After 28 years, the Midcomp Group continues to deliver on its brand promise of acting as a ‘catalyst for growth’ by supplying industry-leading digital printing and finishing equipment, and educating customers about the benefits of digital branding and personalisation.
In the view of Sean Greer, Midcomp Group’s marketing director, South Africa is lagging about three years behind the digital printing curve when compared to developed markets. Since 2014, Midcomp has invested heavily in educating brand owners and corrugated/folding carton converters about the possibilities of digital personalisation campaigns, highlighting ways to achieve improved returns on investments by adding value to their products at the same time getting converters accustomed to the production agility required to meet demands for shorter run lengths.
‘The ability to take a packaging design, tweak it, digitally print 50 different variations and test the concept in the market in a short turnaround time is very different from the lengthy and expensive traditional market trial strategy, which requires some 5 000 flexo-printed sheets for economies of scale,’ Sean explains.
‘These educational programmes and project partnerships have been vital steps in transitioning local converters to the complementary use of digital and conventional print – depending on brand owner turnaround time and run lengths requirements.’
As previously reported, Midcomp’s leading example of exploiting the power of digital branding in the fresh produce sector was producing the world’s first digitallyprinted pallet branding in partnership with Mpact Corrugated and ZZ2 tomatoes (PPM June 2016).
‘To create a canvas on the side of each 1.8m x 1.2m pallet load of boxes, we used HP SmartStream Designer, a plugin for Adobe Illustrator or Indesign, which generates millions of unique variations and underpins some of the most effective mass customisation marketing campaigns,’ Sean explains.
This canvas was made up of 156 boxes, with each box forming one part of the variable data image; and was printed on an HP Page Wide XL8000 press with a maximum throughput of 1 079m²/hour. Additionally, thanks to the HP SmartStream software’s ultrafast processor and native PDF management, it starts printing in half the time of equivalent software programs. This, in turn, reduces job preparation and finishing costs by up to 50%.
To make this pallet branding concept commercially viable it can be adapted to digitally print an E-flute sheet (2.5 wide by an infinite length) on the HP Latex R2000 press to fit each pallet so that from one metre away it resembles individually-printed cartons, including the necessary outlines and barcodes. This option allows the packhouse to pack, palletise and secure the standard carton load as usual and secure the branding sheet on one side of the pallet with netting so that ventilation holes remain unaffected.
Special occasion gift packs
A more recent collaboration that showcased the versatility and flexibility achievable by the latest digital printing hardware and software technologies was the production of 400 limited-edition Redrock Brewery craft beer gift packs, produced on Midcomp and Kemtek’s joint Propak Africa stand (PPM April 2019).
Each unique beer label, created by Banie Stafford Graphic Design and Zippy Labels, was printed on the HP Indigo 6900 digital press using Mosaic SmartStream software. Each pair of Bad Moon and Rusty Trigger brews was then packed in a folding carton printed on Midcomp’s HP Latex R2000 flatbed printer and precision cut on a Zünd G3 L-2500.
According to Sean, this flatbed printer was the ideal choice for the 400 gift packs because, in addition to ticking all the food-grade ink boxes, its highly-flexible water-based latex inks stretch and don’t crack when creased and folded.
Furthermore, the printer’s productivity rates are enhanced by a high-accuracy belt-driven system for continuous loading workflow, along with automatic maintenance, smart vacuum and assisted loading. Additionally, proactive alerts and preventive services mean more uptime with less intervention.
Boosting cutting efficiencies
From a digital cutting perspective, the biggest efficiency gains during the job came from the Zünd Cut Center software that facilitated every aspect of the production workflow – from file import and production planning, to cutting data optimisation, cutting system management, and remote production monitoring. ‘The software makes the digital cutter more intuitive so that it quickly learns what to do. In this case, we used a robotic arm to position and orientate the board and after confirming these for the first four copies, the system automatically repeated the action,’ Sean explains.
Other beneficial features of the software package are highlighted by Sean as the intelligent materials database, tool usage monitoring, job identification and email notifications.
Based on the cutter configuration and available tools, the software suggests ideal tooling for the job. In addition, it monitors processing distances of each blade in use and compares these with job data. To prevent production interruptions, the system suggests a blade replacement before processing begins.
The software assists operators by simplifying job identification and retrieval. It applies QR codes to each substrate, then automatically retrieves cutting data and begins job processing.
Operators can also specify the processes that trigger email notifications to alert them to any necessary actions – for instance, when a job is completed or experiences unexpected interruptions.