By Courtney Saba
Digital printing enables print service providers (PSPs) to cost-effectively produce short runs of packages and package prototypes. For a traditional package printer, implementing a digital device into their workflow frees up a flexographic or offset press to handle larger runs. Smaller jobs move to digital, making everything run at maximum capacity. With digital, package prototypes are more economical to produce. Customers requesting a true representation of their final product in the planning stage receive it quickly and sometimes in multiple versions.
The following PSPs either implemented digital printing into their traditional workflows to create short runs and prototypes of packages or added package printing services into an existing digital operation. In both cases these print providers upped their service offerings.
The Digital Add
Established in 2010, Cog, LLC has grown to three separate locations in Cincinnati, OH, totaling 2,000 square feet and seven employees. The company’s core services range from color management, digital retouching, production artwork, and pre-press to 2D/3D design, prototyping, and mockups. David Lukshus, COO and EVP business development and customer relations, Cog, says the company is 100 percent dedicated to upstream through early design phase packaging and merchandising development.
To date, Cog’s vast amount of products reach all areas of OH with a customer base of packaging research and development (R&D) organizations, packaging and merchandising design organizations, packaging and merchandising printers and manufacturers, as well as material and substrate manufacturers.
Many PSPs are asked by brand owners to produce a large range of quantities. “With the business focusing on the upstream through early design phases of packaging and in-store merchandising development, we are asked to produce quantities from ‘a few’ to ‘a few hundred.’ As such, it is essential that we identify digital devices that deliver accurate color, inline die cutting, decorative coatings, and the ability to print on an array of in-market substrates and materials,” explains Lukshus.
Cog added digital to address varied quantity requests in addition to accelerating turnaround times. The intended goal was to produce innovative, attention-grabbing packaging and still meet a hard deadline. According to the company, without digital capabilities it would not be possible to meet such a goal.
The company uses a Roland DGA Corporation VersaCAMM VS-540i eco-solvent printer paired with CGS Publishing Technologies International LLC’s ORIS color management solutions. Lukshus believes this combination enables the company to meet the high color accuracy standards of its packaging development customers. Roland and CGS products also allow Cog to mimic the capabilities of mass production printers and manufacturers during the upstream through early design phases.
Whenever beginning or implementing something new, especially with technology, there is generally a learning curve to overcome before efficiently utilizing a product. “It takes years of trial and error to perfect the methods and results we’ve achieved. User catalogs only scratch the surface of demonstrating what these impressive devices can accomplish. Our decision to commit to Roland—as well as our proprietary file preparation processes—is a key advantage as we strive to stay ahead of our competition,” admits Lukshus.
Cog finds that the Roland VersaCAMM VS-540i outputs on nearly anything, which makes it an ideal device for the customers who are exploring or promoting new, innovative materials and substrates. The printer, along with the CGS ORIS color management solutions, is so color accurate it allows the company to offer color proofing. Cog uses its Roland digital printer/cutter in the engineering of a number of items such as labels, pouches and bags, shrink films, cartons, header cards, shelf strips, clings, danglers, and temporary displays.
With the utilization of digital print in the creation of packaging prototypes, Cog continues to discover trends that shape the future and positively change the way the company does business. “Flexible packaging formats—bags, pouches, and shrink wraps—are the trends in packaging today. Wide format devices are essential to being a credible and valued provider to packaging R&D, design, printing, and manufacturing stakeholders,” explains Lukshus.
Sunrise Hitek Group, LLC was founded in 1988. It houses a staff of 15 employees in 14,500 square foot facility, located in Chicago, IL. It collaborates with a variety of clients, from other printers, brokers, and designers to direct customers. The PSP produces digital staple items such as business cards, variable data postcards, and bound books. In addition, the company also offers a range of trade show display hardware and graphics.
Since launching, Sunrise Hitek continues to expand. In addition to HP Inc. Indigo digital presses, it added large format printing in UV flatbed and roll-to-roll mediums as well as an online store that provides Apple iPad and laptop cases to schools and businesses.
Around 1997, Jimmy Sun, president/owner, Sunrise Hitek, noticed a shift towards digital print. “Jobs were becoming more frequent at small quantities,” he explains. In response, Sunrise Hitek added its HP Indigo digital press.
“Shortly thereafter, we added large format color printing equipment to fulfill the needs of customers wanting to print larger images. One of these growth areas was packaging—and by 2007 it became clear that an advanced digital system was needed to satisfy demand,” shares Sun.
When deciding to move toward digital capabilities, Sunrise Hitek wished to provide a one-stop solution for all of the printing needs of its customers. In the large format space, the PSP now prints up to 120×60 inches or 126 inches wide by any length. It services numerous industries including advertising, retail, pharmaceutical, technology, and financial. According to the company, adding digital proved helpful in meeting these goals.
Sunrise Hitek utilizes the latest edition of swissQprint AG’s Nyala. The UV printer allows the company to produce output faster and at a higher quality. “The Nyala was chosen for its small ink droplet size and precise dot placement. We produce fine art quality with UV printing—an impossible feat just a few years ago,” says Sun. The printer’s advanced techniques allow Sunrise Hitek to accept more projects and exhibit its versatility. The capabilities include up to nine color configurations, opaque white ink, multi-layer printing, inline varnishing, raised printing, flatbed/roll hybrid capabilities, and tandem printing.
Prior to digital printing, Sunrise Hitek had years of experience with color separation, film output, and other related graphic arts services. Sun says taking the leap to a UV flatbed had its share of difficulties, but a solid understanding of the underlying technologies helped to quickly overcome the learning curve.
All of its printing is done on digital devices, whether large or small format. Around 15 to 20 percent are related to packaging. Sunrise Hitek takes pride in constantly helping customers from concept to finished products. Corrugated boxes are directly printed onto at high quality and low cost. Glossy vinyl wrapped boxes simulate the look and feel of traditional retail packaging. Cardboard boxes are ideal for smaller gadgets and promotions.
Wide format digital print has changed the way Sunrise Hitek does business, including the opportunity to produce packaging. The UV flatbed allows printing on virtually any material, no matter what the customer is looking for. Specifically speaking to packaging prototypes, this means added flexibility for small quantity production, with special effects.
Sun believes the future of printing is likely to follow the current trend—smaller quantities, with increased requests for print on demand, higher quality requirements, faster turnaround, and customers asking for more special effects and out-of-the-box projects.
Cog and Sunrise Hitek are examples of two different PSPs utilizing digital capabilities to better their companies. Cog—solely a packaging provider—added digital to focus on excelling at varied quantity requests and meeting increasing turnaround times. It achieved its goal to produce unique packaging while making deadlines. A small percentage of Sunrise Hitek’s digital printing involves packaging. It entered into the market thanks in part to the versatility provided by its digital flatbed printer.
As shown here, adding digital print to a business could change the game, or simply enhance what is already being done. In either case, the role of digital wide format equipment in short-run packaging and package prototypes is effecting how many print providers do business.
Apr2016, Digital Output