There are already a wide array of press manufacturers in integrating inkjet print technology for packaging and more development is rolling out in 2020 focused on product labels as well as internal, external and flexible packaging sectors.
Last week, David Zwang, Editor of WhatTheyThink and Mary Schilling, Partner at Inkjet Insight provided an overview of new and exciting packaging developments coming to market.
The webinar served as a virtual tour of the hot new packaging presses that we would have seen at drupa this month if the event hadn’t been pushed to 2021. “While packaging is all around us, packaging is not easy,” said David Zwang when introducing the topic. “I know that may sound silly. People just think, ‘You print a label, you print a box, it’s just printing.’ Well, not really. There are so many other issues around packaging that need to be taken into account.”
The variety of substrates – paper, self-adhesives, board, corrugated and plastics – are all different. Regulations around food contact and medical supply packaging must also be strictly adhered to. Add to that, the issues around productivity. Most packaging isn’t high volume. In fact, most are short- to medium-run. This means we also have to take into account the time to market and product lifecycle, which adds to the cost.
“But there’s a lot of transformation affecting packaging now,” Zwang added, “which is also playing into the need and sweet spot for inkjet printing.”
Consumer and distribution behavior has changed to mean more customers are going online, altering packaging from those that you see on the shelves. Consumers are also more concerned about sustainability, which has almost become a requirement for packaging in a world sensitized to climate change. More personalized and targeted experiences, mean a need for mass customization, which leads to shorter runs. And the digitization of a lot of the manufacturing process, means more efficient and bespoke manufacturing.
Beginning with printheads, Zwang featured a few companies like Memjet, Colordyne and Kodak.
Memjet uses thermal printheads and makes components for other printers. Colordyne, a Memjet partner, puts together more complete sets for more deliverables as a third party after-market solution for adding inkjet functionality to other equipment. Kodak makes printheads and arrays, inks and components.
When it comes to inks and printheads, Kodak is an expert. However, they aren’t experts on folding cartons. So they joined forces with Zumbiel Packaging to create a folding carton press that includes inkjet, flexo, etc.
Landa also manufactures a B1 single-sided, folding carton press, the S10. Similar to Kodak, Koenig & Bauer formed a joint venture with Durst, to build the VeriJET 106, also a B1 folding carton press. Fujifilm has the 750S, a 2329 carton folding press for smaller jobs. All of these presses use aqueous inks – meaning they can have indirect and sometimes direct food contact.
When developing for flexible packaging, food safety is a main concern. Film materials are used by far, the largest in food packaging. This market demands zero ink particles migrate into the contents which are in direct contact with food and in the flexible packaging space, a few manufacturers have designed such systems focusing on such requirements utilizing aqueous ink chemistry .
Miyakoshi just announced the MJP30AXF, an aqueous-based ink, flexible packaging press, able to take short- and mid-range runs (see press release). Screen’s PacJet FL830 is also set to release in March 2021. Kodak partnered with Uteco to build one of the fastest flexible packaging presses on the market, the Sapphire Evo W. This press is designed for wide-width flexible packaging. The Landa W10 is another impressive machine.
The label market moved into inkjet quite a few years back. But, as of 2019-2020, there has been momentum in new OEM development and partnerships to develop options for the production label market.
Mouvent, a Bobst Group company, was able to get their printhead to a compact enough size to create a variety of presses. Their LB702-UV label press is UV, which isn’t a food safety problem since labels don’t come into direct contact with food.
Canon, relatively new in packaging, partnered with Edale – an expert in packaging – and FFEI to manufacture the LabelStream 4000. “The Canon LabelStream 4000 is a great example of where packaging is going,” Zwang said. “And I think we’re going to see it in other types of print manufacturing. We’re starting to see a lot of companies getting together with each other, taking the best of what they know how to do, like we talked about before with Kodak.”
Direct and preprinted liners for corrugated markets have slowly moved to inkjet from flexo systems, expanding marketing options for customers. The past year has shown a need to open up packaging options for small run as well as direct marketing solutions. “Direct print has expanded their print quality 100 fold utilizing inkjet”, says Mary Schilling. “Old, narrow, rules of design are gone. With tight registration, minimized trapping and 4 color standard process available, designers can get creative without the limitations of the flexography process and photopolymer plates.”
A variety of manufacturers make corrugated foodsafe postprint, which prints directly on the corrugated. “Foodsafe is critical,” Zwang said. “Especially now that people are starting to look at corrugated as primary packaging.”
The HP Pagewide C500, Koenig & Bauer’s CorruJet are both aqueous, foodsafe presses. On the other hand, the EFI Nozomi C18000 is UV, designed for display packaging. It’s faster and less expensive than aqueous.
The Xeikon IDERA, to be released toward the end of 2020, offers a variety of speeds depending on the application.
Preprinted liner has also taken the leap into inkjet, although “A Corrugated line is like a freight train,” Zwang said. “It’s huge because there are a lot of pieces that need to come together. And BHS is one of the largest of the corrugated print manufacturers.” BHS didn’t have a way to produce a lot of on-demand packaging, so they partnered with Screen to offer inkjet finishes all in one machine.
Corrugated preprint manufacturers are the HP PageWide T1100S and Koenig & Bauer’s RotaJET. Both have designed systems which can be integrated into the aggressive corrugation process.
Even metal decorating is enjoying the benefits of inkjet. Fujifilm partnered with Tinmasters to build a UV press, using the Acuity B1, for metal decorating. UV gives the ability to have a 3D effect on tinplate and aluminum substrates. This is opening opportunities for short run customized graphics for personalized marketing projects. “Inkjet has truly brought new innovation in production to the metal printing market”, says Mary.
Inkjet facilitates application-based manufacturing. As time goes on, you see more inkjet machines that are about application-based manufacturing from the inner packaging to the outer label and everything in between.
To get the detailed discussion of all these presses, watch the full “Packaging 2020 – Inkjet Drivers and Innovations” webinar, and check out the other webinars that were held during Inkjet Innovation Week at www.inkjetinsight.com.