1. Which board properties do you find important when you think about:
I would say that consistency of colour is the most important property of all. Whether it is in a paper destined for flexible packaging production or corrugated pre/post-printing, or in a board to be used for making cartons, lack of colour consistency presents the biggest headaches to our customers.
It’s sometimes said that the paper is the fifth colour in CMYK printing and that’s particularly appropriate in the industries we serve – packaging and labels. We are pushing forward with innovative technologies such as digital print and extended gamut printing, and here the colour of the paper or board can be very important.
In todays markets, where brand owners are pushing for homogeneity across all their packaging and media, even our many customers who print onto unbleached paper liners using corrugated flexo printing lines need consistency of colour if they are to meet their clients’ demand.
It’s consistency again, but more in the caliper and structure of the paper or board.
Firstly, you have to get the board through the die-cutter or hot foil stamping press or down a folder-gluer line. If it is warped, or varies in thickness, then production suffers because the sheet or blank will stop in the machine feed.
Secondly, as brand owners increasingly push for lighter packaging to cut costs, it’s important that the board maintains its structural integrity and strength. If it doesn’t, our customers experience all sorts of problems. Even on the best equipment, such sheets can start to break up during the die-cutting process – which means that the customer may have to run the job more slowly and put many extra nicks into the sheet to get it through. That obviously affects both productivity and the visual appearance of the final box.
2. Future trends in printing and converting?
Aside from light-weighting, which I’ve already mentioned, we are seeing developments at both the high-quality end of the market and at the high-volume end.
Following the global economic crisis, many brands changed to a more ‘basic’ look for their products, to reflect consumers’ concerns about money. Now, however, we are seeing brands returning to higher-quality print, more embellishment and more complex structural designs, as they try to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Even retail-ready packaging is now becoming increasingly sophisticated as designers try to make their brand stand out on the shelf. It means that they need presses which can print with higher definition and they need converting equipment that can handle much more complex designs.
There’s also increasing demand for ‘zero fault’ packaging quality – basically making sure that no ‘out of specification’ product gets out of our customers’ plants. We’ve been working on these sorts of systems for some time and they are becoming increasingly popular.
At the volume end, there has been a huge growth in the food service sector. Our customers’ machines churn out billions of chip scoops, pizza boxes, sandwich packs and cake boxes every day. That growth doesn’t seem to be slowing, yet even here we are seeing increasing sophistication in both design and functionality. For these products, productivity is everything, so we are always working on new, more highly automated machines, new systems and new services – the objective being to shave time from makereadies, increase uptime and running speeds, and take away potential headaches such as the risks of mineral oil contamination.
There are also interesting developments in both conventional and digital printing technologies, including the idea of Digital Flexo™, where cameras and servos replace operator intervention meaning job changeovers can happen on the fly.
Then, of course, there is the trend towards more sustainability. Many of our customers already use paper and board which comes from sustainable sources, such as yours, and we are seeing this increasingly reach into markets beyond western Europe and North America. As an engineering group, we have to address the sustainability issues inherent in the equipment we make. We are working hard to lower the carbon footprint of our machine manufacturing processes, while we are also now designing our machines to be much more energy efficient, less wasteful of resources such as water, and to minimize process waste.
Philippe Milliet, Bobst, head of Business Unit Sheet-fed
3. How will digital printing develop/affect the future?
What is new to brand owners is the availability of industrial levels of digital print and all that this offers in terms of versioning, personalisation, shorter runs, and faster time to market for new products.
We have had some interesting discussions with brand owners while developing our digital machines. What is becoming clear is that brand owners have started to take on board that the benefits of digital print can be maximised if the packaging becomes fully integrated into a digital product marketing concept. By grasping the full potential of digital print, packaging really can become a personalised interactive communication tool with the end user.
The packaging industry is set to profit from the exploitation of new technologies to enhance the consumers’ experience. Digital packaging is the latest truly disruptive media.
4. How do you see the future of litholamination?
It’s an interesting time for the litholamination industry. There has been a huge growth in demand for litholaminated products to replace both folding boxboard products and transit cases — because they are lighter and more protective than the former and more attractive than the latter.
We expect to see continuously escalating demand in highgrowth countries such as India and China, where straightforward equipment is sought after. In established markets the demand will continue to be for quality enhancement and cost reduction, especially in technology that can reduce adhesive use while ensuring the stability and strength of the litholaminated sheet.