Bringing Flexo Into the Fold
Will offset-loyal folding carton printers buy into flexo's quality gains and process efficiencies?
By Susan Friedman
A $4 billion dollar carrot could be dangling in front of folding carton printers interested in pursuing flexo, according to The Future of Flexo Printing for Packaging and Specialty Markets 1996, released by Graphic Arts Marketing Information Service (GAMIS).
All but 20 percent of the $5 billion folding carton printing market could potentially be done flexo, the report states, with the exception being high-end packages for cosmetics and other industries. Flexo is more likely, however, to jump from 20 percent to 40 percent penetration within five years, mostly at the expense of sheetfed offset, it claims.
The gap between flexo's potential and the reality of its penetration in folding cartons raises questions around how close flexo's quality gains, while sizable, can edge toward offset's doorstep. New flexo users may also have to steer through the learning curve of a foreign, in-line web process.
Suppliers' flexo quality assessments are upbeat, but grounded. Brace Cooper, VP sales and marketing at Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO, comments, "We've been selling modified narrow web presses to folding carton printers for more than 10 years, but penetration has been small because these printers are tied to offset quality."
Chris Faust, marketing manager at Comco, Milford, OH, contends new generation presses are designed for 4-color work, and sees flexo as "complementary" to offset, which he believes "still owns tighter registration and has advantages in vignettes."
Mike D'Angelo, VP at Bobst Group, Roseland, NJ, confirms "we are not selling the flexo press as offering litho quality, but as competitive to litho quality," and points out "from the perspective of a [consumer], offset- and flexo-printed packages look the same." Ed Jansen, product manager at Bobst, estimates that 7 percent to 10 percent of flexo folding carton work is indeed "high-end" traditional offset work.