Inkjet in Corrugated – Gaining Traction

By Ralf Schlozer / Published:

Inkjet is still relatively new to the corrugated printing industry however, the choices are already plenty. Several types of inkjet printers exist for corrugated and the closely related POS/display market. In the post-print process, printing is done on the flat corrugated boards. This is the most widely used process, typically done by flexo presses today. Inkjet comes in different flavours of productivity and automation, with high end automated presses and manual feed entry level presses, both using page-wide inkjet heads. Scanning head flatbed large format printers can and are producing corrugated as well, although possible volumes are much lower.

A second option using offset is preprint. In this case the top liner is printed separately, before the corrugating (in which the flute layer and back liner are added) and converting operations. Alternatively, the printed sheet is laminated on top of the board. With the Inca/BHS joint development of an inkjet array inside a corrugator another option is on the way. A beta testing site started operating in 2021 and after extensive testing a release is planned in 2024.

Types of Corrugated Inkjet Presses

Feed type

Ink type

Typical run lengths





>10.000 sqm


Post-print – high end

Sheet – automated

Aqueous or UV

500 – 20.000 sheets

Barberan, Domino, Durst-König & Bauer, EFI, Hanway, HP, Xeikon

Post-print – entry level

Sheet – manual


<1.000 sheets

Konica Minolta, Xante

Scanning Head

Sheet – manual

Aqueous or UV

Single sheets


Pandemic interrupting the growth

Marco Boer, VP at leading inkjet consultancy and market analyst company I.T. Strategies gives an insight into single-pass post-print market and outlook. Starting out with good sales in 2019, sales dropped sharply during the pandemic to only 8 units. Despite increases in parcel volumes producers shelved large scale investment plans and travel restrictions meant that installations became a lot more difficult – if not impossible. Recovery started in 2021, although at a lower rate still. Marco Boer states “What’s misleading about the data is that we’re seeing a big shift to UV flatbed used for corrugated printing, driven by lower acquisition cost risk”. Accordingly corrugated inkjet output is growing more than the data indicates in the single-pass numbers. He adds: “A big limitation in 2022 is not demand, but parts availability. We expect that to clear up in 2023.”

Accordingly, 2023 sales are expected to grow to 30 units with 36 units by 2024. As all press installations are recent and the devices are expected to have relatively long lifetime, all new sales are and will be adding to the installed base for quite some time.

blue and green chart of Single-pass Post-print press sales for corrugated

Single-pass Post-print press sales for corrugated. Source: IT Strategies

This has implications for the print volume. Normalized on A4 pages, I.T. Strategies expects the print volume to grow from about 2 billion A4 page equivalent to more than 20 billion by 2024. This represents an average annual growth rate of 58%!

Not tracked here are the entry level printers and continuous feed inkjet presses used in preprint for corrugated. HP had some additional sales of the T-Series presses for preprint in 2021 and the installed fleet of T400S and T1100 series are producing considerable volumes of prints as well.

Diversifying product ranges

EFI was one of the first vendors to offer a page-wide printer for post-print corrugated, launching the Nozomi C18000 in 2016. The Nozomi is using UV inks and has an option for white and 2 more special colours to extend gamut. In 2020 the company launched an updated version as Nozomi C18000 Plus, but the company did not stop there. In March 2022 the Nozomi 14000 LED was launched as a slightly smaller (1.4m width instead of 1.8m), more compact and more affordable version. As the other systems, the 14000 uses UV inks and offers up to 6 colours and white. The first 14000 is being installed at UK corrugated printer Caps Cases. The latest offering is the Nozomi 18000+ LED (not to be confused with the C18000 Plus), which is targeted specifically at sign and display markets. The printer supports heavy plastic board used in display markets. There is one beta site already running in the US and a second unit to go live in Q3 in Europe.

König & Bauer – Durst already moved into the next phase of market coverage as well, having collected user feedback and analysing machine performance. Both companies, Durst and König & Bauer, developed a single-pass corrugated inkjet press. Now the presses are marketed by their joint venture for digital print. With the SPC 130 and the CorruJET 170 two models for the mid-volume market in post-print exist, each with appeal to certain types of customers. Already last year the CorruJET 170X was added with an enlarged format and a feeder based on the SPC 130. The 170X can address highest productivity needs and essentially replace a flexo press in terms of productivity. Koenig & Bauer- Durst is even upping the productivity and automation by offering now a CorruCUT rotary die cutter as inline option. Via a sheet bridge, printed sheets can be transported to the die-cutter without human intervention. A special feature of the CorruCUT are two changeable die cylinders, allowing mounting a new set of dies while the cutter is operating. In less than three minutes the die cutting cylinders can be changed, and the cutter is fully up and running again. Meanwhile a small stack is collated from the CorruJET 170X, which is processed as well.

As a more affordable post-print high-end solution the companies recently introduced the SPC 130 Flexline ECO+, a new entry level model. The models sports a smaller drier and less automation as the full SPC 130. The smaller drier means that print speeds on coated stock drops to 40 m/min, while uncoated is possible at up to 80 m/min. The ECO+ is upgradeable to an Automatic version and having the same imaging unit ensures the same quality. Pricing for the ECO+ starts at around €3 million.

Koenig & Bauer – Durst has currently 10 installations running, mostly the SPC 130. The focus is clearly on primary packaging, often serving FMCG markets and big brands – where clearly most demand for corrugated materials lies.

Adding more choices

Large scale corrugated inkjet press placements took a hit during the pandemic, despite corrugated print being in high demand. The current supply chain issues do not help either. Yet the interest in the market remains high and suppliers are enhancing their offerings.

The range of vendors is rather going to expand further. Bobst owns the Mouvent inkjet cluster technology and announced interest in joining the post-print market as well. The technology can cover the necessary speed and width. Bobst expects a beta site by the 2nd half of 2023 with an upcoming sheet-fed corrugated printer.

More products are likely to arrive from China. As the biggest packaging market in the world, many inkjet printers from local brands are in use already, but those made it rarely to Europe or the US so far. The current travel restrictions in China are putting market expansion plans on hold for many Chinese companies. For example, FESPA 2022 two weeks ago witnessed almost no exhibitors from China. Signs of increasing activity is the first Hanway Glory installation now being underway in Europe – in Italy to be precise. While Hanway already has subsidies and partners outside of China, others will need to build up that network first.

The adoption of inkjet in corrugated with single-pass presses is not a sprint, it is a long-distance race. User clearly see the opportunity and the changing demands of brand owners. However, the installations are large and pricey. Above all they require not only new press technology, they require changes in the business model as well. Forward looking converters are already preparing themselves for digital print future.

About the Author

Ralf Schlozer

Ralf Schlozer is Independent Print Analyst. Ralf provides analysis, sizing and forecasting the market for digital printing technologies and associated applications and business processes. Connect with Ralf on LinkedIn

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