Research Finds Inkjet Is Moving Digital Printing for Packaging Mainstream
Digital printing of packaging is poised for more widespread use. A key technology driving more mainstream use of digital printing in packaging is inkjet. The ability to print directly onto various substrates, including corrugated material, folding cartons, and flexible films makes inkjet an attractive and less complex process compared to alternatives.
Inkjet Is the Next Stage in Market Evolution
For years, the potential of inkjet has been an ongoing industry discussion, but innovations in technology, inks, and substrates are turning talk into viable printing solutions that offer more providers access to the packaging market.
Printhead developments, in particular, are yielding higher resolutions, faster speeds, and lower-cost printers. In turn, digital press manufacturers are able to integrate these printheads into inkjet printing systems that are less expensive and less complicated than other alternatives. As a result, more package printers/converters can leverage the value of production inkjet for labeling and packaging applications.
Research Identifies Trends Breaking Entry Barriers
In an effort to document current market and technology trends that are reducing entry barriers to digital printing of packaging, NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media LLC, the parent company of Printing Impressions, Packaging Impressions, and In-Plant Impressions) conducted survey research that captured close to 300 responses from organizations that print labels and packaging. Sponsored by Memjet, the findings of the in-depth survey are being used to create three research reports. (Click here to download the first report.)
The survey focused on capturing printers’ and converters’ experiences with digital printing, factors driving or impeding investment, and customer demands driving the use of digital printing. Survey respondents that printed labels and packaging on digital presses were asked if they printed those applications on inkjet presses. Over half of respondents reported printing labels and/or packaging on inkjet presses, 45% printed labels, and 22% printed packaging (Figure 1). Of the respondents that did not print labels and/or packaging on digital inkjet presses, 11% were planning to in the future.
Figure 1: Printing Labels and Packaging on Inkjet Presses
Forces Lowering Entry Barriers
Many types of printing operations are reaping benefits from digital printing processes. Innovations in technology continue to prompt print providers to investigate, invest in, and use digital presses to produce labels and packaging. Hardware, software, inks and toners, and substrates for producing labels and packages on digital presses are constantly evolving, resulting in more automated and less complicated processes. The majority of survey respondents, 57%, believe that digital printing is lowering the entry barriers to offering packaging (Figure 2).
Today there is a digital device for every budget and pressroom size, from digital machinery costing well into the seven figures to tabletop devices for a few thousand dollars. A typical barrier to entering or expanding in the packaging market is investment cost. Over half of survey respondents believe that digital package printing equipment is indeed more affordable today and does offer new opportunities for their operations (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Factors Driving Digital Printing of Packaging
Ongoing progress in printing technologies, production workflow, finishing, color matching, early adopter successes, process simplification, and brand owner creativity and competitive drive are all forces removing former adoption obstacles, positioning digital printing of packaging for mainstream use.
Lisa Cross is the principal analyst of NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media) where she conducts market research and analysis on emerging trends and changing dynamics in the commercial, in-plant and packaging industries, and the market forces that are driving those changes. With decades of experience covering the graphic arts and marketing industries, Cross has authored thousands of articles on a variety of topics, including technology trends, business strategy, sales, marketing and legislation.