Digitally Printed Packaging: Opportunity for Commercial Printers?
"In addition to meeting current customer needs, short-run labels represented a significant growth opportunity for Roman Fernandez' business, one that he was eager to capitalize on. The flexographic technology that ProLabel had initially built its business on required much longer runs to be cost-effective, and longer lead times, compared to digital technology," according to Joachim.
Sharon Eucce, sales and marketing manager at Salt Lake City-based Utah Paperbox (UPB), advises that UPB is a major producer of litholam and folding cartons. UPB looked into digital at drupa 2012, with the idea that it would be useful for customer presentations and short-run and regional jobs, but "hasn't found anything that fits its needs." Eucce says her firm seeks offset quality and wants the same stock and the same suppliers as for offset papers.
One issue is format: Most of their customers buy the large-format boxes that they print offset. She adds that their converting is not always cost-effective with digital and would require a separate workflow. They need coating, finishing, folding, scoring and gluing, and digital equipment doesn't do it. "It is inefficient at best to put small digital packages on large finishing equipment."
Montreal printers Pazazz and PDI (Phipps Dickson Integria) print folding cartons and litholam, but generally print them offset. Warren Werbitt, Pazazz president, reports that Pazazz does commercial printing, plus displays, folding boxes and setup boxes. He adds that Xerox is promoting digital packaging, and Pazazz uses an iGen for digital printing, but the 14½x20½˝ sheet size limits them to smaller packaging and niche opportunities with folding cartons.
He also reinforces the message that digital presses are generally not compatible with the folding, diecutting and gluing operations that packaging requires. Pazazz often prints short runs of larger formats offset, and partners with converters. Werbitt concludes that he doesn't yet see the need for short-run digital packaging, "although a lot of people are blowing smoke."