Written by John DiVincenzo
Vice President, Digital Packaging Business, Xerox Corporation

Look at any list of growth opportunities in printing and you’re sure to find short-run digitally-printed packaging. As brand owners keep better targeting consumers, as the number of product variants keeps expanding, and as the opportunity for personalized and customized solutions keep sharpening, opportunities for short-run digital packaging must keep growing in kind. Pack_BLOG_300x300

According to InfoTrends, the retail value of digital packaging will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 21 percent between 2014 and 2019—and folding cartons, in particular will grow strongly, at a CAGR of about 44%.

But beginning this journey has traditionally been a big commitment, whether you’re a converter building a digital business or a commercial printer expanding into these new offerings. One of the biggest hurdles? The significant initial investments required to acquire specialized digital equipment.

However, that, too, is changing. Some recently introduced folding carton solutions bring increased flexibility to address these opportunities. These solutions offer a path for commercial printers to make a more gradual entry into packaging, while providing differentiators that appeal to seasoned packaging printers and converters, as well.

Uncovering New Opportunities for Converters

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For converters, digital print technology provides a level of nimbleness and agility not previously available. With packaged goods growing in sheer volume, the associated run lengths of these jobs are trending smaller due to an infusion of new products and niche varieties. This combination is perfectly suited for digital printing’s short-run sweet spot.

Other advantages include all the benefits native to digital print, such as just-in-time delivery; reduced warehousing and obsolescence costs; ability to develop prototypes cost effectively in small quantities; and adding value with variable data printing to support serialization, personalization, or unique brand protection and asset management features.

One solution delivering all these advantages and more is the Xerox iGen® 5 Press, whose ability to print on substrates as thick as 24 point/530 gsm helps meet this market’s demand for flexibility.

Additionally, the iGen 5’s extended color gamut enables it to reproduce 90 percent of the colors in the Pantone Plus Coated library to within 3 Delta E, accurately matching brand-critical colors. This is accomplished with a fifth toner housing for adding either green, blue or orange to CMYK. And like the iGen’s CMYK toners, the three new toners comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations for food packaging.

Expanding Application Offerings for Printers

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For print providers, the launch of the Xerox iGen 5 Press provides more ways to deliver value to customers without necessitating additional investments.

As with the iGen4, a thick-stock capability extends the iGen 5’s paper handling from standard 18 point/350 gsm to the aforementioned 24 point/530 gsm—enabling production of folding cartons ranging from standard cartons to more rigid cartons used to support heavier products. Applications include point-of-sale displays, folding cartons and other short-run packaging applications.

Adding this unique capability doesn’t limit the press to exclusively producing thick-stock applications, either. The capability, available for the Xerox iGen 5 and iGen4 110 Presses, allows print providers to produce between 60gsm and 530gsm, helping to maintain the press’ utility for both commercial print and packaging applications.

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Getting involved in the packaging space carries a markedly lower investment cost with the iGen than competitive presses that provide similar capabilities. Yet the iGen is the most productive press in its class, delivering benchmark press availability that typically averages 85 percent or more. And the iGen 5 doesn’t compromise print speed when a fifth toner is added.

More Flexible Workflow

Like the other members of the iGen family, the new iGen 5 can be configured with the Xerox Automated Packaging Solution (XAPS), an integrated, inline solution with coating partners Tresu and Epic, and die cutting partner Kama, which is ideal for short run folding carton production. And some recently introduced digital finishing systems now provide new automation capabilities for digital converting workflows, with features that can provide great value for commercial print work as well. These include:

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In this early stage of market development, short-run packaging innovations reach the market with some regularity. Amid the record-breaking number of attendees at the PACK EXPO show last fall, a key concern we heard from many brand owners was improving brand security to discourage counterfeiting. Pharmaceutical companies have an especially urgent concern, as U.S. regulations require serialized packaging for full traceability by 2017, with stiffer mandates kicking in for 2023. Two new solutions from Xerox can help address this need:

  • The Xerox® BrandSecure Packaging Solution enables serial numbering and security markings to be applied to individual packages as part of the imaginging process, eliminating the additional manufacturing step for post-processing imprinting.
  • The Xerox® Printed Addressable Memory Label adds even more intelligence and security by containing as much as 36 bits of rewritable memory for storing encrypted security codes and additional product information.

The short-run digital packaging opportunity is ripe. What are you doing to capture it?