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July 14, 2012

FOLDING CARTONS: New digital press developments usher in new short-run era

Rohrer Corp. (Wadsworth, OH) produces high visibility display packaging for consumer products. Typical jobs include blister packs, skin packaging, thermoformed blisters and clamshells, and other packaging styles that incorporate printed cards and thermoformed plastics.

Rohrer is on the leading offset edge. In 2010, the company installed the world's first Komori LSX-840RP [8/2] + C + Extended Delivery with UV. It's a unique configuration prints on both sides of the sheet without flipping the stock. At drupa 2012, the Rohrer team investigated digital presses.

"All of the digital presses were extremely interesting," said Ken Marks, Rohrer's Corporate Production Control Manager. "But from what we saw, I'd say [the digital press vendors] are two to three years away from something that fits most of our needs. Although the equipment manufacturers finally are starting to focus on packaging, we still have some unique requirements that the current and [in development] solutions don't yet meet."
Nonetheless, Marks thinks digital will have its day. "I can see digital presses taking a larger share of the equipment and print markets in the next three to five years, especially in packaging as more customers demand shorter runs," he said. "Solutions like the HP Indigo 30000, Landa Nano Ink Technology and the Highcon laser die cutter will revolutionize our industry."

As Marks noted, digital presses, especially in the B2 format, were the talk of drupa. Fujifilm and Screen were first on the scene in 2008-new players at drupa 2012 included HP, Komori /Konica Minolta ,MGI, and Ryobi/Miyakoshi.

Presstek also is poised to serve the package world's needs.  "We've talked to more packaging printers in the past 10 days [at drupa 2012] than we have in the past 10 years," Director of Marketing Communications Brian Wolfenden told us. "They are really attracted to the 75DI. It can print on 31-pt. stock, coated and uncoated."

Xeikon and Canon/Océ revealed liquid toner machines with significant packaging potential. Xeikon's (Trillium) and Océ's (InfiniStream) prototypes can lay down multiple colors in one pass-a key contributor to press speed.

"This new generation of liquid toner presses will open up major new market opportunities that inkjet technology is unlikely to reach," says WTT's Andy Tribute.

The Océ InfiniStream clearly is a packaging press. "It is a web press that runs heavy weight stock," declares Tribute. "I saw it printing on 300 gsm gloss folding carton board. It runs at 120 meters/min with a 28- inch wide web (this equates to 14,000 B2 sized sheets/hour). The implementation of the InfiniStream was one of the best product innovations I have seen and I feel that this will be a major success for Océ when it comes to market in the packaging area."

The technology we saw at drupa is exciting but evolving. In some cases, it will take years before the presses are ready for real-world production. We'll keep you up to date!

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