Photo-quality CMYK digital printing of plastic caps opens up more colorful choices for brand owners wanting packaging that makes a stronger impression with consumers.
Digital printing is revolutionizing packaging by offering custom, even personalized variations that give products on-shelf distinction. Labels, cartons, corrugated and other packaging substrates have provided the eye-catching billboard for this kind of impactful draw for consumers. Now Omega Packaging has pioneered what owner Jack Oh believes is a breakthrough new kind of decorating option for packaging: Custom digital printing of plastic caps and closures. Some highlights:
* CMYK digital process, printing directly onto polypropylene caps;
* No screens or plates required, so changing artwork or colors is simple;
* Low-migration UV-cured ink is suitable for food packaging;
* Can print very small text, barcodes, and photographic images;
* Variable data is possible;
* 1-color print or 1,000 color print costs the same;
* Low minimums on orders.
How rare is this capability? "There are many closure manufacturers who offer one- or two-color offset or pad printing onto caps,” says Oh, “but I don't know of any other closure manufacturer who offers this new technology. Not only does it offer full color, but it makes shorter runs and quicker turnarounds possible.”
Oh answers the rest of Packaging Digest’s questions in this Q&A.
Packaging Digest’s custom-printed samples printed from submitted JPG graphics files were turned around in a surprisingly short timeframe.
What sparked the idea?
Oh: Our customers have been requesting that we offer decorating services for some time. We were initially looking at screen and pad printing, but came across digital inkjet printing at a trade show in Europe. It was clear that this was the future of printing. After some research, it turned out that building our own equipment was the best solution for us.
What market trend does this tap?
Oh: Customers increasingly want shorter lead-times, smaller batches, higher quality, and more customization. Digital printing taps into all of these trends and is why, as Packaging Digest has reported, the label-making industry itself is shifting towards digital print.
What’s the benefits vs. applying a printed label to a closure?
Oh: This is basically the same technology, but the ink is applied directly to the part, rather than the label. Compared to using a printed label, this process eliminates the label material and adhesive, as well as the need to apply the label. The elimination of the label substrate is also considered by some to be a more sustainable approach to packaging.
Please describe the setup and printing speeds.
Oh: We built our own inkjet printing machine, using industry components (print heads). It unexpectedly ended up this way because I couldn't find a machine to buy that was suitable for us. The field is so new, that there aren't many standard machines available to buy.
I hesitate to share the details of the setup, due to our proprietary equipment. But there are no screens, plates or other tooling required. Also, the process is as fast or faster than screen, pad or offset printing.
What are the specifications of the results?
Oh: We currently use 4 ink colors (CMYK) and print at 360 dpi. In the future we'll add a white ink head, to allow us to print on dark color parts. We use a UV-curable ink designed for food and pharma packaging.
What artwork files can you accept?
Oh: PDF or TIF files at high resolution are preferred. But we can work with other formats like AI or JPG if necessary.
What range of caps can you print?
Oh: We're currently only printing on our own closures, which are polypropylene (PP) and range in size from 48mm up to 120mm. But we've done test prints on parts as small as 14mm diameter.
What are minimum/maximum order sizes?
Oh: Minimum order size is 1,000 pieces. No maximum order size! The printing service adds approximately 5 to 10 cents to the cost of each cap, depending on size of the cap and the quantity.
And with our digital CMYK process, the cost of printing 1 color or 1,000 colors is the same. Our typical lead-time is 1-2 weeks, assuming the unprinted caps are in stock.
What’s the status?
Oh: We're in the process of sampling and testing for a few customers, but there are not currently any products being sold on shelves yet. It's only been a few weeks since we finished the testing on our custom printing machine to ready it for production.
Anything else to mention?
Oh: Digital printing allows us to move away from the traditional practice of quoting a closure print job as one or two colors. With the ability to print simple logos and tiny text all the way up to photographic images, bar-codes, and variable data, this technology opens up possibilities never considered before.
This editor was “capped” in a personalized example that demonstrates the inherent flexibility of digital printing now extended to closures.