AUGUST 3, 2018

By Pat Reynolds, VP Editor Emeritus, PackWorld.com

New developments in digital printing and finishing as it relates to packaging are unfolding at such a rapid clip these days that anything resembling a comprehensive overview would be difficult at best. But here are a few highlights in the main substrate categories—corrugated, flexible film, labels, folding cartons, enhancement—where digital printing is making its presence felt in a big way.

Corrugated might be the best place to start, since a number of things are happening in both pre-printing of linerboard and post-printing of sheet-fed corrugated. We begin with DS Smith, whose Featherstone facility in the U.K. was the first to commercialize the HP PageWide T1100S from HP in Spring of 2016. The T1100S ink-jet web press permits high-speed CMYK pre-printing of 110 inch wide (2.8 m) corrugated linerboard at 600ft/min (198 m). A second T1100S was installed in Smith’s Fulda, Germany, plant around January of 2018. But then just a few months later, HP and DS Smith announced a change in plans. The T1100S that DS Smith was installing in Fulda will be upgraded to the T1190. Introduced at FESPA 2018 in Munich, the T1190 prints not only CMYK but also Orange and Violet, thus extending the color gamut to meet additional brand colors. It features HP A30 water-based inks as opposed to UV-reactive chemistry, so corrugated linerboard printed on it is food safe. The T1190 also offers a big increase in throughput compared to the T1100S: 1,000 ft/min (305 m).

“The experience we had with the smaller T400S made us realize how dramatically different the business model needs to be if you really want to capitalize on the value proposition of digital,” says Morales. “With digital it’s all about speed to market and flexibility in the supply chain. It’s not like analog, where customers order four months of inventory well in advance to optimize set-up time and get the price point where they want it. So rather than try to change the culture of an analog business, we created a separate business that’s completely dedicated to helping customers transition from analog to digital and help them capitalize on the value that digital brings.”

Hummingbird produces quality that is comparable to offset print processes and can bring greater color consistency throughout the print run. One of the notable advantages of a 110-inch wide (2.8 m) press is the ability to produce high-quality, large-format packaging and pre-printed rolls with no need for offset or flexo labels. For example, Hummingbird can handle everything from large-format TV boxes to pumpkin bins and pallet skirts, while providing the same speed-to-market and supply chain benefits it offers for smaller packaging.

With more than 40 Georgia-Pacific plants across the U.S. and relationships with other converters, Hummingbird has the geographic coverage for efficient delivery to customers’ destinations. Hummingbird can also provide pre-printed rolls directly to plants and converters, enabling suppliers to offer customers the benefits of digitally printed packaging without the need to invest in a digital press themselves.