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Pack It Up

(July 2014) posted on Wed Jul 23, 2014

How wide-format digital printers are finding their place in the packaging world.


By Mike Antoniak

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Since its earliest days, digital printing has always seemed a logical solution for producing one-off packaging mock-ups and prototypes. The instant set-up, easy revision, and quick turnaround has equipped designers and marketers with an affordable way to review and refine packaging concepts before committing to a full production run.

As the quality and speed of wide-format presses have improved and the range of media has expanded, those same benefits have helped establish digital as a short-run solution.
Small businesses that could not use or afford a large-volume order of cartons or bags can now order packaging in the exact quantities needed. Larger companies, too, are starting to discover how to tap digital’s short-run capabilities to test new design concepts in stores, or produce custom packaging for specific markets or seasonal promotions.

These early rumblings could be the sign of a coming trend. As more consumer product manufacturers understand digital printing’s benefits and applications in packaging, their suppliers will increasingly push these print services, which means that digital printing will play a more certain role in how products of all types are packaged and presented, wherever the customer encounters them.

Building the case for digitally printed packaging
If large-format digital has a future in production-length package printing, Heritage Paper (www.heritagepaper.com) is helping to build the case. Located in Livermore, California, the company specializes in the design and manufacture of corrugated containers.

“We’ve done runs of as many as 25,000 pieces – wine packaging and header cards of around 10,000 pieces, and a lot of runs between 2000 and 3000 pieces,” reports Michael Musgrave, the company’s vice president and chief operating officer. “This is absolutely where packaging is going.”

The company is so confident in the future of digital printing as a packaging solution that Musgrave just placed an order for his company’s third flatbed printer: Hewlett Packard’s Scitex FB10000. It’s a response to accelerated demand from clients who have discovered multiple advantages to digital printing. “We’re starting to see some large-scale adoption by some of the major brands we serve,” he says.

Musgrave cites a combination of factors driving that shift: the color quality achievable with his printers, the speed with which packaging can be designed and then delivered digitally, and the creative possibilities – and marketing opportunities – that digital empowers.


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