In January, iPak’s digital plant invested in Caldera Grandrip+, installed by Midcomp, to improve the workflow between its wide-format digital printers – the JHF V2800 LED cure UV flatbed and the HP Latex 335 printer – and its cutters, the HP Latex 64 cutter and the Zünd G3-L2500 digital flatbed cutter.
Midcomp director and sales executive, Navin Jeewanlall, explains that the version 14 Rip software program’s intuitive user interface and operating system makes it simple for the operators to manage the workflow quickly and reliably by organising the printing and finishing jobs. The software rips the print and cut files from a single PDF file and sends the print files to the JHF V2800 or HP Latex 335 for printing and the cut files to the Zünd or HP Latex 64 for cutting.
According to Navin, the software’s four beneficial features are GrandCut for speedy generation of print to cut files; Contour Nesting to detect the cut contours for optimised nesting and media savings; the EasyMedia step-by-step wizard for powerful colour management across multiple devices and APPE 5.5, Adobe’s print engine for reliable and scalable PDF printing in demanding production environments.
iPak’s head of operations, Jaco Malan, explains that short-run digital packaging requires a different lead time approach and equipment set-up to long-run carton production. Traditionally, for small quantities of 50 to 100 cartons, the corrugated plant’s smalls department will not set up a printer plotter; instead it performs a labour-intensive five-stage process using a slitter, creaser and beam slotter.
To alleviate the manual process work (which can take up to two weeks for 50 boxes) and service the increasing demands of entrepreneurs, who can’t afford the minimum conventional print order quantities of 5 000 boxes, iPak completed its digital plant in July 2020. The Zünd digital cutter helps speed up the short-run production and ensures average delivery times of 24 to 48 hours.
Ipak has also found that some long-run order customers, who desperately need 50 or 100 boxes and can’t wait for their traditional orders, opt for the digital plant to fulfil the shortfall. ‘Our customers value this additional service option because it alleviates pressure situations.’
Next-level prototyping and hybrid formats
The digital plant has also transformed prototype production. Traditionally, on receiving a new long-run order, iPak would play out a flat proof to scale for customer approval, before spending large amounts of money on new tooling (printing plates and rotary cutting dies). An alternative option was to cut out the proof and apply it to the corrugated board before doing a CNC cut sample to make the final mock-up version of what the actual box would look like.
The group’s digital division has now simplified the prototyping process and enhanced the end result quality. ‘The JHF V2800 flatbed printer now digitally prints the designs directly to the corrugated board and the Zünd cuts it out digitally. This enables the team to make up the exact box prototype within a day and send it to the customer to ensure correct print, size and presentation before sign off, the plates and rotary cutting tools are then ordered,’ Jaco explains.
The division’s investment in the Zünd digital cutter, which can cut any type of material, has also opened up hybrid packaging opportunities for corporate gifting and online gift stores. ‘A prime example is a presentation pack consisting of folding carton board, paper and foam inserts to artfully and securely display a bottle of spirits and accompanying branded glasses,’ Jaco reports.
He adds that customers requiring a solid board base and lid type of box with customised embellishments for luxury cosmetic products and/or other types of gifting can opt for a rigid (1.8mm) solid board material that is then hand wrapped. The HP Latex 335 print and cut machine prints the design on a high stretch self-adhesive vinyl substrate that is trimmed to fit and then further wrapped around the lid and base, using hand method wrapping skills.
These examples, Jaco stresses, illustrate Ipak’s digital plant’s commitment to servicing the short-run customised packaging needs of entry-level entrepreneurs and e-commerce ventures, which are navigating the pandemic influenced consumer economy.
COVID-19 lockdown regulations and restrictions on event hosting forced Thirst Bar Services – which provides mobile bar services for business and private events, including artisanal coffee bars, cocktails and bubbly on tap and pop-up or seasonal bars scaled to fit brand briefs and budgets – to reinvent its business model.
‘When our team launched the online store, it collaborated with iPak to create a range of gift boxes, which have become our strongest assets during this challenging period,’ remarks MD Clyde Ackerman. ‘The quality of work, turnaround times and attention to detail are impeccable. It reflects the fact that our dealings with iPak have always been very professional.’