Digital Printing in the Packaging Market

A row of colorful tea boxes with a green background

Digital printing has moved dramatically into numerous segments – wide format and ceramic tiles, for example, are almost all digitally printed, and labels are moving in that direction. Packaging, in the view of many industry leaders, is the next great frontier for inkjet. Flexible packaging is being printed on HP Indigo, EFI Jetrion and Xeikon presses, and EFI and HP are moving into the corrugated market.
In its report, “Digital Printing Packaging Market by Packaging Technology (Thermal Transfer, Electrophotography & Electrostatic, Inkjet), Packaging Type (Labels, Flexible Packaging), Ink Type, Printing Format, Application, and Region – Global Forecast to 2026,” projects the digital printing packaging market size at $11.42 billion in 2016, expanding to $42.11 billion by 2026. This works out to a CAGR of 13.9%.

It’s easy to see why packaging can be digitally printed.  The “Share a Coke” campaign was a huge success. The company used 250 of the most popular names, and printed them on shrink sleeves for their 20-ounce bottles. The company generated huge amounts of social media buzz, adding a reported 25 million Facebook followers and generating 500,000 photos on the #shareacoke hashtag, according to Investopedia. Coca-Cola also reported a 2% increase in sales.

Customization and regionalization can draw more customers, but shorter print runs are not feasible with conventional printing. Running sleeves with 250 names is a sweet spot for digital printing, however. It should come as no surprise that conventional ink manufacturers see this as a growing trend.

Siegwerk CEO Herbert Forker reported that Siegwerk is currently heavily engaged in the development of inks and coatings for digital printing of packaging and labels,.

“Among other solutions, we see digital printing as an answer to the growing demand for short runs driven by brand owner differentiation strategies,” Forker said. “While major brand owners are today looking for increased one-on-one communication with the consumer, emerging local brands demand smaller lot sizes and faster time to market. This is where digital printing offers the perfect fit on a marketing and technical level. Apart from personalization and regionalization, digital printing technologies, and inkjet printing in particular, can be employed for aesthetic design and finishing solutions such as digital varnishing or special/haptic effects.”

In order to drive the development of innovative digital printing inks that meet all printing process functionality and efficiency requirements, Siegwerk works closely with customers and has extended its R&D capabilities in a dedicated inkjet laboratory at its Technical Center in Annemasse, France.

“From our perspective, UV inkjet is perfect for narrow web printing on thick material such as labels and direct-to-pack, while water-based inkjet is the most promising technology for single pass large width printing on corrugated and flexible packaging,” Forker observed. “Both technologies are also suitable for printing on folding carton. Overall, we see a growing demand for application-driven ink systems and especially for inkjet ink customization. With our already-launched inkjet inks for labels we combine our longtime formulation knowledge, our comprehensive application know-how and our deep expertise in food packaging regulations with digital printing process requirements to deliver customized inkjet solutions for demanding food, pharma and hygiene applications.”

Masa Nagatsubo, GM, Liquid Ink Business Division of Toyo Ink America, LLC, said Toyo Ink Group has targeted digital printing for packaging applications as a strategic growth area.

“As demonstrated at drupa 2016 and other exhibitions over the past few years, the Group has developed and continues to refine our digital solutions for the packaging industry such as aqueous inkjet technology for high-speed printing and-low migration UV inkjet inks that are compliant with food packaging guidelines. Demand for digital printing is expected to grow as its processes and press technology advance area,” Nagatsubo added.

Felipe Mellado, chief marketing officer, Sun Chemical, noted that there are certainly opportunities for digital printing in packaging, and inkjet is gradually moving toward widespread acceptance. He added that Sun Chemical’s global inkjet ink division, SunJet, has an ink development team that is split into technology categories and market categories.

“Our products must meet legislative requirements, be first class in quality, be used in all countries, and be labeled properly,” Mellado added. “Our inks need to be highly functional.”

“Flint Group’s Digital Solutions Division, Xeikon, is a leading manufacturer of digital printing platforms, which include toner-based and now UV inkjet technologies,” said Deanna Klemesrud, global marketing director-Brand & Promo, Packaging & Narrow Web for Flint Group. “Our Digital Solutions group offers a unique mix of equipment, consumables and services.”

Food packaging is a particular area of interest, notably with low migration. Mellado said Sun Chemical understands the legislative requirements and needs of the food packaging sector.

“As digital presses are used in more and more applications, we have to ensure that our inkjet inks meet the needs of the users, converters for major brands, and have developed a range of low migration UV inks,” Mellado observed. “The low migration inks offer sub 10ppb for materials where this is required, comply with European standards, such as the Swiss Ordnance, are EUPIA compliant, and have been manufactured in accordance to good manufacturing practices. SunJet’s UV curing inkjet inks are able to meet these requirements in cooperation with our OEMs and their customers.”

Siegwerk’s digital product offering focuses on UV technology.

“With Sicura Jet, we offer a low odor UV inkjet ink series for labels used in hygiene, household or industrial segments, and with Sicura NutriJet, we offer a low migration UV inkjet ink series dedicated to labels and direct-to-pack for food and pharma applications,” said Forker. “Furthermore, water-based inkjet inks for packaging applications are already under development together with equipment partners.”

“The increased demand for migration optimized ink systems is due to existing and upcoming regulations for food-related applications,” Forker added. “In the packaging market, there is a steady increase in regulatory efforts worldwide that is driven by stringent regulations like the current Swiss ordinance or policies from large global brand owners. Product safety is the most important and most challenging aspect of packaging. Siegwerk has a team exclusively dedicated to adhering to the regulatory compliance and brand owner requirements to ensure that our inks are safe for end-use applications. Our inks and varnishes for food packaging are formulated and manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice and take into consideration the varying parameters relating to the substrate, application and end use. Siegwerk has implemented a comprehensive raw material introduction process striving to achieve complete knowledge of the chemical composition of all raw materials intended for food packaging inks.”

To learn more about digital printing options please contact us at: Pioneer Packaging Worldwide

Scroll to Top