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Printing on Cardboard Boxes: An Inkjet future for Corrugated Substrates.


Value Proposition for Inkjet printing cardboard

The challenge for digital printing on corrugated substrates is differentiating the inherent value in inkjet printing over flexo and offset printing.


The market growth for the corrugated segment ranges from 10-to-15% per year.


There is plenty of room to compete for some printing work because digital inkjet printing delivers solutions that analog systems can’t: shorter, agile production runs for just-in-time inventory and infinite personalization. Today, printing speeds of digital systems come close to competing with the legacy systems.


Inkjet printing offers mass customization for fast-moving consumer products.


Customization offers opportunities for both packaging materials (boxes) and point-of-purchase (POP) displays.


Advantages of Inkjet Printing for Packaging

  • Variable Data and Personalization – Digital offers infinite customization

  • Flexibility for packaging for multiple SKUs

  • Eco-Friendly/Sustainability – Lower transportation costs, energy usage

  • Less waste

  • Non-contact with substrate

  • Anti-counterfeiting

4 parts of inkjet success for corrugated printing

  1. Inks meet all end-user requirements, which includes color matching to meet brand standards, durability, and consumer safety.

  2. Print systems that reliably deliver quality, resolution, and speed.

  3. Companies ready and willing to invest in inkjet systems.

  4. Sales messages that differentiate the value of inkjet technology to the client.

That final point may be the most significant challenge because this often involves customers changing their internal processes to maximize the opportunity from inkjet production.


Adapting to changing marketing

The marketing teams for major brands must begin adjusting their internal systems to leverage opportunities for speed and personalization of inkjet printing. Inkjet printing of packaging offers variation of packaging design for fast-changing campaigns and accommodates the growth of SKUs.


The creation and approval of marketing plans and design materials must happen at a faster pace.


The successful converter may be the one that works as a partner with the client to adapt to the changing workflows, inventory needs, and enhanced capabilities of industrial inkjet printing.


Producing new inks

Inkjet ink manufacturers have increased the options for printing on corrugated materials. Eco-friendly water-based ink, UV ink, and LED ink offer alternatives to solvent-based ink. Kao Collins, for example, produces all these types of ink and can create custom ink solutions for unique printing applications.


Better inkjet equipment

The major inkjet printhead manufacturers have worked to eliminate many of the obstacles for printing corrugated cardboard substrates.


Thanks to Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMs), speed, quality, accuracy, and reliability are all improving. Some of the major printhead manufactures for this technology include Fujifilm Diamatix, EPSON, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Memjet, Panasonic, Ricoh, Seiko, Toshiba, and Xaar.


Today inkjet printing rivals the quality of the analog flexo presses. Similarly, speed is much less an obstacle.


Also, color matching is competitive now, with many of the newest single-pass inkjet systems printing with 4-6 colors plus white ink.


3 main types of corrugated printing

  • Coding and Marking – Printers that add monochrome serial numbers, bar codes and other variable data on a package. These can be stand-alone systems or incorporated into analog printing systems.

  • Niche Corrugated Printing – Single-pass systems intended for shorter runs of four-to-six-color packaging or point of purchase materials. These printers can produce one-off products and generally shorter runs.

  • Industrial Corrugated Printing – Large systems handling sheet-fed or roll-fed web material.


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