DIGITAL'S FAMILIAR FACE
The integration of digital print into conventional press formats sets the road to the future in comfortable surroundings.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
AS YET, DIGITAL print isn't installed in an overwhelming number of packaging plants. Suppliers realize, however, that the nature of the market will require the integration of digital techniques in the not-too-distant future, and are preparing accordingly.
"The converter is being forced by their customers to advance print capabilities to match market demands," observes Chris Faust, digital sales manager, Chromas Technologies. He identifies the common reason for investing in digital print capability as the pressure to deliver packaging on-demand, with new graphics or variable information.
The eternal search for sufficient skilled labor also acts as a persuasive force in digital adoption's favor. As Faust notes, "Digital print will allow for converters to produce high-quality products, on demand, with minimal operator influence."
In the offset market, too, digital becomes a more attractive alternative as run lengths shrink. Heidelberg USA Product Manager/Direct Imaging Jörg Dähnhardt adds interest in direct imaging has sprouted with the increased market for test marketing pieces, such as sample packages or labels.
As a testament to suppliers' convictions about digital print's future, the evolution of better, easier-to-adopt-and-use digital print abilities has continued in research labs, even through a stagnant economy.
Suppliers who do otherwise shoot themselves in the proverbial foot, Faust reasons, because "… most manufacturers see the future as being digital, and any slowdown [in research activity] now will deeply affect them in the future."
For the flexo community, digital/conventional combo technology permits printers to exploit strengths of both processes, both in terms of cost and process capability. Faust cites an order with metallic or fluorescent color outlining a four-color process image. While the metallic or fluorescent would be printed through conventional flexo or gravure, the process image could be economically achieved digitally, with high quality and tight registration.