Flexible Packaging recently caught up with Kim Beswick, general manager, office and desktop systems, Memjet, for insight on the present state and future of digital printing.


Q: Simply put, what makes digital printing an attractive technology to printers of flexible packaging?

A: Digital printing has caused a tremendous shift in the packaging market for a variety of reasons. First, and most importantly, digital printing has reduced the minimum batch size of print jobs, allowing for much more affordable short runs. Companies needing shorter runs previously had to pay higher costs or over-order and deal with the inevitable waste. Now packaging and labels can be printed as needed, reducing waste and creating marketing opportunities and operational efficiencies which until now have been unattainable. The latest generation of digital solutions has also greatly increased speed and image quality, thus expanding the possibilities for digital printing. Being able to produce a superior product under shorter time constraints is a huge competitive advantage for converters, printers and brand owners. This allows businesses to turnaround orders quickly without sacrificing image quality and balance a wider range of jobs across many different types and sizes of printing presses and devices.


Q: Can you describe how Memjet is currently involved in digital printing?

A: Memjet’s primary focus has always been innovative digital printing components and technologies in support of short run digital color printing. Digital printing is the future and where most of the industry growth is. It was never a choice for us, this is our world. We participate in the market by providing fast, compact and affordable digital printing technologies to our OEM partners, many of which have solutions for packaging and labeling, including: Trojanlabel, Colordyne, IPT Digital, SuperWeb Digital, Afinia Label, Neopost, Astro Machines, Printing Innovation, VIP Color, RTI Digital and Xante.


Q: There several good examples of digital printing’s advantages – perhaps none more notable than the Share a Coke campaign. Can you talk about how campaigns such as this may influence future projects?

A: The Share a Coke campaign has certainly jump-started the custom packaging trend, and also led to a swarm of similar campaigns from companies of comparable size, such as Budweiser. Big brands are localizing and personalizing their marketing campaigns leading to smaller, swifter and ever changing short-run printing that is more relevant and impactful. Digital technologies are integral to the success and increasing the possibilities of these strategies. That being said, additional market transformation is coming from small- and medium-sized companies, who are recognizing that custom packaging isn’t reserved for the likes of Coke and Budweiser. Private label trends and local food and product trends have bolstered mid-size and small-product manufacturers who are growing distribution double digit percentages, year-over-year. With the rise of short-run digital printing alternatives, the barriers for developing a line of small batch print on demand packaging are lower than ever. FP


Q: How do you see companies utilizing digital printing technology in unique ways?

A: Our partners have changed the industry in a number of ways. Our OEM’s are delivering the fastest desktop labeling systems in the world in an 8.5-inch print width that brings new flexibility and productivity to the shortest runs at a low cost per label. Partners like TrojanLabel with the TrojanTwo and Afinia Label with the DLP2000 are filling in the solution gap between desktop label systems and narrow web label presses with a new class of mini-presses that operate more continuously, and in some cases, with integrated finishing options at prices that are well under $100,000. Converters and brands are benefiting from these more robust but affordable printing options. Our press partners like Colordyne, IPT and Superweb are providing some of the highest quality narrow web presses at price points that are often half the price of alternatives.


Q: What do you think is in store for digital printing moving forward?

A: Growth, growth, growth! The digital printing market is going to continue expanding at a rapid rate, eclipsing an increasing array of traditional printing solutions. The factors driving this shift will continue to be speed and efficiency, as well as new inks and printable substrates tuned for digital printing systems that are increasingly capable and affordable.

Besides advancements to the technology, digital printing solutions are going to become much more prevalent amongst all sizes of companies and operations due to market trends. As I mentioned earlier, the success of the Share a Coke campaign has really lit a fire in terms of showing the relevance of localization and personalization for big brands and small alike. The reality of individualized packaging is here! Local food/product and private label trends are fueling digital growth for small- to mid-sized companies. As more and more small and medium businesses realize that these sort of marketing campaigns are practical, even in small quantities, we are going to see a surge in the prevalence of customizable packaging.


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about digital printing?

A: The digital printing market is remarkably vibrant right now. New solutions are driving new markets and new types of printing and packaging are emerging daily. It’s not just about replacing traditional processes, as an industry we are creating new possibilities through digital technology at a time when companies, big and small, are looking for creative ways to communicate to their customers and new ways to gain operational efficiency.