Nearly 30 years after the introduction of digital printing equipment into commercial production, various forces have jointly promoted the wider application of digital printing equipment in packaging printing. Although digital printing provides great development potential for all types of printed products, there are also some problems that make digital printing not an absolute mainstream technology in label and packaging printing. For example, the requirements of brand owners, the limitations of substrates, quality, production processes, post-press processing, color matching, and technology investment costs are all factors that hinder the widespread growth of packaging and printing digital printing.
However, the continuous progress of technological innovation, the success stories of early adopters, the simplification of processes, as well as the creativity and competitive drive of brand owners, are all eliminating the barriers to the further application of various digital printing technologies, and the digital printing of packaging Positioned as a mainstream printing technology, this is a technology that can expand the use of packaging digital inkjet printing. Compared to other alternatives, the ability to print directly on a variety of materials, including corrugated paper materials, folding cartons and flexible films, makes inkjet an attractive and less complex process.
Research identifies trends to break barriers to entry
In order to record the current market and technology trends that reduce the barriers to entry for packaging digital printing, NAPCO Research conducted a survey and obtained nearly 300 responses from companies that print labels and packaging. The survey was sponsored by Memjet. The focus of the survey is to capture the digital printing experience of printers and processors, the factors that drive or hinder digital printing investment, and explore the customer needs that drive the use of digital printing.
Among the 290 survey participants, 45% described their main business as commercial printers, 21% packaging printers or processors, another 20% printing shops, and 14% digital printing experts (Figure 1), mainly reflecting the continuing trend of convergence over the past decade, these printing providers have integrated packaging work into their product portfolios. For many types of printers, packaging is an attractive similar market because product labels and packaging have no alternative to digital media. The existing customer base of commercial printers usually requires some form of packaging printing. This is usually in the form of die-cut stacking or pressure-sensitive labels. They require almost no post-press processing, and folding cartons can be run on offset presses and digital presses. The companies surveyed vary in size. 36 companies have 9 or less employees; 14% have 10-19 employees; 29% have 20-99 employees; and 21% have more than 100 employees. Employees.
83% of survey respondents print labels and/or packaging on digital printing machines. Figure 2 shows the types of packaging applications printed by respondents, broken down by applications for printing labels and/or packaging on digital printers, and applications for digital printing. Companies that print packaging on digital printers report a higher incidence of printed labels, which reflects the fact that label printing is an early application of the transition to digitalization. Labels were the first to use digital printing, because most self-adhesive labels have a narrow printing format, and rolls on lightweight substrates are very suitable for printing on the toner-based printing equipment available at the time. Although label printing is more widely used than any other printing application, labels are also driving digital adoption in other areas. Respondents stated that their business is printing corrugated packaging, folding cartons and flexible packaging on digital printing presses. This discovery marked the beginning of the digital migration of packaged products other than labels.
Market demand accelerates digital investment
The survey asked respondents to rank customer demand levels for various needs. Respondents indicated that the demand for features and services is growing rapidly. These features and services can improve packaging results, reduce costs, provide version control, and support sustainability Sex (Figure 3). Digital printing meets many customer needs urgently needed by the interviewees. Aligning customer needs with the value of emerging technologies and materials strongly proves that packaging digital printing will accelerate development. Its main advantages are as follows:
Adapt to short-run printing
More than half of the respondents indicated that the demand for short-run printing continues to grow among their customers. Only 5% said that their short-run assignments are declining. Most packaging printers/processors initially considered purchasing digital printers to meet the needs of short-run jobs. The short-run capability of digital printing brings important operational advantages to brand owners, including adapting to the growth of stock-keeping units (SKU), reducing storage requirements, minimizing product obsolescence, and improving product design and testing. Before using digital printing equipment, brand owners’ packaging testing options were limited because the cost of producing printing plates and other set-up costs made it too expensive to print a small number of products.
Improve customer engagement
Brand owners rely on their packaging printers/processors to support their efforts to increase packaging participation. Respondents reported that the demand for personalization, version control, substrate types, and sustainability (all features that attract customer attention) is growing or remaining stable. There are few signs of a decline in these areas. For brands, shelf influence and distinctive product packaging are the top priorities.
Digital printing makes it much easier to customize packaging and add personalization to products. The use of version control and personalization on their labels and packaging by top product brands has had a positive impact on sales. The food and beverage market offers many eye-catching packaging cases, such as names on soft drink labels; consumer faces on snack food bags and wrapping paper; sports clubs depicted on beer cans; and seasonal themes. product.
Showcase smart packaging options
25% of respondents said that as brand owners want to include technical features that connect packaging to digital media to achieve interactive customer experience, product safety requirements and anti-counterfeiting measures, the demand for “smart packaging” is increasing. 40% of respondents said that customer demand for multiple substrates is growing, and 51% of them said it remains the same. In addition, 31% of respondents indicated that customer demand for sustainable material printing is growing.
Innovations in substrates are lowering barriers to entry. Material suppliers have invested heavily in research and development to produce and certify substrates compatible with toner and inkjet technology. These products include products that use the value proposition of digital technology to achieve the lowest minimum quantity and quick turnaround. Although some substrate suppliers are focusing on the development of “inkjet-ready” materials to attract those who want to work without corona treatment or in-line light processing, but other suppliers are also starting Provides an easy-to-use online processing system to provide greater flexibility and substrate selection.
In addition, the procedures provided by many label material suppliers do not have a maximum or minimum order requirement. These procedures can help digital printers avoid excessive inventory while reducing costs.
Adapt to more product versions
33% of survey respondents said that the number of stock keeping units (SKU) is increasing. In recent years, SKU has proliferated, also known as product version control. In the packaging segments of craft beer, cannabis, nutraceuticals, health and beauty, there are more other segments with tastes, sizes and varieties that are better than ever.
Digital printing allows brand owners to quickly and efficiently obtain new or updated labels and packaging. After craft breweries launch seasonal beer, they can immediately create corresponding hashtags in batches. For example, in the CBD (cannabidiol) field (another market with a large number of SKUs), if there are new regulatory requirements for packaging, digital printing can be updated immediately.
Defining the appeal of digital printing
Digital printing provides many attractive benefits for label and packaging manufacturers and their customers. This technology can print affordable, high-quality color prints in shorter quantities when needed, which is supporting brand owners to manage inventory and supply chains more effectively. In addition, retailers, brand owners, marketers, and agencies see the production of labels and packaging on digital printing equipment as an opportunity to expand product versions and increase customer engagement.
Many types of printing operations can benefit from the digital printing process. Technological innovation continues to prompt printing suppliers to investigate, invest in and use digital printing machines to produce labels and packaging. The breakdown of survey respondents based on their main business highlights the fact that non-traditional printing providers are using digital printing to provide labels and packaging. Figure 4 shows that commercial printers, digital printing experts, and Factor Harbin interviewees report a higher incidence of printing labels and packaging on digital printers compared to packaging printers/processors. The fact that mainstream packaging printers/processors continue to rely heavily on non-digital processes for long-term production can partly explain this fact, although many companies are also paying close attention to digital technology.
The biggest benefits of printing labels and packaging on digital devices reported by survey respondents include: meeting customers’ short-run job requirements (57%), faster turnaround time (49%), personalization (48%), and cost Effective printing of prototypes or short-run capabilities for proofing (45%), printing multiple versions in one print (43%), and the ability to print only what is needed (43%), thereby reducing inventory (Figure 5) .
Reasons for not doing digital printing
The main reasons why respondents did not print on a digital press (Figure 6) are:
1. They cannot have competitive prices (34%)
2. Technology cost is too high (34%)
3. They are waiting for future development (30%)
4. Inconsistent with their product portfolio (28%)
Interestingly, the main reasons why respondents did not print packaging on digital printing presses did not include upgrades in quality, productivity, uptime, or customer demand.
Factors preventing the development of digital printing are weakening
The hardware, software, inks and toners, and substrates used to produce labels and packaging on digital printing presses continue to evolve, enabling more automated and simpler processes. Reducing technical complexity, workflow steps and process variables can reduce investment risk. Most survey respondents (57%) believe that digital printing is lowering the barriers to providing packaging (Figure 7).
Nowadays, there is a digital device for every budget and print shop size, from expensive seven-figure digital presses to desktop devices that sell for thousands of dollars. The typical barrier to entering or expanding the packaging market is the cost of investment. More than half of the survey respondents believe that digital packaging and printing equipment is indeed cheaper today and provides new opportunities for their operations (Figure 7).
The key digital printing technology to reduce the barriers to entry for packaging production is inkjet. For many years, the potential of inkjet technology has been a topic of discussion in the industry, but technological innovations, inks and substrates are turning discussions into viable printing solutions, enabling more suppliers to enter the packaging market.
In particular, the development of print heads is producing higher resolution, faster speed and lower printing machine costs. In turn, digital printer manufacturers can integrate these nozzles into an inkjet printing system, which is cheaper and simpler than other alternatives. As a result, more packaging printers/processors can use the value of inkjet production for label and packaging applications.
Nearly half of the respondents (47%) said that they are looking for more entry-level digital printing equipment, and pointed out that if more entry-level equipment is provided, they will invest in digital products (Figure 7). Now there are more entry-level digital devices available for printing and packaging. Compact desktop or desktop inkjet printers are the choice of companies that only hope to make a small leap in digital packaging printing, and can experiment before going further.
Inkjet is the next stage of market development
Inkjet printing of packaging is the next stage in the development of service providers for brand owners. An exciting area of innovation that aims to expand the use of digital printing in packaging applications is low-cost, single-channel packaging solutions for labels, corrugated paper, folding cartons and flexible materials.
When asked whether the respondents who printed labels and packaging on digital printing machines printed these applications on inkjet printing machines, more than half of the respondents indicated that labels and/or packaging were printed on inkjet printing machines, of which 45% were printed Labels and 22% of printed packaging (Figure 8). Of the respondents who did not print labels and/or packaging on digital inkjet printers, 11% plan to do so in the future. This paved the way for the development of technology, and also pave the way for the development of inkjet technology, overcoming many challenges, thereby helping customers to better serve their customers.
User experience ignores challenges
The main reason why respondents did not print labels and packaging on inkjet printers was that they did not see the return on investment of this technology, preferred toner technology, believed that the start-up cost was too high, and did not believe in color inkjet equipment The products produced meet its requirements.
Respondents who print labels and packaging on digital inkjet printers said these are challenges that can be overcome. Users of inkjet printers report that the biggest challenge when printing labels and packaging is matching the colors printed on traditional and/or toner equipment and the limitations of the substrate. Both of these areas are areas where equipment and substrate manufacturers continue to focus on research and development work.
Some printing suppliers incorporate digital technology into existing analog printing presses, often referred to as refurbishment. Hybrid printing provides greater flexibility and allows providers to take advantage of the benefits provided by both technologies.
Main advantages: variable image, easy to use and high quality
Producing labels and packaging on inkjet printers can provide printers and label and packaging processors with many sales and operational advantages. Figure 9 compares the revenue reported by respondents when printing labels and packaging on inkjet printers. Many of these advantages are contrary to the reasons given by other interviewees for not printing labels on inkjet equipment. For example, one of the key reasons not to invest in inkjet is that people believe that the start-up cost is high, but compared with other types of printing technology, inkjet users believe that lower investment costs and lower total cost of ownership are the main advantages.
Digital printing of labels and packaging brings many benefits to printing suppliers and their customers, and is expected to be adopted by more mainstream users. Advances in technology, simplification of processes, the availability of substrates, and the choice of more printing presses all help eliminate previous barriers to entry and enable more companies to provide digital printing.
Inkjet technology is a key technology that opens the way for digital printing in packaging applications. Printing providers continue to pay attention to the continuous development of print heads and printing materials. Respondents who print labels and packaging on inkjet equipment said that the technology is producing higher resolution, faster speeds, increased substrate flexibility, and reduced printer costs. All these advantages make packaging a Easier market opportunities.
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