Why Inkjet is Continuing to Deliver Label and Packaging Results
Package printers operate in high-pressure environments, in which brand owners demand fast turnaround times, short run lengths, and increasing versions and SKUs within their product lines. As a result, printers and converters across all label and packaging segments are seeking to supplement their conventional print platforms with digital presses and are increasingly eying inkjet as a solution to maximize their investment in digital.
Efficiency is essential in the label and packaging segment, and for printers and converters seeking a digital production platform to optimize their workflow, inkjet’s run speeds and uptime, along with its high-quality results, are drawing companies toward the technology. Additionally, with minimal makeready times and the elimination of plates and tooling, inkjet has emerged as an ideal solution to quickly turn around the short-run work that has inundated package printing operations.
That doesn’t mean that inkjet printing should be solely viewed as a tool for short-run production however. With technological advancements increasing run speeds across the inkjet spectrum, printers and converters are seeing success in medium- and longer-run jobs on their inkjet platforms. For example, after AMPLE Industries, a label printer based in Nixa, Mo., installed its SCREEN Truepress Jet L350UV inkjet press, it was able to increase its capacity and reduce turnaround times for label applications spanning the food and beverage, nutraceutical, and health and beauty segments.
“We’ve changed our opinion of what digital runs are too long because the machine runs and runs,” Natalie Menzies-Spradlin, VP of AMPLE Industries, says.
Why the Time is Right for Inkjet Printing in Labels and Packaging
Digital printing was slightly slower to catch on in the label and package printing world compared to the commercial segment. The high volumes of labels and packaging that brand owners often rely on are ideal for conventional technologies such as flexography, rotogravure, and offset. Additionally, in digital’s early days, speed, quality, and substrate versatility were hindrances in it taking off in packaging.
However, in the decades that have gone by since digital package printing hit the scene, technological advancements have led to high-speed, high-quality production printing systems capable of providing excellent results on several substrates.
Regarding versatility, inkjet printing is a non-impact process, allowing it to print on a wider spectrum of substrates than other digital printing systems that utilize heat in the printing process. While there are key factors to consider when selecting a paper, paperboard, or film for inkjet printing, its ability to provide high-quality results across labels, folding cartons, flexible packaging, and both preprint and direct print corrugated, have made inkjet a highly sought-after solution in packaging.
Additionally, the automation attributes of inkjet have made it an ideal platform in an industry besieged by labor shortages and press operators approaching retirement age. The ease-of-use of inkjet press operation, as well as the creativity attributes of digital printing, have given printers and converters an advantage in attracting younger members of the workforce with this high-tech, computerized production process. And with faster setups than flexography and other conventional processes, inkjet’s high level of automation is beneficial in keeping turnaround times on track for brand owners.
Understanding Inkjet’s Impact on Packaging Applications
Inkjet has made inroads across all packaging segments, but with varying degrees of adoption. Understanding how this technology has been implemented into each segment is imperative when assessing its potential fit in a label or package printing operation.
The label segment has seen the highest rate of adoption of production inkjet presses, with standalone roll-to-roll and hybrid inkjet/flexographic systems having a significant impact on the market. Inkjet has emerged as an excellent digital print platform across every market segment, providing high-quality, full-color prime labels, barcodes with variable data, and even personalized or customized printing.
While inkjet has proven to be a versatile printing process for the label industry, one area in which it thrives is in industrial labeling, which requires significant durability. With its strength in scuff-resistance, lightfastness, and other durability attributes, inkjet has been an excellent fit for industrial and outdoor labeling applications.
The folding carton segment, meanwhile, has been a growing area of opportunity for inkjet, with both sheetfed and roll-fed systems hitting the market. Print performance and quality is imperative in the folding carton segment, with luxury brands and other CPG markets making use of this format. Additionally, paperboard-based packaging prides itself on its recyclability, and inkjet’s multiple sustainability advantages help to further the environmentally-friendly attributes of folding cartons.
Inkjet printing is in its early stages in the flexible packaging segment, but water-based inkjet solutions such as the SCREEN Truepress PAC830F have changed how the industry views digital printing in flexible packaging. With its ability to reach higher speeds and print wider webs than competitive digital processes, inkjet printing in flexible packaging is poised for significant growth as it expands throughout the industry.
The corrugated segment has also seen an influx of inkjet, as both multi-pass and single-pass solutions have emerged, bringing high-graphic, digital production capabilities to a segment that is expanding far beyond its brown box reputation.
Enter SCREEN Americas
SCREEN Americas, part of the SCREEN Graphics Solutions Group, is among the leaders in production inkjet solutions for the label and package printing industry. The company’s Truepress platform spans a wide variety of label and packaging applications, including prime and industrial labels, folding cartons, and flexible packaging.
For the label and package printing segment, the Truepress lineup consists of the Truepress Jet L350UV SAI Series and the Truepress Jet L350UV+ and L350UV+LM, which serves the label and paperboard segments, and the Truepress PAC830F for flexible packaging.
Though inkjet may be new on the scene compared to conventional printing processes, technological advancements across production inkjet have made it an essential tool for label and package printers. With its high-quality results, production efficiency, and variable printing capabilities, production inkjet is poised to remain a mainstay for package printers and converters.
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