The ability to proof or prototype packaging is becoming essential to remain competitive in today’s market. Asia Pacific Packaging looks at the digital proofing technology available to give printers and their clients the edge
Brandowners and packaging designers are demanding more features and better quality from their print than ever before.
While the quality of a product ensures the longevity of sales, the packaging is often the consumers’ first engagement with a product, influencing purchasing decisions on the shelf.
Enter the packaging printer, whose job is to digest a client’s idea or design and produce an accurate and tangible reproduction, which can be in stores in the shortest possible time.
In the past, creating colour-accurate mock ups and packaging proofs was a difficult and costly process, but with the rise of roll to roll and flat bed wide format machines, packaging printers now have the ability to reproduce virtually anything for a client in a fraction of the time and at a lower cost.
Moreover, creatives and brandowners are often demanding to see an accurate replica of the final product before signing off on the full run job.
With its ability to reproduce a range of value adding print enhancements including spot colours, pantones, metallics, whites and opaques on various substrates in an on-demand environment, this technology is enabling many packaging printers to grow their businesses, and strengthen their client relationships without the need for cost and time intensive systems.
Epson explains that prototyping and proofing of packaging designs and concepts has allowed printers, designers and advertisers to clearly illustrate to their clients what the final product will look like before sign off of the actual print job.
The company adds it has also allowed printers, designers and advertisers to be innovative with their packaging designs by giving them the tools to explore more possibilities for their clients.
Craig Heckenberg, business unit manager for Epson’s business solutions division says, “Digital printing technology has dramatically improved this critical process by allowing print and design companies to bring it in-house and to reproduce designs and mock-ups on substrates that were previously unavailable or difficult to reproduce.
According to Epson other benefits of using digital technology for this application include:
• Reduction in overall production costs and times
• Eliminate the risks associated with design piracy and strengthen client confidentiality
• Improved job margins
• Establish an additional revenue stream by offering a new service to existing customers or attract new customers
Epson offers print and design companies a number of proofing devices that can assist in the creation of high quality, colour accurate packaging mock-ups and proofs. These devices include: the Stylus Pro 4900, Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900.
Also available is the Stylus Pro WT7900 which is equipped with the world’s first water based white ink. This ink technology brings the production of high quality, colour accurate packaging proofs and mock-ups into office environments.
Epson adds the Stylus Pro WT7900 is an affordable, low maintenance packaging proofer that produces high quality, colour accurate package proofs on both clear and opaque substrates and metallics.
Heckenberg concludes, “This market will continue to grow on the back of advertising and marketing expenditure.
“Digital technology for this application will continue to develop based around; colour, speed, substrate compatibility, workflow efficiencies and affordability.”
The ability to proof or prototype packaging is essential to remaining competitive in the packaging industry and plays a big part in being able to add value to the design and manufacturing process, according to Roland DG.
Without the ability to provide a rapid prototype or proof of concept it is hard for creatives and brand owners to make fast and informed localised decisions and campaigns, otherwise potentially exposing us to face lifted designs and concepts.
Conrad Birkett, business development manager at Roland DG says the return on investment in digital proofing technology, for many players, is easy to identify and yields almost instantaneous returns.
He says, “Benefits are numerous, from consistent colour, simple job and workflow management over multiple locations and equipment, finalising in a tactile and realistic prototype that the client can evaluate prior to mass production and printing.”
Roland DG has several offerings for the packaging proofing and prototyping industry that provide simplified print, cut and crease workflows in addition to short run. The LEC Series of LED lamp based UV printers can print accurately onto the actual substrates that will be used in production process, providing a sample that is realistic and as close to the final product as you can get.
Additionally, these machines have white and clear varnish inks, providing spot matte, gloss or emboss build ups and patterns as well as the built in ability to contour and perforate cut and crease the job.
Roland also offers the LEJ-640, a hybrid printer that can print onto ridged sheets with a work area of 1620mm wide by 2400mm long and up to 13mm thick as well as traditional supporting roll to roll and card stock.
Also part of the Roland DG arsenal is the VS Series of printers that are an eight colour inkset, including specialised white and metallic inks. The VS Series allows clients to print metallic and pearlescent colours for the first time, including all the colours in the pantone metallic guide, as well as contour cut, perforate and crease the job in a single workflow.
Birkett says, “The market is heading towards simplified pre-press and production workflow that allows them to provide a fast and economical turn around for realistic proofs and prototypes. Whilst people realise that it is nice to have a clinical proof on a piece of film, what relevance is that proof when the final result is going to be printed on PE Shrink packaging or foil?
“Clients want to know that what they are being presented is as close to the final product as they can get. The next step is product testing, whereby they can prototype an entire product display with marketing collateral and test it at a preferred location to obtain instant market feedback – prior to going to final packaging or even product production.”
Kayell Australia says this digital technology is in most cases cheaper than traditional proofing options available. It also provides additional benefits such as lower cost accurate proofs and the ability to print small production runs on the same substrate as the finished printed product.
The company continues that digital printers are now available which can print white ink on card, white ink on clear substrates, metallic ink, varnish, multiple layers of varnish giving a raised print effect, as well as offering cutting and creasing functionality.
All of this combines to offer a low cost, flexible and efficient means of creating packing proofs and mockups.
Luke Wooldridge, sales, service and colour management for graphic arts and print at Kayell says, “Kayell Australia’s colour management software – GMG – has several software solutions for this market which help provide efficient creation of packaging proofs and mock-ups.
“With GMG solutions for packaging proofing on transparent and opaque materials dramatic time savings and cost reduction by up to 90 per cent can be achieved compared to analog proofing systems.”
Wooldridge adds that GMG software allows clients to produce consistent and accurate color results on virtually any substrate – with white ink and varnish support. He says, “This is important for the digital production of packaging mock-ups made of the original materials.”
GMG’s software solutions for the wide format packaging industry include:
• GMG FlexoProof –accurate contract proofing for flexo and packaging printing, it simulates any kind of substrate structures and spot colors. FlexoProof allows direct processing of 1-bit imagesetter data, so that they can be inexpensively proofed on inkjet printers, and errors detected before platesetting or the start of a press run.
• GMG ColorServer – provides fully automatic color conversions for all printing processes which is especially useful when working with data in different color spaces, or data need to be prepared for a wide variety of printing processes.
GMG SmartProfiler – automated profiling software which easily creates many custom colour profiles to be used with ColorServer.
GMG also supports a range of hardware options from Epson, Roland DG and Mimaki. Wooldridge adds, “This digital technology will continue to evolve and create faster cost efficient mock-ups, proofing and short run production copies.
“Obviously there has been a huge leap forward with the ability of digital printers in recent years and this should continue with higher resolution, faster print speeds, better quality inks for example.”
According to DES, time to market and flexibility are the two major benefits packaging printers can realize by investing in digital proofing technology. The company outlines that by using flat bed and roll to roll devices packaging printers can effectively do a print run of one on the actual substrate with no cost penalty for plates, screens and make readies.
DES is receiving more and more interest from packaging printers who are seeing shorter runs and more packaging variants which brings digital production firmly into the equation as there is so much less cost in getting to that first copy.
Add to this the fact that UV printers can print on an extremely wide variety of substrates and you can see that UV flat bed can actually expand the market. DES is receiving a lot of interest in its VUTEk and Rastek flat bed UV printers for precisely this purpose.
Russell Cavenagh, sales director at DES says, “In today’s packaging environment there is a lot of competition to catch the consumer’s eye. The average supermarket can have upwards of 30,000 items on their shelves so making a product as visually pleasing as possible is extremely important if you want to differentiate yourself for the competition.
“Prototyping new packaging is key to improving the chances to make this stand out. Many of our customers are producing prototypes (or mock ups) so they can market research different designs.”
Cavenagh adds that then there is the more practical aspect of prototyping, “What happens if you design a display unit to hold 100 loaves of bread, go all the way thru production, distribute it out to the stores in flatpack form where it’s assembled and promptly collapses under the weight of the bread? Believe me it happens – unless you prototype on the actual substrates.”
In the packaging proofing market, DES offers the Rastek and VUTEk flat bed and roll to roll devices from entry level production up to hundreds of square meters per hour production. Some of these printers are capable of photographic quality on a wide variety of substrates. All are driven by EFI Fiery XF and EFI Colorproof XF Rips.
Cavenagh continues that the short run packaging market is clearly headed to digital production. He explains economies of scale on large packaging runs will always exclude digital from the equation but in short run production there is currently strong interest from the traditional flexo, screen and litho operators.
He says, “DES has always been strong in introducing digital technology into analogue environments. Over the last year we have seen some quantum leaps in improvements in flat bed UV printing and we have recently sold four VUTEk GS3200’s, which is testimony to the acceptance of this technology into the packaging markets.”
Kodak outlines that investing in a system to reduce the use of plates, cylinders, energy and improve overall productivity and efficiency, helps the packaging converter meet a number of the key challenges in today’s packaging market such as time to market, brand consistency, substrate flexibility, cost efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The company adds that investing in the right system improves the overall productivity and in turn profitability for a packaging converter.
Adrian Fleming, managing director Kodak Australia and New Zealand says, “Packaging on the shelf of the super market is the first moment of truth that influences consumer’s buying decision. The consumer makes a buying decision in probably less than seven seconds.
“Hence it’s very important for a package to have a shelf impact and brilliance to stand out on the shelf of the super market.
Prototyping is an integral and most important step for a brand owner, in finalising the package design, conducting market research and for photo shoots for marketing collaterals.”
In the packaging market, Kodak offers the digital flexo plate-making system, Flexcel NX Technology, supported with full production workflow Kodak Prinergy Powerpack. Complementing this is the digital half-tone proofing solution – Kodak Approval NX – which is designed to cater to most diversified needs of packaging brand owners and converters.
Kodak says its Approval NX allows the users to create cost effective 3D Product mock-ups/prototypes on a variety of substrate choices with actual half-tone dot information and best possible brand and spot colour match including metallic colours and opaque white.
In addition, Kodak also offers an inkjet proofing solution – Kodak Matchprint Inkjet – to cater to varied proofing needs for packaging.
Fleming continues, “Packaging with its distinctive requirements, definitely needs dedicated solutions that can cater to specialised needs of packaging designs. A system that can help replicate the final product, as a prototype, adds value in design development of package and help save cost and time. Time to market is the key for any brand owner.”