By Cassandra Balentine
Package production continues to advance with the aid of digital printing technologies. Wide format digital printing equipment enables print providers and converters to offer short-run, variable data-driven packaging products to brand owners. From prototypes to low-volume runs, these devices pinpoint a sweet spot that is hard to effectively reach with traditional packaging methods.
Here, we profile three organizations that rely on wide format digital printing and finishing devices to create packaging applications.
Above: To educate students on packaging sciences, RIT’s SMS operates the Roland VersaUV LEC series UV printer/cutter and Roland TrueVIS VG 640 64-inch large format printer/cutter out of Rochester, NY
Beyond the Box
Digital Impact is located in Yeadon, PA, close in proximity to the Philadelphia International Airport. The company started 15 years ago to service clients of its parent company, VT Graphics. VT Graphics is a flexographic trade shop specializing in the corrugated market. Today, Digital Impact operates out of a 15,000 square foot facility and employs a staff of 12 to 15, running two shifts per day out of one location.
“We started Digital Impact to offer short-run production for trade customers that were not offering this to their customers,” shares Craig Cotton, business development, Digital Impact.
The shop started out with a Scitex CorJet Digital Press, featuring a water-based ink set and one Esko DCM die cutting table. It added a second Esko DCM die cutter to keep up with print volume. As the volume continued to grow over the years, the company needed more space and moved into its current 15,000 square foot facility and added another digital press and finisher. This time, the shop invested in a Durst Image Technology US LLC Rho 900, along with a new Esko Kongsberg XP Auto die cutter. When the Scitex CorJet reached its end of life, the shop replaced it with a Durst Rho 1000 UV printer.
A large component of the company’s work is related to corrugated. Digital Impact follows a “Beyond the Box” strategic approach towards corrugated point of purchase (POP) displays and materials. The team is constantly looking ahead for solutions to its customers’ evolving needs, which led them to invest in its fourth digital wide format press—the Durst Delta WT 250. The press utilizes Durst’s Water Technology (WT) and specializes in printing to corrugated.
The Durst Delta WT 250 has been up and running at Digital Impact for about a year. Cotton reports that it has excellent customer acceptance for the quality level it provides. “The focus of this press is corrugated board and paper board printing. 90 percent of our work is corrugated board in varying flute thicknesses,” says Cotton.
“The quality of the print is unbelievable, and if someone did not know it was digital, they would think it was lithographic,” he adds.
One primary reason Digital Impact decided on the Durst Delta WT 250 with Durst WT inks is the fact that the inks are approved by Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 and the Swiss Regulation of Food Contact Materials from the independent institute Swiss Quality Testing Services. The inks are tested for basic applicability for printing on the exterior, non-food-contact side of secondary corrugated or secondary carton packaging materials and are considered free of hazardous labeling and comply with strict health and safety regulations.
With the help of the Durst Delta WT 250, the shop’s business has increased. “The ability to have zero odor from the ink once printed means no UV contamination to products placed in the printed pieces, this was a major factor in selecting the press. The quality of the print exceeded our UV-based machines that we had in production, and allowed for new business where people typically went with lithographic labeling even for small runs to achieve the quality—regardless of cost,” says Cotton.
While there are typically challenges involved with implementing a new machine, having two printers previously manufactured by Durst made for a seamless transition. The machine has a fully automated workflow from loading to unloading printed sheets, which improves operator efficiency and production.
While Digital Impact serves a range of customers, a typical packaging job is a box or display house that wants 400 pallet skirts, which is not enough to put through conventional methods of plates, cutting dies, and production, as well as non-truck load quantities. With digital print, customers order just what they need—mixing graphics between the various quantities. Cotton says some customers use them for just-in-time inventory and order various quantities month after month to fill immediate needs.
The volume of runs the shop prints regularly varies by customer, ranging from one concept piece to 250 displays for short run to 2,500-plus headers. “We only print digitally. Whether you are looking for a complete display, headers, pallet skirts, or replacement pieces, we are here to support you,” comments Cotton.
The digital revolution isn’t new to Digital Impact. After 15 years of experience, Cotton admits the technology is improving rapidly. “Technology is a constant change and it is always on the move—whether it is in the drop size of the ink getting smaller, the speeds of the presses, the variations of the color combinations of either CMYKcm to CMYKcmOV, or the move from multi- to single-pass printers.”
Software also helps the print provider remain productive and profitable. Digital Impact aims to utilize a minimum of 75 percent of the sheet when printing. Workflow software analyzes jobs that are ready to print and lays them out on the sheet while optimizing the throughput for efficiency. Once the sheet is maximized, jobs are released to print, cut, and finished. They are then boxed, skidded, or palletized for shipping.
Digital Impact is always on the lookout for new trends and technologies that support its overall business. By making key investments, the company offers high-end corrugated work in the form of POP and packaging.
In addition to corrugated packaging and related applications, the luxury market also looks to digital print technologies for packaging that stands out in the aisles and even in the home.
Established in 2012, Madovar Packaging is a family-run business based in Canada. It employs a staff of 25 between its 11,000 square foot facility in Montreal and sales office in New York, NY.
Serving mostly North America, 100 percent of the company’s business is packaging. It offers luxury gift boxes in different styles and sizes, which can be customized and personalized. Products range from B&W standards to textured boxes with custom internal inserts.
The company focuses on longevity and sustainability. Boxes produced by Madovar are meant to last beyond their initial use. In addition, they are built with paper that is 100 percent FSC certified and constructed of recycled fibers.
Many products are manufactured using wide format digital printing equipment. In 2015, Madovar made its first equipment purchase—the Mimaki USA, Inc. UJF-6042 MkII. The Mimaki UJF-6042 MkII is an advanced flatbed UV-curable inkjet printer that supports A2 sizes and media 153 millimeters thick.
It added to its equipment portfolio in 2018 with an investment in the Mimaki JFX200-2513. The flatbed UV LED printer features a 4×8-foot landscape-oriented format. White, clear, and standard inks are available. UV LED lamps offer reduced energy consumption and a longer lamp lifetime. It handles objects up to two inches thick and features printing speeds of up to 269 square feet per hour.
“These printers were purchased specifically for our packaging applications. The Mimaki equipment was the most competitive in price and offered specific features ideally suited for our business,” recalls Bilal Madwar, VP, Madovar.
The devices allow the company to cater to the needs of its customers, specifically printing CMYK, white, and clear inks on dark substrates. “Our objective of printing white ink on a black paper could only be achieved using this equipment. Our business went from being limited in options to becoming flexible and open to creative designs,” says Madwar.
When installing the new devices, Madwar admits a lot of testing was involved to achieve the best possible printing results, but the ideal settings were implemented with time.
Advancements in digital printing technology enable Madovar to meet the growing needs of its clients, as customers are always looking for new ways to improve upon the design of their product.
The company’s typical client base seeks classic, luxury gift boxes in black and personalized in white branding in runs of 50 to 500 units. Madwar says typical orders run around 100 units.
Clients choose from a list of standard styles and sizes of boxes, which are readily available on the print provider’s website. Once a product is selected, Madovar’s designers offer customers the die lines to place the artwork.
All projects are printed using Mimaki equipment, unless the volume exceeds 500 units. At that point outsourcing to an offset print provider is considered. Madwar adds that if a job requires only one color, foil stamping is used as a reliable alternative.
Madovar’s commitment to its customers is proven by its dedication to quality packaging solutions. With the help of digital print technology, it produces packaging products with a shelf life.
While the first two examples offer a look at package production in a commercial setting, here is the use of wide format package creation in an education setting.
Rochester Institute of Technologies’ (RIT) School of Media Sciences (SMS) traces back to 1922 and the Empire School of Printing. Currently, the school has nine full-time faculty members and several adjuncts teaching in Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science programs in Rochester, NY. About 1,500 square feet is dedicated to SMS production lab-based facilities in addition to shared facilities in the building.
According to Bruce Leigh Myers, Ph. D., associate professor, director, SMS, RIT, the main goal of the program is to prepare the next generation of leaders in the graphics industry, including the graphic production technologies of print, web, and mobile. “Our students are trained on cross-media technologies and the production skills to integrate various media to meet marketing communications, publishing, and packaging needs,” he says.
In the packaging sector, students learn about relevant production technologies including digital printing, offset lithography, flexography, and gravure, as well as quality control, project management, color management, and digital asset management.
To educate students on packaging sciences, the school operates—among other equipment—the Roland DGA Corporation VersaUV LEC series UV printer/cutter and Roland TrueVIS VG 640 64-inch large format printer/cutter. Speaking specifically of these devices, Erich S. Lehman, pre-media facilities coordinator, SMS, RIT, says the school enjoys a great relationship with Roland dating back to roughly 2000.
RIT’s SMS has operated the Roland VersaUV LEC-330 in its labs for a number of years and added the Roland TrueVIS VG 640 in 2017.
These devices offer hands-on comparisons to students. Regardless of the technology used, the labs focus on prototyping projects to be produced in real-world settings. As such, it creates small scale runs. “I appreciate the ability to compare and contrast the two technologies with the students using similar files for curricular discussions/demonstrations. The print/cut technology on both devices is a boon. The TrueVIS VG 640’s larger format enables students to take their projects to a larger scale—as well as its rapid drying time and vivid color gamut. We have our VersaUV LEC-330 set up with white and gloss inks, which allows for more creative experimentation with projects. The VersaUV LEC-330’s UV inks also enable students to prototype on a much wider variety of stocks,” explains Lehman.
The machines support everything from basic digital production classes to packaging and limited edition print courses. “I’ve been working with wide format printers in our educational environment for the last 19 years. Roland equipment has been in our facilities for most of that time, and the company offered up great training from the outset. The equipment has shared a consistent interface and ease of use, making migrations and integrating new devices easy,” adds Lehman.
In the first few years of a students’ journey projects are largely class based. However, as they move on to junior and senior year, the opportunities for real-world customers arise. Additionally, students across many majors work together for interdisciplinary projects as well as contests.
Further, advancements in digital media have fundamentally changed how content is produced and what is possible. Myers believes the steady rise of interactive and immersive digital media as a complement to print and broadcast as core communications technologies create opportunities and challenges across many disciplines.
“To many, previous distinct lines of differentiation between disciplines have been blurred due to technological advancements. This trend continues to impact the SMS enrollment as students have more options than ever to pursue degrees in areas of related study,” adds Myers.
The future of the graphics industry is being molded at RIT. Hands-on experience with state-of-the-art hardware and software solutions enable an educated next generation of graphics professionals.
The Right Package
For those looking to offer prototypes and short-run volumes of packaging applications, wide format digital printers offer a solution. While there are limitations, it represents an exciting new opportunity for existing and potential clientele.
Apr2019, Digital Output