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Digital presses geared toward folding cartons and flexible films

“These new presses represent a major transformation in the packaged goods marketplace.”

Digitally printed shrink sleeve labels on L'Oreal bottles.
Digitally printed shrink sleeve labels on L'Oreal bottles.

That’s how Mike Ferrari of Ferrari Innovation Solutions described the debut of two new presses unveiled this week at HP Pre-drupa 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Recently retired from P&G after 32 years in the package printing development area, Ferrari played a key role in moving P&G into digital printing beginning around 2005.

With 350 brands—each with their own size and SKU variations--managing artwork and delivering printed packaging materials to a packaging line is not for the faint of heart at a company like P&G, said Ferrari. “Digital printing is a way to get out from under that complexity,” he added.

The new digital presses being introduced by HP Indigo at drupa 2012 are the web-fed HP Indigo 20000 for flexible packaging and the sheet-fed HP Indigo 30000 for folding cartons. Both will be featured at drupa 2012, which runs May 3-16 in Dusseldorf.

Three key areas where digital printing shines, said Ferrari, are print quality, color consistency, and speed to market. In the analog world, it might take eight weeks to get packaging materials delivered to the packaging line that requires them. In the digital world, it takes 48 hours or so.

Manufacturing effiiciencies aside, digital printing also frees up the package designers of the world. “If you can think it, you can print it,” said Ferrari. In other words, designers no longer need to have their designs hemmed in by worries about being flexo or offset friendly.

Coca-Cola, Heineken, and L’Oreal are among the brand owners who are capitalizing on what’s offered by digitally printed packaging. L’Oreal’s strategy is especially interesting, said Ferrari. They license the rights to whatever Disney movie happens to have captured the public’s imagination at any point in time. So every three months, a digitally printed shrink sleeve label morphs from Toy Story to Cars to Winnie the Pooh (samples shown here). Making the switch when the labels are printed digitally is simple enough. If the labels were printed by means of analog technology, the CPG company could be left with label remnants and or excess inventory.

Ferrari believes that HP Indigo’s introduction of the 20000 and 30000 presses is one of those developments that can be justifiably called “disruptive.”

“Never before have we had wide web capabilities like this in the digital realm for packaging materials,” said Ferrari. “It means that now Heineken, for example, can capitalize on the inherent advantages of digital printing not only on the shrink sleeve label it puts on a can but also on the film it applies to a bundled 6- or 12-pack.”

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