A Guide to Digital Print for Packaging

Hailey Mueller | February 23, 2021

Digital printing has seen enormous growth within today’s packaging industry, encouraging more and more brands to make the switch to digital. Unlike other methods such as flexographic printing, digital printing is favorable because it doesn’t require separate plates for each print run, saving consumers both money and time. This reflects digital printing’s ability to satisfy major packaging trends like printing on-demand, further emphasizing its growing appeal to brands (we’ll dive deeper into this later).

According to recent Research and Markets reports, “The global digital printing packaging market is estimated to reach $28 billion by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% during 2018-2024.” Components of digital printing, such as inkjet systems, have also seen market growth with “…more than half of the total market share in 2018 dominated by inkjet technology.” This data signifies that the phenomena that is digital marketing is only just beginning!

However, printed packaging is nothing new. The packaging industry has printed onto corrugated cardboard through different printing methods for decades. From multi-pass sample machines, to multi-pass production machines, to single-pass production machines, digitally printed packaging has evolved throughout time. Still, corrugated packaging remains “the fastest growing packaging type in the global market, at a CAGR of approximately 12% during the forecast period.” 

 

An Industry Changing Trend

Digital printing is opening the door for exciting possibilities for the packaging industry from allowing deeper engagement with consumers to offering brands the creativity that encourages new revenue streams. With benefits including higher speeds, on-demand printing, reduced waste, flexibility to change graphics, and superior print quality, it’s clear why digital is now highly sought after by retailers and brands of any size. 

We’ve pulled together everything you need to know about the world of digital printing to help you make the switch. 

packagingstrategies.com

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is a modern method of production that surrounds printing digital images directly onto media such as corrugate using LED, digital, drop-on-demand, piezo inkjet technology (making it one of the best options for prints that require a variety of color).

In short, graphic designs and artwork are created on a computer and then printed onto the material of your choosing. Unlike other printing methods such as flexography and lithography, digital printing eliminates the need for the vast number of steps other methods require such as pre-press or messy formatting equipment. 

Digital printing works by sending a graphic design or piece of artwork (especially those with higher detail) to the printer via formats such as PDF or TIFF. Next, the artwork is prepared in an appropriate resolution for the print size’s requirements. After this, crop marks and bleeds are added to ensure no unprinted edges occur. Finally, ensure you use as much of the printer paper as possible to eliminate paper waste and ensure efficiency. Voila! 

At Xceed, we use the most capable, high-quality, and state-of-the-art design and production equipment available including:

  • 2 EFI Nozomi C18000 Digital Printers (includes a high-speed, single-pass digital inkjet corrugated press that offers high-quality graphics with the flexibility of on-demand, multi-image printing, lower minimum order quantities, and reduced waste and inventory)
  • 2 Zund D3 L3200 Digital Cutters with BHS150 Board Handling Systems
  • EFI VUTEk GS2000LX Pro with UltraDrop Technology
  • HP Scitex 15500

After providing an in-depth understanding of digital printing and its process, it’s also important to break down other kinds of printing in order to emphasize why you should be choosing digital printing.

boxesinc.com

Flexographic:

The flexographic printing method utilizes a single flexible print plate (or multiple for designs involving more than one color) that transfers images onto a corrugated surface similar to a stamp. Further, this printing method uses fast-drying, water-based inks that are customizable to your specifications.

 

Flexographic equipment can apply up to five individual colors, all while cutting, folding, and gluing in a single pass. While this is efficient for simpler graphics and high-volume items such as industrial packaging boxes, flexographic printing requires new plates every time graphic changes are made as well as high minimum order quantities (MOQs), making it a more costly and time-consuming method not suitable for short-run, branded packaging. 

boxesinc.com

Lithographic:

The lithographic printing method surrounds transferring an image to a printing plate and covering it with both water and oil-based ink. Similar to digital printing, lithographic printing is effective for graphics that involve high resolution, photographic quality images as well as is more commonly used for corrugated point-of-purchase display products. Unlike digital printing, this method also requires new plates for every new graphic change as well as high MOQs. We recommend litho for repeat promotional programs and campaigns rather than seasonal campaigns that change often. 

boxesinc.com

How Digital Printing has Changed the Packaging Landscape:

Industry leaders like Xceed are being put to the test within the market due to evolving technologies. We’ve fully implemented print-on-demand that goes beyond customer expectations. 

Modern, on-demand printing is now feasible because of the speed, accuracy of stable technology, and mature software. At Xceed, we confidently embrace a wide variety of possibilities due to our investments in connected workflow processes and software with advanced customization.

We gained help from Significans Automation Inc., a development and integration provider in the printing and packaging space that takes underutilized software and optimizes it for the environment.  By tailoring various software with an optimal workflow, businesses like Xceed can provide their customer base with a modern E-commerce platform.  

We proceeded with the underlining focus on servicing customers with a modern experience.  The developments enhanced capabilities around its collaboration and approval software with a clear intent that integration was key to the outcome. As such, Xceed has full prepress automation to digital print with real-time dashboards. 

What does this mean for your projects?

A seamless end-to-end background process that allows production files to go from order to output with ease, speed, and the least amount of human intervention. 

 

What do you see?

A user-friendly interface with real-time order status from start to shipping!

 

MIS / ERP and CRM integration along with e-commerce and web-to-print solutions can now be part of that seamlessly integrated ecosystem that facilitates the least number of touchpoints through custom coding and configuring to optimize the production environment.

CAD and Palletization solutions become even more relevant to the co-existence of other software to facilitate end-to-end production. Essentially, with customized development, corrugated packaging manufacturers like Xceed are even more committed to their customers.

Click here to learn more about how Xceed (Boxes Inc.) reduced its process to only 5 minutes, down from 8 hours. 

 

Design Tips for the Best Quality Digital Print:

When you’ve decided it’s time to take the leap into digital printing, keeping in mind the best design tips to achieve the most quality print is crucial!

Image Resolution

Check image resolution to provide the best quality print. If images are at a resolution of 150 dpi or lower with 100% scale, this can result in loss of sharpness and a “pixelated” look. Straight lines will have a “staircase” effect. For the best results, all artwork and images should be no less than 300 dpi. 

Black Ink Saturation

Too much ink in one area can lead to printing and drying issues, which affect everything from how quickly your project can be printed to potential issues in the cutting and finishing processes. Too much ink saturation can lead to other problems including ink smearing and smudging. 

File Format

It is best to use a vector-based software application such as Adobe Illustrator for building art files and saving/exporting your native file in PDF format before uploading to Xceed. 

UPC/Barcodes

UPC-A type barcodes need to be at least 150% size (approximately 2.2’ wide). We recommend all barcodes to be at least .5” (½-inch) tall. 

 

For more tips, check out our Artwork Guidelines

rhinodigital.com

 

Why Choose Digital Printing?

There’s no question that digital printing has become the new standard for the printing industry. With more choices, features, and flexibility, digital printing just makes sense for consumers that now expect printing to be accurate and up-to-date while also being cost-effective, high-quality, and fast. 

As a consumer, we know how important having creative freedom without sacrificing exception quality, speed, and customer support is. Luckily, here at Xceed, we use the latest digital printing technology to provide creative packaging and display solutions with no minimums, print-on-demand abilities, flexibility, and high-quality graphics. 

For packaging manufacturers, this simply means investing in equipment that boasts high-speed technology that is sure to checkmark current industry and consumer trends. 

The unique capabilities and improved quality levels of digital printing have made this method an important and trending part of the printing process. From high-quality prints that ensure bright and clear artwork, to fewer printing steps that ensure your products deliver quicker, to zero printing plate requirements that ensure a more cost-effective print, to lesser MOQs that ensure short runs compared to traditional methods, there’s no reason not to choose digital printing.

With so many benefits, what’re you waiting for?

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