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Smurfit says the addition of direct litho printed microflutes to its portfolio of capabilities offers carton users a caseload of benefits. Andrew Smith reports

Printvision was launched last year as part of Smurfit’s drive to “provide customers with print solutions rather than print processes” and the company says it has made a “huge impact” on its flexo and preprint sales over recent months, stating that: “The inclusion of direct litho printing on microflutes capitalises on Smurfit’s capability -– in terms of both Norboard microflute production and the highest quality direct litho printing – through our cartons business”.

According to Smurfit the market for microflutes is increasing Europe-wide, driven by lighter weight corrugated specifications, cartonboard replacement and the displacement of litho laminating by direct litho printing.

Ít says the Packaging Waste Directive and other environmental issues have heightened the need for reduced material content – corrugated G flute at 900 microns, for example, uses up to 40% less material than the equivalent calliper of solid board, yet is said to offer “excellent print and finishing properties”.

As a replacement for solid cartonboard, Smurfit says microflute offers a number of benefits to carton users, both structurally and in cost terms: “Because fluted board is inherently stronger than solid board, it offers a greater degree of protection, which can often lead to the elimination of secondary packaging or at least a reduction in consequential loss arising from damage in transit.

“Strength provided by the corrugated flute is a great benefit for cartons with apertures or windows, which would dramatically reduce the performance of a solid board carton. There is increased demand from retailers for shelf-ready packaging, for which direct litho printed microflutes are ideal – giving the necessary graphic quality and strength in transit”.

Cost is also an area in which the company says carton users are continually looking for savings: “The use of microflute board can often deliver cost savings in terms of material – dependent on the volume – but, more importantly, can also offer savings in lead times, transit and distribution costs, making it ideal for mail order and postal cartons”.

Litho printing directly onto microflute board is a fairly recent development in the corrugated market and Smurfit claims its direct litho printing facility based at Witham in Essex – where it can print up to six colours on KBA presses – is one of the leading direct litho microflute printers in the UK.

The majority of the output is printed on Norboard’s G or F flutes, which is said to provide the structural benefits inherent with fluted board, yet have a fine enough flute to virtually eliminate flute shadow. Smurfit says the quality of print achieved on G and F flute rivals that achieved by both direct litho on solid cartonboard and also litho laminated E flute.

Paul Cahill, sales director for the cartons business, is confident of the quality that can be achieved: “We use the Norboard range of microflutes, which offer superb reproduction of high quality graphics, giving brand owners maximum impact at point of sale. We can select the right liner for each job as all Norboard grades are made to order, and we find our customers appreciate the speed of turnaround we are able to provide.”

Smurfit says it pioneered the Printvision approach to help customers achieve their marketing objectives through the power of print, especially at the point of purchase, where it believes brand impact is becoming ever more important.

“In an increasingly crowded marketplace, where brands compete for attention and consumers have less time yet more money to spend, the battle for sales takes place in the aisles of the UK’s supermarkets and retail outlets”, says the company. “The growing trend towards impulse purchase, with only 25% of purchasing decisions being pre-planned (source: POPAI), and the increasing fragmentation of television advertising, means marketers must capitalise on their above the line spend by improving communication in store”.

Smurfit believes a “clear understanding of the market, the supply chain and consumer behaviour, combined with high quality print”, helps it to work closely with customers in developing packaging that is successful throughout the supply chain: “Consistent communication of brand values throughout the supply chain is now widely recognised as essential to the success of a brand and through Printvision we can offer consistent colour reproduction across all the print processes. Point of sale material, primary and secondary packaging can then work together to reinforce a brand’s image and marketing messages.

“Printvision delivers solutions for print, rather than just offering a range of print processes. There are occasions where results can be improved or cost-savings or efficiencies achieved by changing the process. Printvision is not limited by print process – it finds the best solution for the customer”.