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How can commercial printers make the switch to packaging?

Some commercial printers face a glut in their market that is squeezing margins. Can packaging find room for the commercial printers now eyeing the sector?

Packaging players should focus on adding value, consider digital technology and make their operations more environment friendly.

Printers entering packaging should improve on their packaging skills. There is a key divide in packaging between food and non-food packaging. Printers should pick their sector with care.

So how will the selection be done between rotogravure, CI flexo, offset and digital?

My view is that the offset printing and packaging market is fairly crowded with little barrier to entry. Commercial printers should consider this option only if they have customers tied up prior to investment.

The rotogravure market is similarly densely populated. The additional problem for the commercial printer is learning handling of thin plastic webs which are prone to stretching.

This is where a combination of CI flexo and digital printing of the HP Indigo type can become a breakthrough strategy.

Digital printing will allow the printer to cater to short runs in major segments of packaging ranging from cartons to flexible packaging to labels. This will help to seed the market, understand packaging better and build relationships with packaging buyers.

As runs and orders grow, they can be transferred economically to CI flexo and the customer offered competitive prices. CI flexo can also handle a wide mix of substrates ranging from board up to 200 gsm to label grade paper to thick and thin flexible webs. CI flexo is environment friendly as solvent evaporation is minimum, ink recovery and recirculation is maximum and ink gsm is low.

Combined with online or offline E-Beam curing, CI flexo can help to move the brand from a laminate to a substrate (for example, from BOPP, reverse printed, laminated to metalized polyester, with registered cold seal to BOPP surface printed, lacquered and E-beam cured with registered cold seal applied in-line during printing). The cost is reduced and sustainability increased.

Laminators, slitters and bag makers are additional equipment that will have to be installed along with the digital printing machine and the CI flexo printing machine.

A very good pre-press section is required to provided standardized print inputs for digital, offset, CI flexo and rotogravure printing, thus providing scale up flexibility for future expansion.

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