Digital Trends

Ongoing Evolution In Digital
As the New Year begins, we witness the next generation of digital production methods for corrugated and folding carton applications. Manufacturers recognize that our packaging and display volume represent one of their largest opportunities for growth. In the past, these presses and cutting tables were largely created to serve traditional silkscreen, sign, and sample applications. That’s changing rapidly.

HP, Fuji, and others have recently introduced printers with features that specifically address requirements of the materials we use. This new iteration of machinery will improve the handling of warped and larger blank sizes with production speeds approaching 5MSF/hour. The print head technology is such that advanced printers have variable dot size, on-press calibration, and controls to generate near-litho quality and consistency in color from job to job. Matte, satin, and full-gloss finishes are possible, as are spot applications.

New inks have been engineered to deliver greater elongation, which is necessary to avoid cracking at scores. Also, in concert with the variable dot size, ink cost per square foot has declined.

Cutting tables like the Zund G3 and Kongsberg XP Auto already have options for full automation at speeds suitable for small- to mid-range orders. Multiple cutting heads, unattended production, hot file production systems, and the like drive further speed and simplicity into the mix.

HP also introduced a new, larger format series of Indigo presses. The 30000 is a sheet-fed unit capable of 4,600 sheets per hour at a print size of 29×20 inches. Print quality is everything you’d expect from HP Indigo and accommodates any substrate up to 24 pt., including all types of off-the-shelf paperboard, metalized board, and plastics, enabling the production of almost any box, sleeve, or blister application in offset quality.

Speaking only of my own business, the ongoing evolution in digital production will soon replace the use of several traditional machines and much of our litho-laminated business. Our ability to quickly deliver high-end printed products on a range of materials will continue to fuel our growth. Digital is not a fad and certainly not limited to runs of five or 10. While I don’t need additional competition, I encourage every AICC member to consider digital and take the fight to commercial printers, integrated plants, and sign shops that are after our businesses.

 

Richard Brown is vice president and general manager of The BoxMaker. Brown can be reached at (425) 251-5428 or richardb@boxmaker.com.

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