Page 30 - Print21 Magazine Jan-Feb 21
P. 30

      Corrugated presents
digital opportunity
The booming e-commerce trend, together with supermarkets wanting to gain greater efficiencies, are opening up what could be a major growth market, digital inkjet packaging. Print21 editor Wayne Robinson reports.
Had it gone ahead, drupa visitors this year would have seen a plethora
of full-colour inkjet carton printing systems
launched by some of the biggest names in the industry.
Across the world, some 135.5 million tonnes of corrugated are produced each year, with 70 per cent printed, according to research agency Smithers. Of this almost all – more than nine tenths – is used in packaging.
New to colour
Corrugated carton has not traditionally attracted colour print. Usually cartons will have only inkjet coding or flexo single-colour printing, as an identifier on the box from which product is taken and placed onto shelves. However, the surging growth in e-commerce, turbo-charged by Covid-19, is seeing a huge number of products going direct to the consumer, by-passing the shops. This means brands want to use the carton to identify themselves, and brands aren’t given to single colour dot matrix
style identification. At the same
time, supermarkets are increasingly looking at the box as being shelf- ready, meaning that the shelf-stacker doesn’t have to unpack the box; it is loaded onto the shelf with just the top or front layer ripped off. The growth in boutique, or short run, food and beverage products is also driving the inkjet market. Finally, POS corrugated is growing in usage.
For technology developers, cartons represent a huge growth area in terms of the numbers that need printing and the amount of inks needed to print them.
For printers, it is virgin territory, but of a huge scale, and it is growing. According to Smithers, there are 255 billion sqm of corrugated a
year, three quarters of which – 190
Less than
billion square metres – is used in some form of packaging.
At present, those 190 billion square metres are typically printed flexo, and fairly low-rent flexo – usually single, or perhaps two colours – as the graphics are only intended
to be product identifiers along the logistics chain and not be seen by consumers. Where four-colour has been used in corrugated, it is usually printed on a paper sheet by litho, and then laminated onto the carton.
However, the rise of low-cost supermarkets, such as Aldi, has led to the corrugated case now being seen by consumers – the case may sit on a pallet on the floor – and this has led to an upping of the print quality.
Inkjet to the fore
The figures show that flexo is the major process, but they also reveal why inkjet developers are more than interested in corrugated. Around the world, inkjet represents a tiny
       % 1
is currently printed inkjet
 135.5 billion
tonnes of corrugated produced each year
 The predictions from industry consultants and analysts is that
it will grow rapidly, just as labels, cartons and flexible packaging have done.
fraction of all corrugated print – less than one per cent by weight or area. But, in terms of revenue, it generates eight per cent. It is easy to see why technology companies are racing into the arena. While less than one
per cent of corrugated printing is currently printed with four-colour
the identification role for the supply chain. And they offer JIT production with no makeready and no need to litho print and laminate.
Inkjet has obstacles to overcome, the cost basis being one of them. The price of a clunky old single or two- colour flexo line is far below that
of a new inkjet print system, and
the inkjet inks themselves are more expensive than flexo inks.
The demand for ultra-high resolution on labels and flexible packaging may not be there in corrugated. The corrugated shelf-ready packaging and POS is more likely
to be needed in attention grabbing blocks, than in fine line regulatory requirements found on labels. Big blocks mean big ink coverage.
Technology solutions
Some of the industry’s biggest technology developers have been
inkjet, the predictions from industry consultants and analysts such as Smithers is that this will grow rapidly, just as related sectors
labels, cartons and flexible packaging have done.
The logic is compelling; digital inkjet offers brands the opportunity to connect directly with the consumer, either through at-home delivery, or on the supermarket shelf, or at POS. They can personalise, they can still fulfill
     30   Print21 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

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