In the packaging industry, designers are always looking for the next thing that will set them apart. After all, the packaging is very competitive—with so many products on the shelf, yours has to stand out or risk being left behind for a flashier or more modern-looking package.
Packaging designers are taking full advantage of one of the most innovative and unique sectors of the printing and finishing industry: full-service digital printers, which offer design, printing, and finishing services for a fully integrated service solution that’s very appealing to smaller-batch packaging designers.
The Advantages of Digital Print Finishing for Packaging
- Customizability: Digital printing services not only offer totally customizable products but a massive variety of finishing techniques including, but not limited to, CNC machining, lathing, tangential knife cutting and creasing, and even laser cutting at some more advanced print shops.
These advanced techniques allow for some incredible results when combined with great packaging design—delicate filigrees, embellishing, and embossing can be achieved with metallic and plastic substrates, and many intricate die-cut patterns can also be crafted for a distinctive look. And with the capability of doing short runs very quickly, sample-making and custom packaging for your own shipping are now possible.
- Speed: While analog may long have been the reigning champion of efficiency and quick turnaround times, digital print is catching up quickly, and some digital shops have surpassed the speed of comparable analog shops.
The main ways that digital shops increase speed and efficiency are by reducing the lead times and setup needed for projects and by combining stations and machines to reduce the amount of time spent shuttling materials and projects back and forth between various assembly processes.
- Enhanced Creative Options: Specialized machines, such as the VersaTech 2, are capable of spectacular specialty packaging details; such as digital braille finishes, vintage designs etched onto substrates one layer at a time; innovative security labels; and even quick customization for individual packaging, such as limited edition numbers or personalized packaging.
The Disadvantages of Digital Print Finishing for Packaging
Given all these advantages, you may be wondering why digital print finishing isn’t already an industry standard in the packaging industry. Well, the main reason for this is high cost.
Although digital printing is often more cost effective for small-scale jobs because of smaller lead times and the lack of need for economies of scale, the cost of digital printing increases as job sizes get larger and larger. For intensive, high-volume packaging products, it’s still hard to beat the sheer size and scalability of large-scale analog printing shops.
However, this may change in the future. The digital print industry is growing in a massive way, and it may not be long before digital shops challenge their analog counterparts. Perhaps even within the decade, digital shops will have a more cost-efficient business model that allows finishing of products in larger batches and will open up the world to a huge variety of customizable, intricate, and beautiful packaging. When talking about shorter runs or prototyping, there is nothing more efficient than digital printing and finishing. As more packaging companies are beginning to do their digital printing, this option becomes increasingly attractive.
If you’re a packaging designer, work in the packaging or printing industry, or are just curious about these niches, you’re going to be watching closely over the next several years as the digital printing industry continues to grow.
There is a huge opportunity here not just to make money but to make detailed and beautiful packaging that’s cheaper and more customizable than anything that’s commonplace on the market today.