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“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.