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New direct print helps graphics really pop on corrugated packagingNew direct print helps graphics really pop on corrugated packaging

3 Min Read
New direct print helps graphics really pop on corrugated packaging

With retail-ready and ecommerce packaging continuing to grow rapidly in the United States, high-quality graphics on corrugated packaging will be vital in capturing consumers’ attention on shelf and elevating their at-home opening experience.

Sutherland Packaging now provides direct color print on corrugated packaging, including club-store packs and single-piece point-of-purchase (POP) displays that are shipped flat and then pop open. With subsequent folding and locking, the displays offer high side and column strength that allows them to withstand damage and deliver brand impact at the point of purchase.

This direct-to-corrugated flexographic process prints up to five colors at 65 to 85 line screen resolution with the linerboard already attached to the corrugated flutes. This eliminates the need for a lithographic label, saving both material costs and the time/effort to apply the label to improve speed to market. Plus, direct print graphics can extend beyond the size limitations of a costly label. And, without a label and its adhesive, the printed corrugated packaging is easily recycled.

In addition to investing in capital equipment, Sutherland Packaging hired print and color industry technicians and converted machine operators into “color artisans” to achieve highly precise high-impact graphics on large- and small-scale corrugated units.

Eric Stanton, sales manager for Sutherland Packaging, explains more, including specifics about the cost- and time-saving benefits:

How is Sutherland able to direct-print without damaging/flattening the flutes during the printing process?

Stanton: This is performed using a kiss impression utilizing CTP [computer to plate] plating as thin as 0.125 mounted to a 0.155 carrier sheet, and able to adjust on press with impression to the 1/1,000 of an inch.

How well does this printing process work with the different flute sizes? Do you get better results with smaller flutes (E and F, for example)?

Stanton: We print mostly B and E flute.

What five colors does Sutherland use for printing?

Stanton: That is determined by the art—typically cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), also known as CMYK, plus a spot, or some modified process replacing one of the components of CMYK.

The company invested in capital equipment…what specifically?

Stanton: An ink kitchen and the press we are using, which is a 66x126-inch Apstar HG Flexo Rotary Die Cutter.

What is involved in a customer’s initial short-term investment in the direct print process?

Stanton: This includes the purchase of the plating material, whose price is dependent on the square footage of the plate.

What are the benefits of printing POP displays/packaging at this high quality?

Stanton: Primarily (1) speed to market and (2) cost.

How much time does this process save compared to litho-labeled corrugated POP displays/packaging?

Stanton: Typically, at least a week.

What are the typical cost savings compared to litho-labeled corrugated POP displays/packaging?

Stanton: This will vary by quantity and repeatability. We have some clients saving a few thousand dollars per run, and as much as $500K over a three-year period.

What are the cost savings compared to preprinted linerboard?

Stanton: Preprinted liner board is usually subject to high volume and dependent on line screen.

Is this process/innovation available only on Sutherland’s “tower” POP displays/packaging?

Stanton: No. The process is available throughout our entire service capabilities portfolio.

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.

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