‘Virtually all packaging press lines sold today are hybrid lines because unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – there’s no single print process that is best at everything. Yet brand owners want the best for every aspect of their product,’ he points out.
Increased competition on supermarket shelves means that packaging is every bit as important as its contents, as brand owners and private labels battle to gain market share. Sophisticated design features can transform a product into a canvas for brand promotion and retail opportunities, but they can also create new technical challenges, forcing printers and converters to have as many processes at their disposal as possible.
‘Combining a wider array of technologies into a single integrated system provides the converter with flexibility in terms of designs and effects, economics in terms of image costs (offset’s big advantage), print quality in terms of both image detail and effects such as opaques, metallics, protective lacquers, etc,’ David continues. ‘This is why lithography, flexography, gravure, screen and inkjet processes are all still used in packaging today and why I believe they will all remain relevant for a long time to come.’
Whatever the mix of processes required to print a particular packaging product, the crucial factor is profitability and the need to maintain a viable business model. While accommodating the latest production trends to make brands ‘pop’ from across the aisle, each additional process comes with potential complications in terms of makeready, changeovers and overall production times. Clearly, workflows should be as integrated and seamless as possible.
In David’s view, web offset offers a distinct advantage in providing far greater flexibility and control, and allowing converters to offer later artwork deadlines to customers. The relative simplicity of offset platemaking also means that converters can manage the process in-house rather than buying plates or engraved cylinders from external suppliers.
Changes can be made quickly, easily and cost-effectively.
Whilst combining embellishment techniques such as foil stamping into a web offset press line can bring challenges to running at full press speed, Goss engineers work closely with auxiliary equipment suppliers to overcome these challenges and provide optimum solutions for each application. Integrating flexo or gravure units is no issue in this respect. Consequently using offset as the base a press line can be assembled that prints fine line detail and small image areas at full speed – without the bounce you can get on a flexo line, for example – while enjoying the benefit of an integrated flexo or gravure unit for large areas of opaque white or protective/decorative lacquers.
‘Although,’ as David maintains, ‘there’s no off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solution, Goss web offset makes an ideal base for a combination printing system, especially attractive with the trend for increased numbers of SKUs, shorter run lengths and more frequent design changes. An integrated approach is a defining feature of our overall solution, so we can deliver low cost image changes and high print quality as the baseline from web offset, and embrace the inherent advantages of flexo and gravure. Goss has been and always will be a full systems integrator and, it’s very much part of our offerings for other markets too, especially commercial printing where digital/offset hybrid presses are fast becoming our new norm.’