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Punch Graphix sees growth beyond the labels niche

“Undoubtedly one of the strongest potential sectors for digital, and already the fastest growing area of the digital marketplace,” is how Greg Neesham, sales director of Punch Graphix, sums up the packaging arena. He says the company’s Xeikon presses have already found a significant market in the production of digitally printed labels.

“The label market was certainly ready for digital – shorter runs, and more variants of the same base label, made the workload ideal for the switch to digital production, and many of the UK’s leading label printers have taken the plunge into digital for these reasons,” he adds. Typically such companies have added one or two digital presses to augment their existing machinery, where the percentage of work that does require longer runs will, for the foreseeable future, be more suited to more traditional production techniques.

However, the leading digital players such as Xeikon are now looking beyond labels, as they seek to explore the opportunities for their now seasoned machinery within the larger packaging sphere. Current examples of packaging players who are using digital printing equipment seriously still tend to be niche, but that is probably one of the great strengths of the technology – developing niche applications, and focusing on short run requirements. Certainly, confirms Greg Neesham, some of the bigger UK packaging players are looking at the immediate potential of digital.

With the Xeikon’s web-fed design coupled with the capability of feeding materials of up to 500mm in width, as well as its ability to print onto polyester and polypropylene, it’s not difficult to see these products taking a more serious role in the production of packaging products in the coming years.

One typical example of a niche packaging application comes from a Xeikon user in the US, Odyssey Digital Printing. The company specializes in providing short run point-of-purchase materials, and custom packaging, including CD and DVD materials.

One area of significant growth, however, has been in creating customized packaging for golf balls. The customer, Acushnet Golf, saw a potential market in creating customized packs of balls for golf clubs, and for corporates.

Run lengths for such work are less than 1,000 units and Odyssey has created a set of templates for Acushnet to use as a marketing tool. Each template can be customized with club or company logo’s and pictures, where required. The carton is then printed on 350g/m2 Iggesund paperboard and UV varnished. The printed material is then die cut on a Preco machine, folded and glued.

Xeikon was the preferred print system for this product due to its digital capability, which made it adaptable to the shorter run lengths required; its web fed format, aiding production techniques; and its low cost of production.

Dutch print company Vision One, which promotes itself as ‘The Digital Packaging Makers’, focuses its efforts on very short runs for the ‘new products’ area of the market. Some 70 per cent of its business actually comes from marketing, promotion, and design agencies, and a production run is generally nothing more than 250 copies. Approximately 20 per cent of the work comes from other packaging companies, and just 10 per cent direct from the customer.

Vision One believes that opportunities exist within the packaging arena with its Xeikon digital print engine because of the format that it can offer – up to B2, athough any length is actually possible due the web-fed substrate – the quality that it can produce, and the speed at which it can complete a job.

If there is a drawback with digital at the moment, it is the weight of substrate that it can handle. With Xeikon, for example, the published maximum stock weight is 350g/m2. Vision One gets around this issue by using specialist equipment to glue its printed output to corrugated board prior to the final cutting and finishing stages. On runs of only 250 this is a workable solution.

Vision One believes that its business model works because it understands its role. It handles small orders with a low repeat factor, therefore it knows that it needs to generate a constant stream of new business. The company believes that whilst this is something of a hidden market, it is in fact quite significant in size. It is also conscious that it cannot produce everything, and must stick to the tasks that it knows that it can perform well.

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Punch Graphix
Tel: +32 (0) 3 443 13 11

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