Fast-forward to the future: digital printing

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

March 11, 2015

3 Min Read
Fast-forward to the future: digital printing

Mid-June in Philadelphia at the EastPack show, I had the pleasure of introducing one of the keynote speakers at the UBM Canon Presentation Theater. [Disclosure: UBM Canon, organizer of the EastPack show, owns Packaging Digest.] 

The speaker, Jim Carroll, is a futurist, an innovation and trends expert and author of several books, including "The Future Belongs to Those Who are Fast." In that book, he shares the best insights from the last 10 years of his blog posts at

One of his main points—made as far back as 2003 but one that's just as relevant now—is that "the rate of change is only going to increase."

We all know how busy life has gotten—personally and professionally. But there's one sentence from a video clip on Jim's site that so accurately illustrates this, that I want to share it with you. He was speaking to a group of golfers at the PGA about how his kids experience life differently. Jim has a list of 10 things his kids think are from the "olden days"—things like 35mm film, TV Guides and CDs (CDs?!). He sums it up this way: "Something that had recently been a part of my life, to them, they view it as a historical artifact."

Really puts life in perspective, doesn't it.

One result of this fast pace, Jim says, is that product lifecycles are collapsing—new products are here today, gone tomorrow. How can brands keep consumers interested year after year and purchase after purchase? One way is to keep the product packaging fresh and relevant. Jim cited smart packaging, such as Medea's vodka label with a programmable LED display, as an eye-catcher for consumers.

On the graphics side, advances in digital printing are making it easier than ever to refresh your brand's look. Look at what Coca-Cola was able to do for its "Share a Coca-Cola" campaign in Europe ( The project combined conventional printing with digital printing to create 800 million high-quality personalized labels. The iconic Coca-Cola logo was substituted on labels of Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola light and Coca-Cola Zero with 150 of the most popular first names, nicknames and terms of affection in each of the 32 countries involved in the distribution. 

What a clever way to engage consumers. And digital printing technology isn't limited to narrow- or mid-web applications anymore. HP's new roll-fed Indigo 20000 handles webs as wide as 30 inches, with image widths of 29 inches, bringing this into the realm of flexible packaging. According to The Converting Curmudgeon, Mark Spaulding, "[The HP Indigo 20000] supports 90 percent of all applications by printing on film, paper, aluminum and biodegradable substrates as thin as 10 microns and as thick as 250 microns. ...Standard CMYK is augmented by adding opaque white, as well as by optional 6- and 7-color printing. Speeds of 112 feet per minute in 4-color, and 147 fpm in an Enhanced Productivity Mode are offered. Five-color printing cuts that down to 88 fpm."

Fast enough...for now. Just think what tomorrow will bring. If digital printing isn't in your packaging design tool box, it should be.



About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like