Long past are the days when consumer goods were packaged in nothing but rigid containers, like cans, boxes, or bottles. Influenced by numerous factors such as cost, environmental concerns, new consumer lifestyles, and others, we’ve seen a steady migration from rigid containers to flexible packages. They’re also arriving in an ever-expanding array of substrates, sizes, and shapes.
Dynamics prompting the transition to flexible packaging are several: the need to reduce the expenses of production and shipping, e.g., using containers with lower weights; the intensifying focus on lowering carbon footprints; the increased demand among younger consumers for more product convenience, such as via spouts and resealable packages; and, tighter scrutiny on product quality and safety, protecting and preserving contents from gas, moisture, light, flavor, and odor.
Flexible Packaging is the Fourth Largest Printing Segment
Generating US$ 65 billion in revenue, flexible packaging print production ranks as the fourth-largest print segment in the entire US$901 billion print industry – exceeded only by commercial printing, folding carton, and magazines.1
As with other print segments, flexible packaging activity dipped during the recession years (2008-2009). Starting its rebound in 2010, however, the market has enjoyed consistent growth and is expected to hit US$71 billion by 2016. Having reached maturity in North America and Western Europe, the market is forecast to expand nearly twice as fast in Asia, at a CAGR of 7.9%.
Flexible Packaging: A Mixed Menu of Form and Function
Using 78% of all global flexible packaging, the food and beverage industries lead all others by a wide margin. The combined healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries are second at 12%, while pet food accounts for 2.6% of flexible packaging purchases.2
Flexible packaging prints come in a wide range of forms, including pouches and bags, sachets, and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). Pouches and bags are produced in layered plastics, and are used for fast moving consumer goods. For example, stand-up pouches have replaced a significant portion of folding cartons, plastics, glass, and cans. Sachets small disposable bags typically containing single-use amounts of “squeezable” products, such as ketchup or shampoo. Designed to extend content shelf life, MAP substrates alter the gaseous environment for perishable foods, such as fresh fish and meats, poultry, sausages, entrées, bakery products, pasta, pizza, fruit, and vegetables.
Digital Printing Faces the Flexible Packaging Challenge
With the standard for excellent print quality established by gravure and/or flexo technology, the market will always insist on the same high levels of quality from any other digital or analog device. Opaque white is also a must-have, as are Pantone® matching and spot colors, special inks, substrates up to 41 inches, and media thickness ranging from 9 – 120 microns.
What’s been lacking in flexible package printing, however, is technology that produces 5,000-meter runs together with the quality, color, speed, and substrate support that fits industry expectations.
Nanography®: A Fresh, New Solution for Flexible Packaging Printing
Yielding the lowest cost-per-sheet of any current digital print technology, Landa Nanographic Printing® Presses addresses the critical issues facing flexible packaging. It matches the features of analog and/or flexo print production – high quality and speed. And, as a digital solution, it delivers short-run, variable print output.
The Landa Nanographic Printing® Presses produce throughput up to 100 m/min. Using water-based Landa NanoInk® colorants with efficient, light-absorbing nanopigments, the printing presses deliver a wide color gamut using CMYK; they also match more than 75% of the Pantone color chart.
The Landa Nanographic Printing® Presses are the only digital solution that can support all off-the-shelf flexible packaging substrates – without priming or pretreatment and operate side-by-side with analog equipment – without any special environmental requirements.