Xeikon and its Aura Partners will present how the digital production of folding cartons can transform the business of packaging printers and converters at the Xeikon Café on Packaging Innovations, taking place May 20 till 22. Attendees of the event will have the opportunity to see Xeikon’s label and packaging application suites in action and learn more about game-changing innovations in digital production. One of the suites highlighted will be the Folding Carton Suite.
Packaging, especially folding carton, has become a powerful tool to maximize the product’s selling power, build a brand image and protect it. This has posed certain challenges for packaging printers and converters, of which the biggest challenges are ever-shorter runs, a much broader variety of SKUs and increasingly faster turnaround times. Despite the complexity of the folding carton supply chain, folding carton appears to be standing its ground. Filip Weymans, Xeikon’s Director of Segment Marketing Labels & Packaging, explains: “For brand owners pursuing customer intimacy, folding carton has more going for it than its cost. The perceived value of a quality full-color carton box is just so much higher than that of any other type of packaging. Folding carton is therefore ideal to grow and nurture that all-important customer loyalty.”
In a market still dominated by offset printing, shorter runs and more different versions means more frequent make-readies of presses and converting equipment, which adds to the cost and does not improve turnaround times. Digital printing technology has the capability to make the folding carton supply chain more efficient and cost-effective. Because set-up and make-ready costs are minimal, small runs can be produced cost-effectively. Moreover, every print can be different, last-minute changes are no problem and updates can be made in short turnaround times. Xeikon digital printing technology has several unique advantages when it comes to meeting the market’s requirements in terms of format flexibility, cost, print quality, color accuracy and consistency, lightfastness, food safety and brand protection. This makes the Xeikon 3000 Series presses, that were specifically developed for label and packaging applications, ideally suited for folding carton printing.
Because there is more to folding carton production than the printing, Xeikon has gone one step further by offering an integrated solution: the Folding Carton Suite. At the core of this suite is a Xeikon 3000 Series press, standard equipped with the four process colors CMYK and orange or Durable Clear toner, and complemented with four supporting components: (1) software, (2) print media, (3) consumables and (4) pre-and post-printing equipment. It is the result of a close collaboration between Xeikon and its Aura Partners. Together, they developed the most compact integrated solution that enables a single operator to not only print, but actually produce printed cartons ready to be folded and glued in one go.
At the event a Xeikon 3000 Series press, equipped with CMYK and Durable Clear toner, will be printing packaging designs on Iggesund carton substrates, in roll-to-sheet mode. CHILI Publish will demonstrate how their dynamic online editing software enables last-minute changes to images or text. The prints produced on the press will be finished offline, on different systems that can be integrated with the Xeikon 3000 Series press. This set-up provides visitors with the opportunity to compare the advantages of each of the options shown. There will be live finishing on a Kama sheet-fed flatbed die-cutter and on a Bograma sheet-fed rotary die-cutter with Rotometrics cutting dies. Samples finished using a Highcon digital die-cutting machine will also be showcased.
In addition, there will be live printing of paper cups on a special substrate from Stora Enso, with assembled examples of these paper cups on display. Argos Solutions will demonstrate its offline solution for applying a raised spot varnish. Visitors will also be able to assess the advantages of using web cleaning modules. Both Meech and Argos will have their modules on show. Finally, there will be demonstrations of the various software tools included in the Folding Carton Suite, such as Xeikon ColorControl.
Aside from the live demonstrations and displays, Aura Partners attending the event will describe their contributions to the Folding Carton Suite in detail during several technical seminars, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
Weymans is convinced that conventional folding carton producers still hesitant about going digital will not hesitate any longer: “What better opportunity to find out how digital production could work for them than by listening and talking to someone who has actually made the move? We’re very pleased that one of our successful customers, Colebourne & Partners, has agreed to come and share their experiences.”
Colebourne & Partners (www.candppackaging.co.uk, ‘C&P’) is a privately-owned packaging manufacturer, based in Melksham, Wiltshire in Southwest England. Established more than 35 years ago, the company set out as a carton converter, providing services to blue chip customers in the food and retail industries. Today it is being run by the second generation, with food packaging accounting for the best part of the company’s business. The majority of the food packaging produced is for direct food contact applications. Typical examples are lids used to cover aluminum trays or ovenable board trays for ready-made meals. The company currently produces about 75 million of these lids a year.
Driven by its commitment to continually improve, C&P often sat down with its long-standing customers to identify points for improvement. Not surprisingly, the major issues usually turned out to be long lead times and large stocks. After careful consideration, C&P decided to move into digital printing and production, which meant a complete overhaul of its production workflow. Having installed a Xeikon 3500 digital press, C&P now prints roll-to-roll, converting the printed web using a separate offline converting and finishing solution. While C&P used to outsource the printing to other service providers, it can now keep the entire production in-house.
The advantages of the new digital production workflow are huge: lead times have dropped from 8 or 12 weeks to 1 week and the required storage space for stocks has been reduced to a quarter. While in the past stick-on labels and standard printed cartons were used to mimic versions, printing different versions of a carton has now become extremely easy. And with food regulations changing every so often, being able to produce short-run versions at short notice avoids unused stock having to be shredded. Also, the minimum job order size used to be 12,000; but now jobs can be as small as 250.