Packaging Prepress in the Context of Digitally Printed Packaging.
New Opportunity or Under Threat?



Digital printing is enabling brand owners to experiment with innovative packaging designs as one more way to engage their target audiences faster and cheaper than ever before. In traditional printing processes, prepress and printing go hand in hand. Will it be the same for digital print as well? In this article we look at how digital print is becoming a game changer in the packaging industry and the consequent growing importance of packaging pre-press.
 
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Over the past few years, the packaging print industry has seen some significant developments. One of the most important is the emergence of digital printing. It is enabling brand owners to experiment with innovative packaging designs as one more way to engage their target audiences faster and cheaper than ever before. In traditional printing processes, prepress and printing go hand in hand. Will it be the same for digital print as well? In this article we look at how digital print is becoming a game changer in the packaging industry and the consequent growing importance of packaging pre-press.

Creating a transfer medium like a plate or a cylinder takes anywhere from an hour to a week, depending on the process. With digital printing, the result is available in minutes.

Digital Printing and its advantages


With increase in demand for short runs and growing customizations, digital print is set for promising growth. According to a market study by LEK consulting, the digital print market was 2.6% of the global printing market in 2015 and is expected to rise to 3.9% by 2020 (Henkes, 2018). Digital Printing refers to the use of digitized images to print directly on a variety of media without using a transfer medium like a printing plate. A digitized image is an assembly of numeric representation to form a two-dimensional image called a raster image containing pixels. These digitized raster images allow direct printing on the substrate without the need of a printing plate. This is important, because creating a transfer medium like a plate or a cylinder takes anywhere from an hour to a week, depending on the process. With digital printing, the result is available in minutes.


The first digital printing press dates back to the early 90's. The Indigo digital printer was launched in 1991 and has since become famous as the HP Indigo digital printer after HP's acquisition of Indigo in 2001. The printer quickly became famous for its short run times and customizable prints straight from the desktop.

Figure 1- HP Indigo Digital Printer from: Whitehouse, Phil. "Printing the Ten commandments". Flickr, 7 January 2008.
The three biggest advantages of digital printing are:

  • Personalization and on-demand printing – Differentiated product packaging is the key to brand appeal. Digital printing allows for fast, cheap customization, potentially allowing brands to segment and target their client base with mass personalization.
  • Speed and cost effectiveness – In case of test runs, as there are no printing plates, the setup cost is low and turnaround time is minimal. This allows brands to experiment far more, in turn enabling them to bring more effective product packaging to the shelf faster.
  • Variety of substrates – Digital printers today can print on practically any substrate a brand manager wants to experiment with, including a variety of plastic, paper, paper-plastic composites, and even cloth.

Digital Print for Food & Beverage Packaging

Digitally produced packaging was projected to grow from about $4 Billion to $15.3 Billion between 2008 and 2018 (Smithers Pira, 2013) and had achieved between $12.17 Billion and $13.4 Billion (depending on the source), accelerating from around 12% CAGR from 2008 to 2013, to almost 16% in the following five- year period. by the end of 2017. It is expected to exceed $22 Billion by 2022 (Smithers Pira, 2018). This augurs well for the packaging industry, and suggests Digital packaging is here to stay. It is especially significant for Food & Beverage companies, which contribute over 50% of the global digital print market (Henkes, 2018).



Driving Factors:

The two important driving factors for F&B companies to be the major users of digital printing services are:

Brand fragmentation – A strategic pattern followed by F&B companies where similar product segments are introduced within the same brand umbrella but catering to different market segment of distinct needs, requirements or preferences. This is followed by almost all big F&B companies to stay in the competition at every level of market segment.

Need for Product Differentiation - Increase in the number of brands competing on the shelf is constantly increasing the pressure on these F&B companies to stand out.
Figure 2- A variety of food & beverage products in a grocery store. Digital Printing allows faster experimentation, allowing brands to bring multiple variants of a product to the shelf faster.
The role of Packaging Prepress: Traditional print & Digital print

While traditional printing methods have a combination of raster and vector images, digital printing (as mentioned in the beginning of this article) has only raster images. Due to the presence of vector images in analog printing methods, the images must be trapped, and color separation needs to be done for achieving perfect final image on the printing plates. However, in digital printing there is no use of printing plate due to the absence of vector images.



Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that prepress is not necessary for Digital Printing. It is a stage in the printing process and it will still be needed to provide graphic designs and brand owner approvals. Important tasks like pre-flighting, color management, file format standardization, automated workflow and proofing will continue to be essential even if the artwork is printed digitally, to achieve professional quality results and a perfect print ready file.

Conclusion

The digital print packaging revolution is only beginning. At just 8-9% of the market share of all flexible and paper-based packaging, both the pace and direction of its development is a hotly debated topic in industry. One thing is clear- rather than reduce the importance of the prepress process, the emergence of Digital Printing as a separate technique of printing is only set to further embed packaging prepress as an important step in the packaging value chain. At Manipal Digital, where we produce world-class print-ready files for conventional and digital printed packaging clients, the future is exciting!


Manipal Digital is a specialist packaging prepress house. We are experts in providing graphic services and consultancy services for the Packaging industry. We are experts in transforming any packaging design to a perfect print ready file for clients across the globe!
© 2007-2017 Manipal Digital Systems Private Limited
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INDIA +91 820 220 5892
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© 2007-2017 Manipal Digital Systems Private Limited
MENU
FOLLOW US
[email protected]
INDIA +91 820 220 5892
UK +44 203 371 7708
USA +1 212 537 6025
CONTACT US