From Traditional Printing to Digital Printing
Digital printing has been advancing at an amazing pace since we first discussed the subject in 2008 describing its expansion into the various graphic arts markets. These included (POP) point of purchase, labels, commercial printing, folding cartons, billboards, specialty printing, and vehicle and building wraps.
Digital printing in comparison to traditional printing is a direct to output process which eliminates prepress preparatory steps. Imagery is computer created and is transmitted directly to the output printing equipment.
Digital printing, sometimes known as print on-demand (POD), is a technology that we are all familiar with having experience with business offices/home use, and commercial printers where devices using electrophotographic and inkjet processes have been adopted.
The appeal for digital printing has several focal points including short to medium limited run on demand capability, and an ability to personalize variable print information.
The Growth of the Digital Printing Market
Digital printing has been growing in most all of the major graphic arts categories, 11% for direct mail, 17% for books, and 27% for packaging. Recent PIRA marketing data indicates that the worldwide compounded annual growth rate for digitally printed folding cartons is 23%, and is forecast to exceed $0.5 billion by 2014. Another source has the USA market for private label food and beverage to having exceeded $60 billion in 2011. Info-Trends, reports the Global value of print from color (POD) systems devoted to package/label printing in 2009 exceeded $1.9 billion with growth expected to exceed $4.0 billion by 2014. PIRA forecasts $6.75 billion by 2014.
These market value numbers explain why a growing number of digital printing equipment manufacturers have committed resources to profit from the growing digital printing packaging market.
Formidable HP and Xerox along with others have committed large resources to develop complete digital printing systems to service growing markets.
HP has introduced a line of digital presses for the printing of labels and packaging. These include the HP Indigo WS6000 & WS6600 roll-fed and the HP Indigo 5500 & 7000 sheet-fed presses.
Importantly, HP has also added UV coaters to its digital printing capability. These are represented by the HP Indigo UV coater automatic (P/N CD764A) and the HP Indigo UV coater hand-fed (P/N CD745A). An automatic feeder and stacker option (P/N Q4962A) is also offered. A single operator can operate the printer and coater in a parallel setting.
HP Indigo UV coaters feature an application roller and a reverse roller, each with its individual controller. This combination allows each roller to be driven independently in its own direction and speed, maximizing control and cooling.
HP Indigo digital presses are said to deliver offset printing quality in 4-, 6-, or 7- color process configurations. Resolution is 812 x 1219 dpi x 8 bit. Folding carton board printed with HP ElectroInk exits the press ready for post-printing UV coating, scoring and die-cutting.
The printing speed of the roll-fed WS6000 is 98 fpm in 4-color mode and 196 fpm in 1 or 2- color mode. The image width maximum is 12.48“ x 38.58”. The printing speed of the sheet-fed 5500 is 68 4-color, 8.5” x 11” images per min (2 up); 136 2-color images per min (2 up); or 272 monochrome 8.5” x 11” images per min (2 up) on a 12” x 18” sheet. The coater, will UV coat up to 4000, 35cm x 50cm sheets per hour.
Xerox has introduced the iGen family of digital presses customized for the packaging market.
Since 2008, Xerox has placed emphasis on the iGen3 press to develop an automated packaging solution. In 2009 the company adapted the technology to the iGen4 press. The iGen4 automated packaging system incorporates an integrated, in-line, cut-sheet process, allowing printers to deliver short run personalized folding cartons and other packaging applications with cost effectiveness. The iGen4’s core features a Free Flow server around which are three pieces of in-line finishing hardware: a coater developed and supplied by Epic, a buffer/stacker, and a die cutter developed and supplied by Stora Enso.
The basic iGen is capable of a press speed of 110 spm with an iGen4 sheet size of 14.33” x 22.5”. Resolution is 600 x 600 x 8-bit, and in line screens of 150, 175, 200, or 300lpi. A wide range of substrates may be accommodated up to 18 pt thickness, 350gsm.450 Microns. The in-line coater, the EpicCTi-635 allows the use of aqueous or UV curable coatings. The integrated buffer-/stacker line allows printing to continue even with the die cutter off-line. The die cutter operates at twice the speed of the iGen4.
Concluding Digital Printing
Concluding, prime labels, folding cartons, and flexible packing continue to offer great opportunity for the printing industry, with color digital printing growing rapidly within this market segment.
It’s clear that digital (POD) printing will benefit the packaging industry in the same way that it has benefited the business printing market. (POD) integrated digital printing will individually tailor packing to the end customer. It will provide raw material savings and free capital ordinarily consumed by inventory.
Digital printing is a fit for the fast growing e-commerce market. While today’s digital printing equipment is tailored to the (POD) market in terms of press speed and sheet/web size, look for future equipment development to expand its capability to fill the needs of a growing market.
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