Digital Inkjet direct print on combined corrugated board is replacing litho label applications and high end flexo direct print in growing numbers. Flexo direct print of lower quality, when multiple colors are involved and runs are rather short, is equally a target.
The corrugated industry is a unique commodity trade fulfilling custom orders. This is typically accomplished with the help of analog tools: rotary and platen cutting dies and flexographic printing plates, or analog printed litho labels.
Analog tools have to be designed, produced and shipped, then stored and controlled, often moved between storage and production sites, and finally destroyed. A daunting task. Some box-plants seem to have more tool storage space than manufacturing space.
Tool-less printing is a reality today. Tool-less cutting and creasing is around the corner. These digital processes will have a significant impact on the look and feel of a typical box-plant. Little need for customized ink colors, finally stemming the flood of dies and plates; significantly reduced scheduling cycles and much higher uptime on capital equipment.
Of course, there are processes and applications that will be with us for a while, yet. The production of a regular slotted container without a cutting die, using machine slots and scores, is very efficient and very fast. (latest machines producing at over 30,000 boxes per hour!). For large and regular quantity orders flexographic printing and rotary die cutting remain very effective. These are the twenty percent of items that represent eighty percent of the volume…
But the eighty percent of orders that produce twenty percent of the volume of corrugated packaging, measured in tons of paper or square feet of board, will see tremendous change in the coming years.
The business cycle will change, entirely. Time to market is compressed significantly. No more pre-press houses or tool suppliers between customers / brand owners and box-makers. A much more transactional business conduct, less loyalty, develops. Personalized packaging becomes reality.
The independent box-maker will have to stress intellectual property and knowledge (structural engineering and graphic design, retail environment), along with complete manufacturing capability and easy business processes to compete favorably.digital, business