Process Spotlight: Print
With low minimum order quantities, quick speed to market and the ability to create bespoke packaging solutions tailored to specific product needs, it’s not surprising that digitally printed flexible packaging is the first choice for many retail brands. That being said, there is a lot that goes into producing our award-winning packaging. From design to quality control, this series will give an in-depth insight into the process of producing digitally printed flexible packaging.
Following on from our blog post highlighting the graphics and pre-press process, we’re going to give you a breakdown of the digital print process including what it is, how it works and why it’s a beneficial choice for all brands regardless of their size or market offering.
What is digital print?
Digital printing is the process of printing digital-based images directly onto a variety of media substrates. Unlike traditional print methods, there is no need for individual printing plates. Digital files such as PDFs or desktop publishing files can be sent directly to a digital printing press and printed on the substrate of choice.
How does digital print work?
Digital print is a highly technical process that uses electrically charged ink to control the placement of a design image onto the flexible packaging substrate. Through the process of thermal transfer, one of the five process colour inks engages with a plate, creating an image. the ink transfers from the plate to a cylinder called a blanket using an electric field. The image then transfers from the blanket onto the media that is being printed. This process is repeated until all colour separations have been accumulated onto the substrate.
The Foxpak print process
Once an artwork file is approved in our pre-press department, it is sent to one of our digital printing presses. Print operators reference internal job dockets and determine the correct material spec. They then load the substrates into the printer and adjust the web guides to the width of the material. Each print job goes through a number of quality checks before, during and after production. Firstly, designs are checked against their colour proof. This is a manual check conducted by each operator under a lightbox to ensure the best continuity of colour. While under the lightbox they also check the design’s text and barcodes to ensure they are clear and well printed. Throughout the print run operators will measure the material width and repeat lengths and make adjustments where necessary. Once the job is finished, the reel is covered and stored for collection to be laminated. As part of our quality control process, we keep a proof on file for every job that is printed. This allows our operators to colour match for the next order.
Benefits of Digital Print
There are numerous benefits of choosing digital print over traditional offset print options. Below are a few examples of how digital print can benefit every brand regardless of size and market offering.
Achieving colour accuracy is often a top concern for brands. The use of process colour (CMYK + white) gives digital print the widest colour gamut allowing us to match up to 97% of the PANTON range. This means we can assure continuity in brand colour across all of our material specs and print options. Digital print offers supreme colour capabilities. Our presses can seamlessly switch the order of colour separation in a given design to offer a wider colour range, different levels of opaqueness and special print effects such as metallic lustres and watermarks.
Digital print offers superior image quality. The highly technical process is fully controlled. Each drop of ink is transferred manually through electric charges, maintaining precise contact throughout the print process. This extremely accurate placement leads to superior print quality even at high speeds.
Digital print differs from traditional printing methods as digital presses do not require printing plates. This makes it a much more flexible and agile option in situations where speed to market is key. Perfect for prototypes, launch quantities and small runs, digital print provides value to brands in multiple scenarios.
In today’s instant world, connectivity plays a vital role in everyday life. Packaging is a touchpoint for the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to end-user. Digital print enables brands to include connectivity features on their packaging such as personalisation, variable data printing, QR codes and AR/VR technology. Not only do these features improve user experience creating brand loyalty and increased sales, but they can also be used to create supply chain efficiencies for the brand itself.
Increasingly, brands are moving towards a circular model of sustainability, particularly when it comes to their product and packaging. By utilising digital print brands can reduce their levels of obsolete packaging waste associated with delistings, legislative changes, rebrands and seasonal promotions.
If your brand is looking to invest in quality packaging, our team will guide you through the entire process, providing recommendations on increased sustainability, helping to improve efficiencies and adding expert and award-winning value to your end product.