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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: There’s a Growing Market for Package Printing

As I’ve said many times in past PIE Blog posts, I’m always looking for growth sectors in commercial printing. Not only do I believe they exist, but I’m also seeing proof in the articles I read every day.

One of these growth sectors is packaging, and more specifically short-run, versioned package printing. I just read an article in the November 1, 2012, issue of Print Week entitled “The Packaging Bandwagon That Is Worth Jumping On,” which was written by Jenny Roper.

Developments in Package Printing

According to the article, here are some new developments in packaging:

  1. Packaging is becoming more personalized. Roper notes that “Heineken will now deliver a six-pack of beer personalized with your own message and a cherished photograph on the labels.” Other companies are updating the design of their packaging on a regular basis rather than committing to tens or hundreds of thousands of units per press run. This makes packaging stand out amidst the competition by virtue of its changing images.
  2. Brands are targeting their markets more precisely. Based on market research, brands test their designs more rigorously, avoid over-printing and needing to store packaging materials, and request more frequent, smaller press runs.
  3. Packaging is beginning to incorporate more QR codes, leading clients back to the websites of the manufacturers, and this often results in more personalized, smaller package print runs.
  4. Marketers want to buy packaging responsibly in order to protect the environment via their sustainable print buying.

How This Affects Both Digital and Offset Package Printing

Improvements in digital custom printing have made the technology quite capable of producing labels, folding cartons, and flexible packaging, according to Roper’s article. Of course much longer runs, printing on rigid plastics, and printing on metal will remain the purview of more traditional package printing technology for the time being.

The plethora of substrates acceptable to digital presses such as the Indigo 5600 have also made digital printing more appropriate for package printing. For instance, it is possible to print on synthetic substrates and plastics as well as much thicker stocks than in prior years. Commercial printing vendors can now print on stocks 500 microns in thickness, allowing package production on rigid board.

Although dedicated digital carton printing equipment is not yet available, “The Packaging Bandwagon That Is Worth Jumping On” notes that additional equipment (kits) for digital presses such as the Indigo 5600 and Fuji Acuity will allow digital custom printing suppliers to produce point of sale materials, mailing materials, food packaging, and pharmaceutical packaging of shorter press run lengths.

Offset lithographic printers that choose to buy digital equipment with packaging capabilities can augment their services and pick up additional work from existing customers. Of course the longer press runs will still be the domain of lithographic presses.

These very printers that have extensive experience with direct mail, and particularly the versioned and personalized materials suited to digital presses, may be ideally positioned to expand into this market. These printers understand promotions, marketing, and targeting, and packaging is moving quickly in this direction.

Granted, as Roper notes in her article, package printing is a three-dimensional arena, whereas direct mail is usually two-dimensional in nature. Package printing involves more construction knowledge (tabs, seams, etc.) and in some cases additional equipment as well. Commercial printing vendors may need to augment both their knowledge base and their equipment.

Convergence Between Digital Technology and Offset Lithography for Package Printing

Interestingly enough, as printers consider buying digital printing capabilities to offer new services to their clients as other areas of printing decline, offset lithography is becoming capable of printing shorter and shorter press runs economically. Computerized color-control loops allow for much quicker make-readies with far less waste. This puts offset lithographic equipment on a par with digital presses for quick change-overs between runs.

So it seems that digital and offset are converging in the realm of packaging. Large printers may be buying digital equipment to offer their larger customers who had been buying packaging runs in the tens or hundreds of thousands of copies a shorter, more personalized or versioned option, while small printers expand their services, providing (for example) both books and the personalized boxes for these books.

A Related Note: Digital Die Cutting

Interestingly enough, a prior issue of Print Week (December 2, 2011) references the Highcon digital die cutting machine, called Euclid. Created by two ex-Indigo employees, the Euclid digitally creases and cuts printed packaging board (from a single unit up to 10,000 units) up to a maximum thickness of .6 milimeters. This technology uses lasers and optics to eliminate the cost and time associated with conventional die making and die cutting. Data included with the digital art file can get the die cutting job up and running within fifteen minutes (rather than the day or more needed for conventional die making and die cutting).

It seems to me that this technology, which is just coming to market, would be of major interest to those producing flexible packaging with digital printing equipment.

Why You Should Care

  1. If you are a designer, you should know that package printing is a growing printing arena. It requires the ability to think in three dimensions and demands specialized knowledge of digital and offset printing, manufacturing, and design. Nevertheless, package design may interest those graphic artists who prefer ink on paper to Internet-based design.
  2. If you’re a printer, you need to know that package printing is expanding because this will allow you to offer new services to existing clients as other aspects of commercial printing begin to wane.

8 Responses to “Custom Printing: There’s a Growing Market for Package Printing”

  1. Custom printing is in demand nowadays. Many digital printing companies are providing all types of printing.

  2. Thanks for providing such wonderful information

  3. Hi! I actually own a printing services business, and i want to thank you for sharing this idea, which gives me additional insights on what will i do with my business.

    • admin says:

      This is very kind of you to say, and it makes me happy to know I have been of help. Please keep reading the blog, and share it with your associates.

  4. Custom printing and packaging are much in demand. One has to know all the types of printing to expand the business. You have provided nice information in your blog with good and helpful details. Keep posting. Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your support and for taking the time to write a comment. I’m glad you find the information useful.


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