The main material for the production of a folding carton is cardboard, which is regarded as a cost-efficient and ecologic material with fine mechanical characteristics and printing properties. It has many advantages that define its widespread use in the production of different types of packaging, and it is associated with the use of various printing techniques.
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One of the crucial stages of packaging development is printing design, and the overall success of the product in the market may significantly depend on the quality of operations at this phase of package manufacturing. Nowadays, the most popular methods of printing on cardboard are offset printing and flexography. However, it is considered that the selection of these techniques is more appropriate for large production runs, and their use in smaller runs is associated with significant cost inefficiency.
To achieve greater cost efficiency and printing quality for smaller production volumes, it can be suggested to use such methods as digital printing, and risograph printing as their implementation helps to reduce the time of packaging production, faster customization of design without the involvement of skilled specialists.
Digital printing implies the production of replicable items mediated through the implementation of digital machines that print the information uploaded from the electronic carriers and stations. This technique allows the obtainment of both multicolored and monochrome prints of high quality, and it can be implemented for multiple materials. Digital printing is one of the most efficient and cheap methods of printing for smaller production runs (Shifting to digital label printing, 2016).
Moreover, prior to the printing of a batch, it is possible to print a sample which is impossible to get in offset printing as the time-consuming and cost-consuming prepress preparations are required for this. Thus, the digital method facilitates the design amending, the printing of variable data, and printing personalization (Shifting to digital label printing, 2016).
The major precedence of digital printing over offset printing is the speed of finished items’ production. Along with the mentioned advantages, this technique is associated with a good quality of printing due to high resolution and high-frequency linearity of the printed images and templates (Shifting to digital label printing, 2016). Computerization of the printing process allows us to avoid overlay of colors and allows the disguising of defects, which cannot be done in many other printing techniques.
At the same time, it is not recommended to use digital printing while shifting towards larger production runs because as the manufacturing volume rises, the productivity and cost-efficiency in digital printing significantly drops (Ryynänen, Sirviö, Tanninen, & Lindell, 2011). The researchers claim that a company may encounter the difficulties of manufacturing when using digital machines for label and packaging printing.
As Ryynänen et al. (2011) state, it is challenging to achieve profitability increase while printing a limited number of personalized stickers and packages a day as the outputs in digital printing are substantially lower than the outputs that can be obtained when applying a regular flow production methods and traditional printing techniques. Based on this, nowadays, digital printing cannot compete with offset printing for large production volumes as it entails significant financial burdens, reduces productivity, and requires the development of an effectively organized working environment that would support the optimization of speed and flexibility of the processes.
For an initial small production run, it is also possible to use risograph printing – a technique that combines the advantages of digital and silk screen printing (Get started with risograph printing, 2014). The beneficial effects of this method use include the high quality of the finished print, good productivity, and efficient use of raw materials. Moreover, risograph printing does not imply the implementation of highly skilled personnel.
The simplicity of machine use makes the technique one of the most popular methods of polygraphic production and prints’ replication. However, the major disadvantage of this technique is the inability to get a full-color image because when printing, color ink are superposed on each other, and it interferes with the obtaining of intermediate colors and halftones (Get started with risograph printing, 2014). Therefore, it is possible to say that the risograph cannot compete with digital or offset printing methods, but its’ use can be justified in printing simple images comprised of a few colors and for a small production line.
In case the product goes into the larger production runs, it can be recommended to use one of the popular printing methods: offset printing or flexography. These techniques are interrelated with greater efforts for production preparation, additional expenditures, and level of skillfulness in machine operation, but, at the same time, they are capable of producing higher-quality items and improving the overall perception of the product.
For example, the duration of the offset printing process primarily depends on the complex prepress procedures: design, makeup, scanning, preparation of the images for printing, color proofs, color separation, development of layouts and photo forms, etc. (Wilken et al., 2013). The cost of preparation activities is sufficiently high. Thus, it is recommended to use this method only for printing in large volumes because the prepress costs are usually estimated for the product run as a whole, and the larger the production run is, the lower the net cost of an item becomes.
Flexography is one of the most common printing methods as it has almost an unlimited capability of printing on diverse materials from paper to foil and different types of plastic. Flexographic machines have a high speed of production, but, at the same time, they are associated with low efficiency during the transition from one run to another (Moore, 2008). Therefore, flexography should be used for large runs to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of other resources’ use needed for the service of the complex printing machines and operation maintenance.
Similarly to offset printing techniques, flexographic forms have a high run length, which results in the reduction of production costs in large production runs. However, flexography has an advantage over offset technique – it can freely change the length and width of printing and allows the use of the form, which is appropriate for particular circumstances (Moore, 2008). In some cases, it helps to increase productivity.
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An offset machine is indifferent to the size of the carton – whether it has maximal proportions or takes only 75% of the area – and its productivity remains the same while, in this case, a flexographic machine will work two times faster. Therefore, from the economic point of view, it is possible to say that the implementation of flexography for larger production runs is reasonable because, despite the big initial investments in prepress preparation and service maintenance, it has a good cost-productivity ratio which makes the recoupment term significantly lower.
Get started with risograph printing. (2014). CB: Creative Blog. Web.
Moore, N. L. (2008). The printing of paper and packaging materials. Review of Progress in Coloration and Related Topics, 9(1), 72-87.
Ryynänen, M., Sirviö, P., Tanninen, P., & Lindell, H. (2011). A productivity study of digital printing in the packaging industry. Packaging Technology and Science, 25(2), 119-124. Web.
Shifting to digital label printing: Pros and cons. (2016). Xeikon. Web.
Wilken, R., Pollex, I., Stahl, S., Dörsam, E., Klein, R., & Miletić, M. (2013). Paper and board converting and printing. Holik/Handbook of Paper and Board Handbook of Paper and Board, 911-981. Web.