A deep dive into single-pass digital inkjet printing onto corrugated packaging.
By Mark Hanley
From a technical perspective, inkjet’s first point of differentiation is that it’s a non-contact print technology, meaning it can, in theory, print inline on corrugated without any of the deformation involved with offset. This is a main reason for the corrugated industry’s interest in inkjet, and, in this sense, inkjet’s selling proposition – the ability to get print back inline with conversion – is something that modern flexo can already do. The real separation comes with the second major differentiator: Digital allows real-time data to be printed with no plate changes. That means being able to print small-sized batches without stopping the press. But it can also ultimately mean printing custom, varied graphics and communications tailored in real time to the consumer trends within the universal, social media-driven dataflow. That, combined with the inline capability, is at the heart of long-term interest in inkjet.
Inkjet is being offered in two formats: aqueous inkjet and UV with a water carrier. It’s commonplace to say that water-based chemistry is preferred in packaging markets as it’s largely (and correctly) perceived to be a more neutral chemistry. The only issue is that at higher coverages over, say, 30 percent, the drying of inks with 90-percent or more water content becomes an issue of space, energy, and possible substrate deformation. That doesn’t even include the limits today on the kinds of coated substrates that can be printed, even with the use of intermediate solutions like primers and bonding agents (BA).
Durst Rho 130SPC