Several recent breakthroughs in digital Inkjet technology seem to be pointing to big changes in the packaging industry, and inkjet use seems set to become increasingly prevalent in the next few years.
These technological advances look perfect for an industry that has seen an enormous increase in demand for more ‘personalized” products i.e. multiple subdivisions of a product to suit customer demand for more specific and more exclusive offerings (think of Coke bottles with 250 different first names, or what seems like a million different types of Shampoo or toothpaste). Digital Inkjet technology is now offering a combination of flexibility, quality and lowering costs. Would you have believed this 5 years ago? No. The history of inkjet printing has seen high ink prices, limitations in colours and less than stellar reliability, but in a few short years that all changed and digital inkjet printing is now the ideal answer to short run printing, even to the point of being able to make every single package unique.
From an efficiency standpoint, the digital inkjet workflow requires minimal setup, and modifications to the print image are relatively easy to execute, saving time and costs. Changes to an image can be preprogramed and happen even without stopping production. An interesting application of this advantage is executing individual codes for every single product to guard against counterfeits and make a product fully traceable even throughout its production, creating a pedigree, as it were. This could help stop tampering, limit distribution of bad runs, inhibit diversion of products from one distribution channel to another and help investigations when needed.
Even cooler, a digital inkjet printing system could actually print an RFID code on the product for non-visual localization. Wow.
Other improvements? Steadily increasing print quality and the variety of available inks, now including white, various metallic inks and UV inks. This means that there are now practically no limits to the type of images that can be printed.
Inkjet is also no longer necessarily associated with flat printing such as on labels or decals to be applied to the product. There are inkjet printers now in service that can very accurately print directly on the 3D surface of the product, such as on bottles or other curved surfaces. Thanks to high precision movement of either the ink head or the object being printed on, and using greater ink ‘throw’ distances (even up to 3 or 4 centimeters in some cases), a print head can get fully around a product and cover every square millimeter, creating a distortion-free image. This is something that other technologies such as laser or pad printing simply cannot achieve.
If you follow the logic of direct to object printing, it leads to the printing process actually being embedded into production itself, again, saving time and costs. In this context, inkjet printing is on its way to becoming a fully automated production process.
And because the process is digital, the creators and editors of the text and images don’t have to be on site at all. They could be clear across the globe. Clearly, the business of printing is becoming more IT centric.
Digitization of the printing process happens to be one of our strength areas. If you’d like more information about how to integrate inkjet printing into your workflow, let’s talk!