By Digital Output Staff
Whether it’s package prototypes on a flatbed device or short-run lengths off a dedicated press, packaging of all shapes and sizes benefit from software that influences the entire production workflow from design to print and cut.
Many products offer tools in direct response to trends like variability, personalization, and smart or intelligent packaging. Other concerns include meeting sustainability requirements and the need to consistently yield correct brand colors across multiple substrates.
Above: Esko Release 23.03 includes the new feature, Phoenix, which is an AI-based tool developed in collaboration with Tilia Labs that unlocks planning and imposition productivity improvements.
More than Pretty Packaging
Software companies continue to introduce features and enhancements to meet the challenges of professional packaging prepress environments. While challenges refer to many things, one category is trends. Generally, trends indicate new or different products, and in those situations, print service providers (PSPs) learn to adapt and capitalize.
“With the rapid adoption of digital presses for labels, cartons, and corrugated boxes along with a growing demand for personalization—as well as the need to find a way to reduce the cost of producing multiple flavors, languages, or other options—package printers need a better solution for variable data print (VDP) preparation and output than existing offerings,” admits Mike Agness, EVP, Americas, HYBRID Software.
A direct result of the increased rate of digital adoption, Steve Lynn, director, labels and packaging, Durst US, says is shorter run lengths, which are driven by more personalization or regionalization.
“Although still low, variable data usage grows constantly as the request for packaging personalization increases. The challenge is to offer an efficient solution for high print volume, including not only the processing of the variable data, but also managing cutting and scoring,” comments Alain Cormond, business development manager, GS/marketing – Apogee & Asanti, Agfa.
According to Nick Benkovich, VP, global portfolio product management, eProductivity Software (ePS), “global brand expansion requires support for run length and version variations as well as just-in-time planning and production—all while maintaining production traceability. In addition, the move to online purchasing, single serve, and on-the-go packaging is changing the way we package and distribute products.”
Smart and/or intelligent packaging are other trends. With smart packaging, “you scan a quick response code with a smartphone and are escorted into an online odyssey that tells you everything about the product you’re thinking of buying, and the company that created it. NFC or near field communication also helps brands get their messages across in a memorable way,” points out Michel Beauchamp, customer growth manager, Significans Automation.
Intelligent packaging is a sub-category of smart packaging. “It adds value by expanding the options for communication between on-the-shelf products and consumers. A futuristic approach, it focuses mostly on detecting the condition of a package’s contents, then sharing that information with consumers,” explains Beauchamp.
There is a demand for—or least conversation around—sustainable packaging. This doesn’t mean the packaging itself is necessarily recyclable or made with post-consumer contents, instead it’s whether the process/production of the packaging is sustainable. With this in mind, packaging software offers many features that reduce ink usage, minimize substrate waste, and increase efficiencies.
“Error and waste reduction has a direct impact on the environmental footprint of a packaging business. With sustainability and digitalization fundamentally altering how the industry operates, it is imperative that today’s packaging companies invest in technology that enables them to boost efficiency, reduce costs, and improve their overall productivity,” says Jan De Roeck, director of marketing, industry relations and strategy, Esko.
Software tools detect ways to minimize waste. “The newest features seek to use the least amount of substrate. Full substrate libraries contain sustainable substrates and give recommendations for their use. This is tied to a full tool and die library to recognize the best tool/die to be used with the sustainable materials,” shares Jack J. Lafler, VP, sales and technical services, HiFlow Solutions.
Improving nesting minimizes waste per sheet and reduces ink usage by up to 30 percent—as is the case with Durst Workflow software. “PSPs are also adding efficiency to their operations via automation. And reporting abilities enable PSPs to analyze different jobs that have been produced and determine how to improve efficiencies,” explains Lynn.
Similarly, Cormond admits that “discussions with Agfa packaging customers often have an accent of day to day, economical challenges leading to extra attention to the consumables and the adoption of best practices and software helping to conscientiously manage and control waste.”
ePS’ Packaging Suite helps users minimize waste in the production process with features like recipe management and substitute resins for flexible packaging—including substitution during production, accurate calculation of required materials to reduce waste, tracking of waste to facilitate reuse and recycling, weight-based measurement of waste, and the ability to repurpose waste to raw material.
Spot colors are critical to brands, and packaging obviously requires them to be 100 percent accurate. This is something that has forever been important to brand owners, and despite all of these newer introductions involving variability, sustainability, and the like—color continues to be a top priority.
“While some digital presses create spot color printing units, most are limited by either four-color or expanded gamut ink sets. It’s important to utilize a solution with a collection of color management tools to help proofing software recreate accurate spot colors using expanded gamut inks on a digital press,” recommends Agness.
“Spot color for accurate brand color management is very important so any packaging prepress software should have the ability and tools to make color matching or management very easy. Durst Workflow software has a suite of tools that help prepress in file preparation and also check and maintain color throughout production,” shares Lynn.
“Brand colors must meet the output expectations of print buyers. This is particularly true for repeat orders or where customers print across different media types. Color management tools provide the ability to match brand colors and include process control measures to ensure consistency in color output overtime,” recommends Jonathan Rogers, international marketing manager, Onyx Graphics, Inc.
Color management is critical in packaging, “because you’re usually dealing with strict, inflexible brand colors, type fonts, logos, and images. Automated color management software ensuring the printability and repeatability of packaging graphics across all devices and on all substrates is a must, regardless of the type of packaging,” shares Stan Carmichael, special projects, Significans Automation.
The latest software solutions meet the needs of packaging environments, whether a PSP or commercial printer. The software is tasked with providing essential efficiencies from package design, print, and finishing to fulfillment.
May2023, Digital Output