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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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Package Printing: Indigo, Scodix, and Highcon, Oh My

In the movie The Graduate, Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin, Dustin Hoffman’s character, that he has one word for him regarding his future success: “Plastics.” To update this 1967 movie quote and apply it to the present state of printing, I’d say the word is “packaging,” and Highcon, Scodix, and HP will reap the benefits.

Why do I believe this? Because I just read an article in Packaging Europe News (9/25/13, “Highcon and Scodix Demonstrate the Value of Digital for Folding Carton at LabelExpo”) referencing LabelExpo in Brussels, Belgium, in which Scodix and Highcon presented “new digital technologies that will enable folding carton packaging converters to differentiate themselves…” and “further stress the importance they place on the move towards digital packaging production.”

Packaging Is Physical

Unlike a book or newspaper, product packaging has to be printed in some way. Picture a big box store like Target with row upon row of products with no packaging, or with blank packaging. You can’t do it. In fact, I’ve seen increasingly intricate packaging in recent months—and more of it. From printed shrink sleeves adorning bottles to flexible packaging, I’m seeing an explosion in packaging design and production. LabelExpo just confirms it.

The HP Indigo 30000 (Digital Custom Printing Excellence)

I don’t think any digital press exists today that matches the quality level of the HP Indigo. It produces toner-based digital custom printing (electrophotography, or xerography) that rivals offset for all but the most discriminating eyes. Moreover, it overcomes any perceived liability with its ability to print a different image every time it delivers a press sheet.

Mass customization is key. As the Packaging Europe News article notes, “Value can be created by meeting the demand for better shelf appearance, shorter runs, versioning, private label, reduced inventory, and sustainability.”

Applying this to the HP Indigo, the new 30000 press accepts a 20” x 29” press sheet. That’s comparable to a 20” x 26” cover sheet size for an offset lithographic press. In simpler terms, digital presses can now compete head to head with offset presses.

Given the exceptional custom printing quality provided by the HP Indigo line, its ability to economically produce a print run of one copy or 10,000 copies, and its ability to produce infinitely variable products within a single press run, it seems that the new HP Indigo 30000 is right on the mark for a packaging industry that demands shorter, more varied press runs.

The Highcon Euclid (Digital Diecutting)

Highcon has produced equipment that will use digital data stored within a package-design art file to do intricate cutouts as well as the standard cutting and creasing required for package conversion (i.e., for turning a flat custom printing sheet into a completed box).

After all, if you disassemble a simple carton for a tube of toothpaste, pulling apart all folded and glued flaps, you’ll see how intricate the flat diecut shape must be before it can be folded back up into a usable box. Now, instead of needing to pay extra—and wait extra time—for the creation of a metal die with which to stamp out the blanks for the carton, the Highcon Euclid can directly process the digital information in the art file, and cut or crease the commercial printing sheets with a laser.

What this means is that you can diecut one or 1,000 boxes economically, since you don’t have all the set up charges. And you can start diecutting and creasing the box forms immediately, since you don’t have to wait for the die-maker to strike the die.

Scodix Packaging Adornment (Digital Metallics and Embossing)

Think about packages you see in the drug store. They include pharmaceutical supplies and cosmetics, among other products. Drug manufacturers and cosmetics manufacturers often include elaborate metallic inks, foil stamping effects, or embossing in their product packaging. In past years, these have required metal dies. For instance, you would make (and wait for, and pay for) one die for a gold metallic for a single cosmetics folding carton.

But why stop with one color? The Scodix digital enhancement process can simulate multiple colors of foil stamping on the same box, and it can do all of these at the same time without any dies, because it is a digital process.

To go even further, Scodix can add up to .7 millimeters of “build.” This effectively eliminates the need for metal dies if you want to add embossing to a product package.

And in a move reflecting their commitment to packaging design and production, Scodix now offers the Scodix Ultra digital enhancement press that accepts a B2+ sheet (21.5” x 31”), perfect for use in concert with the HP Indigo 30000 and Highcon Euclid.

Enough said. The future is just one word: “packaging.”

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