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Focus On

Packaging Equipment

With sustainability, marketing, and personalisation aiding growth in the packaging sector, Carys Evans explores the technology needed for businesses to successfully move into this market

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Versioned folding boxes made on a KAMA FF 52i folder gluer

Thinking outside the box

According to a study by Smithers Pira, the global packaging market was worth $906.5bn (£707bn) in 2018. In regional terms, Asia currently dominates the global packaging market, accounting for 42.5% of value sales in 2018.

For brand owners and retailers, Smithers Pira identified four key factors that are expected to play a crucial role across 2018-2028. These are development packaging for the e-commerce trade; aligning with brand-owners’ priorities in a globalised 21st century marketplace; offering increased customer convenience for on-the-go consumption; and integrating packaging with social media marketing campaigns.

O Factoid: According to Smithers Pira, the global packaging market was worth £707bn in 2018. O

With statistics identifying the packaging market to be steadily growing, more and more printers are looking for new ways to expand their services.

Basingstoke-based packaging firm, The Packaging Experts, offers full end-to-end support to its clients. From design to prototyping through to manufacturing, as well as storage, fulfilment and distribution. Offering a full range of services dependant on each client’s needs, The Packaging Experts operates on a ‘pick and mix’ basis where the client determines which elements they source from the firm, and which they can supply themselves. “For example, for some large retailers, we work on design and prototyping projects and supply the required information so they can source the manufacturing of their packag-ing directly from manufacturers in the Far East,” explains Paul Marsh, managing director of the firm.

“Additionally, printers supply us with sheet work for conversion or alternatively (and the most popular option), we offer full turnkey support to clients and manage all of the design and prototyping of products all the way through to the manufacturing process where we then build and ship products, consolidating with free-issued content.”

Having become involved in packaging whilst working for a software manufacturing company, Marsh set up The Packaging Experts five years ago, where he identified the need to invest in his own equipment to retain control of the quality of the finished products and harder to source services.

Marsh says: “At that time, we outsourced most of the manufacturing and the market was much larger, as manufacturing wasn’t being off-shored as much. Our investment strategy was very much that we wanted to have control within a very short space of time as we don’t want to be reliant on outsourced suppliers when we are working to tight deadlines.

“This came with its own set of challenges as we have recently increased the size of our premises to cater for our new equipment. We have in-house design, printing, foiling, gluing, taping, and cutting. The machines vary in size and capabilities, but I already have one eye on the next generation of machine that will help us broaden our offering even further.”

Have the right kit

Freidheim International offers a wide range of packaging and converting equipment for the traditional printer and finisher looking to get into the packaging markets. John Harrison, sales manager for Freidheim’s converting division says that simply having a packaging printer will not cut it in the packaging industry.

Simply having a packaging printer will not cut it in the packaging industry.

“Printers trying to get into the market have found that having a flexible and versatile die-cutter combined with a versatile folder gluer is key to gearing their production into a more economical model. A die-cutter with the added benefit of specialist finishing, excellent registration and a reputation for performance is at the forefront of many of their minds,” says Harrison.

The KAMA ProCut 76 die-cutter + foil

The KAMA ProCut 76 die-cutter and foil machine makes post-press processes highly flexible with more than ten different applications. The machine allows for hot foil stamping, hologram application, and cutting, creasing, perforating, kiss-cutting, and blind embossing for both commercial products of packaging.

According to Harrison, short runs are the ‘up and coming thing’ for packaging – driven by new product types, customised designs and multiple units of stock keeping. The KAMA FF 52i is the first folder gluer dedicated to short and digitally printed runs.

Folding boxes made using the KAMA FF 52i folder gluer

“Whether it’s beautifully finished folding boxes for beauty, healthcare and consumer goods, or versioned pharmaceutical boxes with Braille; with the network compatible FF 52i you will turn those short runs into a profitable business,” says Harrison.

Also designed for short-run box printing, is printing technologies developer, Xante’s corrugated box printer.

The EG 4800 uses Memjet head technology, stitching five heads together to be able to print 42” in width. “The really exciting thing about that device is we are able to print a foot a second, it’s very fast,” explains Mark Priede, vice president of sales at Xante.

The machine has been designed to perfectly suit short-run box printing and is ideal for customers who are looking to add variable data to their boxes and not have to carry huge quantities of one particular box.

Priede says: “For example, if an auto part store needed to print boxes and certainly they’ve got hundreds of thousands of hues for different parts as they get orders in, they can print that individual box with that orange hue on that box as opposed to having to have an inventory with a thousand different boxes with a thousand different hues when they only may use that hue five or six times a year.”

For businesses wanting to print enhancements on paper, lamination, water-based coatings, or PVC and carton, Scodix has nine applications which run efficiently on the Scodix Ultra 202, a digital enhancement machine built for short- to long-run carton work.

The Scodix Ultra 202 is ideal for businesses wanting to print enhancements on paper, lamination, water-based coatings, or PVC and carton

Scodix has brand specific applications; Scodix Sense for embossed effects; Scodix Foil which utilises all types of foil to deliver foil enhancement capabilities; Scodix Spot for silkscreen effects; Scodix VDP/VDE with barcode for personalisation including variable foil; Scodix Metallic enhance print with metallic colouring; Scodix Glitter for a digital glittering experience; Scodix Braille for short-run production; Scodix Crystals replacing the manual placement of chatons; and Scodix Cast & Cure for 3D holographic effects.

Harrison says: “By incorporating digital enhancement, print providers can expand their service offering with attention-grabbing applications. These include premium business cards, folders, book covers, brochures, labels, and packaging.”

According to Harrison, digital packaging has become a massive industry with some smart labels taking advantage of the personalisation afforded by digital print. “I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. People are developing new technologies to link up their brand experience and to add value to every aspect of their marketing, the quality, look and feel of the physical purchase will only increase with more attention to detail and cross-linking of technologies being involved,” he concludes.

Despite the rise in finishing and effects due to customer demand for personalisation and marketing requirements, Harrison says it’s not just about the effects. Sometimes the selling point is in the packaging itself – the quality of folding and gluing and the intricacies of the carton.

The Koenig & Bauer Duran Alius is a specialist folder-gluer for the packaging carton and converting industries. The machine allows the user to monitor production from external devices like a tablet or mobile phone. Compatible with Industry 4.0, Alius shares data via its OPC UA platform which allows its current production to be screened from any web browser. Available in three sizes, the Alius is fully servo driven with a top belt speed of 600m/min.

Bespoke boxes

Perfect Bindery Solutions provides a solution to high-volume commercial box manufacture in line with an increased demand for high-quality short-run boxes. According to Steve Giddins of Perfect Bindery, the boxes which have long been used in special editions of confectionery, perfumes and spirits are now increasingly being specified for presentation photobooks, exclusive property development prospectuses, art books and a wide variety of high-value and high-end products.

Giddins comments: “Commercial box manufacture is a high-volume affair requiring substantial quantities to justify the long makeready times of the industrial-scale equipment involved, leaving these smaller quantities, literally, in the hands of skilled workers – with all the cost, consistency and delivery time issues that implies.”

The IML Perfect Box solutions range by Perfect Bindery provides a solution to high-volume commercial box manufacture

According to Giddins, commercial printers are now beginning to recognise this as a key opportunity to help win high-value commissions in lucrative promotional print business sectors. Perfect Bindery offers the IML Perfect Box solutions range which includes equipment for processing both the board and the cover sheet, marrying the two and then forming the base and lid of the finished box.

“The semi-automated processes include cutting and trimming of the sheet and board, gluing, board grooving, corner cutting, edge and corner taping and wrapping of the completed sections. In combination with the latest digital printing, foiling, varnishing and embossing techniques this makes the short-run production of bespoke boxes a practical and cost-efficient proposition,” explains Giddins.

Have the end goal in mind

When choosing the right equipment to make the move into the packaging sector, Koenig & Bauer says it is important to establish the type of products you want to produce before you speak to your supplier.

“Our presses in sheet-fed can be supplied in half-format (B2), mid-format (B1) and large-format size, so the type of work and volumes required would determine the machine type as well as the options supplied with it,” explains Craig Bretherton, product and marketing manager of Koenig & Bauer.

“We can supply presses capable of producing plastics, boards and corrugated materials and each industry sector determines which options must be added to the press in order to process the substrates. An elevated press with materials handling equipment can also be very important due to the increased material thickness used for packaging products,” he says.

According to Bretherton, with the right equipment, producing special touches and features can produce a ‘mind-blowing’ amount of effects and finishes. Machines with a double coating facility such as the Rapida 106, mean it is possible to produce augmented reality coding within the images, or visual and tactile effects from coating and print units to draw customers to look closer at a product.

The type of work and volumes required determines the machine type needed, says Koenig & Bauer

“The most popular are matt/gloss and soft touch effects and these are often created by using a print unit located between the coating towers at the end of a press,” he says.

The Rapida 106 is a high-end sheetfed offset machine which Koenig & Bauer describes as ‘the makeready and production output world champion in medium-format.’ The machine is capable of production speeds of up to 20,000 sheets per hour making it the fastest press in its format class.

Koenig & Bauer states: “Thanks to a raft of unique automation solutions, such as the sidelay-free infeed, job changes and handling on the Rapida 106 are an absolute pleasure.”

Making the move

You have identified the necessary equipment, and you have the end goal of what you want to produce in mind, so how do you go about actually making the move?

Speak to the experts and keep on top of evolving and emerging trends, recommends Koenig & Bauer. “Political situations, trends and fashions for alternative lifestyles or legislation on items like plastic may bring about changes in demands,” explains Bretherton.

Seeking the right advice when unsure is a sure-fire way to avoid investing in the wrong equipment.  “We have become trusted advisors to some of the largest packaging producers in the world and we are well placed to advise in an unbiased way on the benefits of certain technologies alongside the potential pitfalls of investing in the wrong type of equipment,” concludes Bretherton.

Doing your research before making any leaps into investment and production is also necessary. Freidheim advises that simply turning your print company into a packaging company overnight won’t guarantee success. “One of the biggest hurdles is how one can sell their print/packaging to the customer,” says Harrison.

Simply turning your print company into a packaging company overnight won’t guarantee success

“I think a lot more focus needs to be done in the department. They need to show their customers exactly what they can achieve with the correct application of finishes and embellishments. Move away from simply quoting jobs and really find out the strategy behind the quote. That way selling a higher value product to the customers becomes easier and more beneficial to all parties,” adds Harrison.

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