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The Rise of Inkjet in Packaging

(April 2017) posted on Mon May 15, 2017

A deep dive into single-pass digital inkjet printing onto corrugated packaging.

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By Mark Hanley

To appreciate where and why inkjet is taking an initiative in this market, we should understand a bit about the analog competition. Inkjet can certainly have a place in corrugated, but it’s an example of a market where analog – process flexo printing in particular – is successfully responding to the challenges of increased quality and performance demands.

HP PageWide T1100S

The move to high-color print quality in corrugated predates the availability of inkjet, so solutions to the issue had to be developed within analog print. If you go back to the beginning of the RRP movement more than 20 years ago, the corrugated industry was essentially forced to break print out of integrated inline box manufacturing plants. Before that time, one- to three-color flexo line art could be printed inline with folders, gluers, scorers, and cutters at light pressures on finished corrugated constructs without damaging the 3D-laminated construct. But with the advent of high color, almost the only alternative initially was offset print, which applies a nip pressure repeatedly to substrates as an integral and necessary part of the process. The problem, however: This pressure crushed the corrugated board.

So, offset print had to take place offline, on less-vulnerable substrates that would subsequently be laminated to the finished corrugated construct. This is the origin of the term “litho [offset print] lam [lamination].” Offset print could be done on paper or on the pre-laminated top board of the corrugated construct. The print or the lamination could be done in roll or sheet format as preferred, though obviously longer runs were preferred in roll format.



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