Digital package printing holds distinct opportunities and challenges.
DiTech Group: Success in short runs
Together, the member companies of DiTech Group (ditechonline.com) provide the flexographic package printing industry with design, engineering, and the manufacturing of die-cutting tools and flexography printing plates. But the company’s DiTech York division – via its York Steel Rules affiliate in York, Pennsylvania – has expanded into actual packaging production, utilizing a wide-format digital flatbed press. It’s printing for some customers directly, others as a wholesale print partner.
“Most converters are staying away from the short runs, and they’re able to use our capabilities if that’s what their customers require,” observes president Jim Osmolinksi.
DiTech’s digital services were launched seven years ago with the purchase of a Gandinnovatons Jeti 3040, as an experiment in direct printing to substrates in limited quantities. Demand steadily grew, prompting Osmolinksi to upgrade his digital capabilities last year. “We had reached a point where we were getting a lot of requests for mockups to assist our customers in the packaging business,” he explains.
Osmolinksi ended up investing in Agfa’s upgraded Titan Jeti 3020 UV flatbed. With its white-ink capabilities and maximum print area of 6.5 x 10-feet on media up to 2-inches thick, the Titan is now his primary production unit, he reports. Demand has followed in unexpected ways.
“We began doing a lot of mockups, but it quickly turned into being used for printing finished products, in runs up to 1000,” says Osmolinksi. Production, he estimates, is now running around 4 percent in prototypes; between 50- and 60-percent finished packaging; and the rest in displays, pallet wraps, and signage.
Demand for mockups has evolved, too. “That’s expanded from one or two pieces to someone ordering 10 pieces because they are going to make a sales presentation.”
Clients, he believes, are responding to some distinct advantages of digital printing: “The biggest thing is they can get a mockup quickly and cheaply, and the quality is good,” he notes. “And, if they want to make changes to the design, they can do so easily, and actually see how it’s going to look as a finished product.”
There’s an economical advantage, too, when the order is only for a few hundred pieces. “They don’t need to spend $4000 just for the dies and plates,” before production can begin.
For all these reasons, Osmolinksi considers digital printing a good fit for his company and its customers.