Sound Bite: The Hybrid Printing Advantage
With digital printing's emergence across the packaging spectrum, the prevailing consensus throughout the industry is that converters who are able to utilize digital and conventional technologies as complementary processes will find themselves with a competitive advantage. Over the past few years, hybrid solutions that combine digital and conventional printing in one system — whether via a retrofit or a new press altogether — have emerged as viable platforms to leverage the best attributes of each technology.
At the Digital Packaging Summit, held Oct. 23-25 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., representatives from five leading suppliers of hybrid systems took part in a panel to discuss the advantages that hybrid solutions can bring to the packaging industry.
For example, it's well-known that one of the top advantages of digital is its ability to print variable or customizable elements onto labels and packaging. Meanwhile, conventional printing is ideal for efficiently producing longer runs of labels and packaging that do not require any graphic alterations. However, with hybrid printing, Will Mansfield, director of worldwide press sales and marketing for Kodak, explained that converters can cost-effectively run jobs where the majority of the graphics are static, but do feature a varying attribute.
Similarly, Andre Blais, sales manager for Gallus, explained that these capabilities coincide nicely with the rise of craft and boutique products. Because these growing market segments often deal in short runs, having a digital solution can help converters to best serve these brand owners' needs better than if they were strictly relegated to conventional printing.
Steve Schulte, VP of sales and marketing for Mark Andy, stated that one of the reasons hybrid printing is becoming such a sought after solution for package printers and converters is because of technological advancements in both digital and conventional. He explained that a few years ago, digital printing was significantly slower than it is today and changeover times on conventional presses were lagging. Now that both sides of the hybrid equation have become much more efficient, these presses can be better integrated into a demanding workflow.
As digital printing continues its evolution and gains further adoption throughout the packaging industry, it will have an impact on the types of jobs that are produced conventionally. However, Keith Nagle, digital product manager for Nilpeter, explained that digital has not yet evolved to a place where it can serve as a full replacement for conventional. Because each technology still maintains distinct advantages, he stated that hybrid presses will make for a logical solution.
Because hybrid printing platforms are such a new technology, suppliers and converters will need to work together to ensure these presses are being properly implemented and utilized to the best of their ability. Mike Barry, product marketing manager, digital solutions, Fujifilm, explained that as a supplier, he finds it best to work directly with converters to learn about their business. Then, he said, he can better assist them in integrating a hybrid solution that makes the most sense for that converter's specific needs.