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Digital Printing for Packaging Design is On a New Level

“Packaging is the new medium for advertising and promotion. Packaging today must instantly strike a chord.”

In a world full of distractions, getting a product noticed can be a big problem for a marketer. Bold, vibrant and eye-popping print, photo-realistic graphics coupled with frequent design changes, keep the packaging and message fresh and are more necessary than ever if a product is to stand out among the competition. Using traditional printing methods, such an undertaking can be very expensive and downright unfeasible for smaller companies, which is where digital printing steps in.

According to Simon Edwards, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Tonejet, “Packaging is the new medium for advertising and promotion. Packaging today must instantly strike a chord.” Tonejet manufactures innovative digital print engines and is a past winner of the Killer Technology category at the Business Weekly Awards.


Analog or offsDigital printing - from computer to printeret printing (lithography, flexography, gravure or letterpress) has been the industry standard for printing colorful, high-quality packaging. That standard has its drawbacks. Analog printing requires the manufacture of printing plates engraved with the desired design. The creation of the plates adds cost to the process, as well as increasing the time between design and production.  Setup and changeover times add more costs. Plates wear out and must be replaced to retain print quality. The cost of analog is particularly expensive for smaller companies which are more likely to need small print runs. The cost per printed unit is much higher than larger companies requiring large print runs.

Enter digital printing. The design goes straight from computer file to digital printer. No plate, no setup, no changeover. Small print runs, on-demand printing, short turnarounds, and on-the-spot design changes make the process both faster and more affordable for smaller companies. Big companies, of course, share the same benefits and can cost effectively keep their packaging and message fresh.

Digital printing also has the advantage of the versatility of application to over 3,000 substrates.

Doubling market growth for digital printingThe digital packaging and label printing market was valued at $10.5 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.23% through 2020. Currently, digital printing makes up 5% of label printing and just 1% of all other packaging printing. However, as new technology is developed and introduced to enable digital printing on more substrates such as cartons, corrugated materials, and metals, the benefits of digital printing will encourage market expansion.

The challenge for the commercial printer will be to keep up with the new technology and respond to a changing marketplace. The commercial printer is likely to see more printing moved in-house, especially for larger companies. Large companies may find it economically feasible to invest in digital printing equipment, expecting the reduced printing costs to result in an acceptable payback.

New technologies and changes in the printing market will provide both opportunities and challenges in digital print for packaging—for the commercial printer.

Ripe For Progress: The Future Of Agricultural Technology

Scientists and farmers are increasingly realizing that the solution to global hunger and food stability lies in “smart farming” methods and agricultural technology. Gone are the days when farmers had to be ankle-deep in the soil doing back-breaking labor for mere sackfuls of harvest. The farmers of the future have become bold and they are embracing technological advancements not just because they want to, but because they must.

The Economist cites a few of the current technologies that the agriculture industry has adapted.

Sensors


Farm management software allows farms to upload varied and large amounts of data to the cloud through the use of sensors in the soil. It spectroscopically measures the amounts of natural fertilizer sprayed to the crops. This can be adjusted and modified in real time.

Drones

Forget crop dusters, drones have completely taken over. Drones are used in farming for surveying and flying multispectral cameras over farms. Some of these are quadcopters from Agribotix of Boulder, CO and the single-engine flying wing drone called the Agdrone which was developed by Honeycomb of Wilsonville, OR. French company Delair-Tech from Tolouse, on the other hand, has created a drone with long narrow wings so it can stay in flight for longer periods. Drones are ideal for use in smaller parcels of land, but for large estates, farmers still prefer satellites.

Satellite Photography

The use of satellites offer broad and frequent coverage which drones need to catch up on in the years to come. CubeSats are small satellites which are fitted with multi-spectral cameras. The company, PlanetLabs, is based and San Francisco, and they keep about 30 of these in orbit. The satellites piggyback on commercial launches, and are easily replaceable. They can take pictures of designated areas once a week or more frequently, so that problems in large farms can be addressed more thoroughly. Satellite images are also archived and made as comparison points when projecting harvests and tracking how productive the crops have been. The data is later on used to forecast the size of harvests for specific periods.

Agricultural Robots

Agricultural robot makers are seeking to introduce robot workers on the ground to work for extended periods. The Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney is perfecting its four-wheeled and solar driven robot which can identifies and zaps weeds in vast fields of vegetables. Another version is used between plants and supplies additional doses of fertilizer to the plants. Another area that robotic is eyeing is picking fruits and vegetables. This is a time-consuming and labor intensive aspect of farming that can be made cheaper and more efficient by automation. Spanish firm AGROBOT has created the SW6010, a robot which uses a camera to screen which strawberry fruits are ripe for the picking. Industry leaders believe that farms in developed countries will largely be robot-operated in as little as 10 years from now.

Growing Underground and All Over

The lack of arable land has forced urban farmers to look into growing crops underground as well as vertically. Subterranean voids or abandoned bomb shelters are being used to grow vegetables using indoor hydroponics. The bold and innovative difference, however, is the use of LEDs as the main source of illumination. All over the world, old meatpacking plants, factories, as well as warehouses are being converted into smart farms. They make use of vertical farming, and the entire area is wirelessly monitored and controlled. While these farms may be small in scale in number right now, they represent the future of farming and agriculture in the years to come.

Genome editing

All organisms have a natural process of mutation, but genome editing hopes to create genetically advanced and resistant plants and animals in order to increase food production. This trend will continue in the future, albeit with much resistance from people who have yet to understand that eating genetically modified crops is not harmful to human health.

Agricultural technology improves the lot of farmers

There are countless bold ideas and controversial projects in the field of agriculture and food technology which will be adapted to increase the world’s food supply. Supporting an exploding population is a tall order and now requires extra ordinary measures and techniques to solve. Fortunately, there will always be forward-thinking individuals who are not afraid to present creative ideas and take bold steps towards implementing them.

Food Production: Where Does Our Food Really Come From?

Research has found that a startling amount of food stocked in US stores is produced in China. Food production from the Far East, which is exported to the United States is having a devastating effect on the US food chain.

Food production sent to China from US
China is one of the world’s largest food producers and exporters

According to Texas A&M University, the increased amount of food production sent over to China over the last 20 years has the potential to endanger the health of American consumers.

Leading expert Aleda Roth conducted a six-year investigation into global food supply chains and she says the results will shock American consumers.


“Almost a quarter of the average American’s food consumption is imported,” Roth said. “Consumers would be hard pressed to find processed foods without at least one ingredient from China.”

While US-based food producers use products and ingredients from countries like China to cut costs, Roth says the “hygiene factors, worker safety, environmental practices, quality processes, treatment of animals, and regulations are known to be highly substandard as compared to Western practices.”

Roth’s investigation came about following an incident in 2006 when her dog became sick after eating tainted pet food, triggering the recall of hundreds of brands of pet food and was blamed for the deaths and sickness of thousands of cats and dogs.

Roth found that the offender was melamine, a compound used in making plastics, which contaminated the wheat and rice gluten in the pet food. Shockingly this foreign agent was also found in milk and infant formula produced in China which was then imported into the United States.

“Almost a quarter of the average American’s food consumption is imported”

These investigations then led Roth on a journey to dissect food and found an alarming number of foods are sourced from abroad, China being the main culprit. She found many foods labeled “organic” are sourced from foreign lands, increasingly, China. Seafood is another potential hazard for American consumers and so is poultry. Chickens are raised and slaughtered in the US but are then shipped to China for processing in plants that operate below US health standards.

Chinese imports also come in many other guises from frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, vitamins, food supplements and many ingredients in pharmaceuticals.

Improving food supply chainRoth says that to protect the health of consumers, top management at US food production companies must be proactively engaged in “deep supplier monitoring to the source, supplier development, environmental scanning, as well as building flexibility and resilience through proper adoption and implementation of strategies and processes.”

According to the BBC, one effective way of tracking food and ensuring that all stages of production are monitored to avoid such issues is by using an innovative new app which charts where food comes from.

Provenance tracks the source of food using pioneering blockchain technology to monitor each stage of food production so that when a consumer goes to the supermarket to purchase their item they can see exactly what’s in it, where it started its journey and how it got there. They believe that using technology like this will reduce the number of food-related incidents and will help the industry monitor and track methods used during food production to decrease risk to consumers.

It takes bold steps like this to ensure that the food we eat is safe, and the ingredients we consume are healthy.