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Putting the Digital in Packaging: Digital Impact

(October 2009) posted on Wed Oct 07, 2009

Part one of our look at print providers that have carved out a niche in the package market.

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By Jake Widman

When you think of package printing, you usually think of printing in mass quantities—hundreds if not thousands of product containers, boxes, etc., usually run on offset flexographic or lithographic presses that make such run lengths economical. Flexo, in particular, is widely used for packaging, because it’s able to print at very high speeds on a wide range of materials.

Even so, in recent years many shops with digital wide-format presses have found a role for their tools in package printing. Sometimes, the job just doesn’t require a really long run—as in the initial prototyping of the packaging for a new product, for instance. Or maybe a customer needs only a few hundred pieces but needs them fast to get them to a trade show in time. Digital presses are the only cost-effective choice in these scenarios. Furthermore, digital-print providers are constantly improving their ability to print on different types of substrates, making them better able to reproduce or mimic a package that will eventually be printed on another kind of press.

We talked to four digital print shops that have managed to carve out a place in the packaging market through their wide-format tools—we’ve gathered information from each on who their customers are and the kinds of jobs they do. Here's a look at shop one (check back for more installments).

Digital Impact: Executing Tight Turns
The VT Group in Yeardon, Pennsylvania, comprises three divisions: VT Graphics, a flexographic prepress and plate vendor, founded in 1966; Digital Impact, a digital-print and die-cutting shop specializing in prototypes and point-of-purchase displays, which started in 2004; and the Ocean Design Group, launched in 2006, a full-service design studio. In addition to serving outside customers, Ocean Design also provides all the rendering and graphics for the other two divisions.
“VT Graphics has been focused primarily on corrugated packaging since its inception,” says president Robert Mormile. “We have about 55 employees in our three buildings, all of which are tied together via fiberoptics. From an infrastructure standpoint, we all talk to each other.”

Earlier this decade, the operators of VT Graphics recognized that there was a market for short-run package printing that wasn’t being served. Many of their customers, says Mormile, sometimes only wanted 250 to 500 items. “We were primarily in the corrugated industry,” he says, “and short-run packaging was not being addressed because of all the tooling and setup required.”