pack // Web Visualizer system, a web-based proofing system for flexible packaging.
- Digital Finishing on the Rise
- With digital printing now commonplace in the packaging industry, digital finishing processes are on the rise. MGI and Scodix have been among the leaders in introducing technologies that can provide foiling, embossing, varnishing and other finishing processes through digital technology. MGI received a 2017 InterTech Technology Award for its AIS SmartScanner technology, a registration system driven by artificial intelligence that automatically registers inkjet postpress operations with individually printed sheets. It is also compatible with variable data finishing. Scodix meanwhile, received an InterTech award for its Ultra Pro with Foil digital enhancement press. In the packaging world, the Scodix Ultra Pro is designed for use with folding cartons and can digitally apply a variety of embellishments.
- In-house Automation
- Esko has received a ton of buzz for its XPS Crystal, a digital LED-UV exposure unit for flexographic platemaking. The XPS Crystal is part of Esko’s CDI 5080 Crystal XPS system, which automates the flexo platemaking process. The XPS Crystal provides back and main exposures simultaneously via LED-UV light. According to Esko, by simplifying the platemaking process to such a degree, label printers may be inclined to bring platemaking in house, reducing lead times and improving up times.
While the future of the package printing industry will be built on more than just inkjet printing, software advancements, digital finishing and automation enhancements, the innovation in these four areas has provided the industry with some exciting building blocks to work with. According to PIA, more than 80% of the technologies presented with an InterTech award sustain their commercial success, so it’s safe to say that this year’s crop of winners presents an accurate look into the industry’s future.