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Package Development
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Top 12 factors in the digital printing equation...
main image Ron Romanik, Contributing Editor
It may be difficult to see through the hype surrounding digital printing, because the actual packaging market penetration, by percentage, is still quite low. Its early success has been in labels for food and beverage products, but it is poised to move to other categories and other substrates, such as folding cartons and flexible. It's important to plan ahead and think of all the factors that warrant consideration when thinking of going digital.

1. Run size. Digital printing is growing in markets that require specialized, frequently updated labels like wines and craft beers. Small brands or brands with many SKUs benefit most from digital printing. The short changeover times and reduced material waste can make it an economically advantageous option. The run numbers are getting higher as to competitiveness on price, and lower as to competitiveness on speed.

2. Speed to market. Traditional print methods like flexo, gravure, and offset sometimes take weeks to prepare the plates or rolls and get the printer run-ready. CPG companies these days, whether through poor planning or for a competitive advantage, can't wait more than a few days before getting new designs out the door, especially with seasonal or promotional campaigns.

3. The cost of materials. In a way, comparing digital to flexo is like comparing apples to oranges, but careful consideration of all the numbers reveals where the cost savings can be realized. Settle on the cost of materials first, and then compare total costs. Waste, as already mentioned, is a significant factor in assessing printing costs long-term. Standard overrun percentages are often lower with digital, and with the ever-changing demands of customers and retailers, labels in storage often become obsolete, and that can be a substantial loss to absorb.
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