A meeting with Mike Olds and Rob Hunt (market development manager) provides a sense of excitement at what can now be offered to the local market, thanks to Bowler Plastics’ investment in ground-breaking digital printing equipment that complements the company’s already well-developed laminate tube-forming processes.
Not only does this move to digital printing save on prepress costs, notably litho plates, it also allows photo quality images, reduces time to market and provides a great alternative to labelling tubes.
The bottom line is a new-found ability to print short runs at a fraction of the cost of other printing methods, offering laminated tubes to the market at competitive prices, and providing a real alternative to other packaging formats.
According to Mike Olds, this considerably opens up the custom-printed market for small series tubes.
‘Production runs below 10 000 do not suffer the same exponentially rising costs incurred using litho, silkscreen or flexographic processes,’ he explains. ‘Combined with high resolution (over 600dpi) printing, simplified DTP methods and local capability, we’re able to provide excellent value, especially in competition to Far East offerings,’ he continues.
While this is particularly encouraging for emerging enterprises, it also means that larger manufacturers can afford to use beautifully-printed tubes for promotional marketing and samples, seasonal products and numerous product variants.
Perfect for ‘standardised customisation’
‘There’s long been a need in the market for small volumes of tubes, but this has only been offered at premium prices,’ says Rob Hunt. ‘Thanks to this investment, we can now supply tubes at lower cost while offering fast turnaround times. This lends itself perfectly to the current trend towards “customised standardisation”, and also allows companies to buy locally and helps to safeguard our industry and much-needed jobs here in South Africa.’
According to Rob, the food industry is one sector that presents strong opportunities, with local food processors keen to promote the convenience of tubes and the smaller portion sizes that are commonplace on overseas markets for products such as pastes, spreads and sauces. And, as Mike Olds points out, the barrier properties offered by laminated tubes are significant, thanks to the inclusion of EVOH or aluminium layers.
Death knell for litho?
Does this mean that digital printing is replacing other printing processes for tubes? ‘No,’ answers Mike Olds emphatically. ‘It simply means we’re offering another option relevant to the needs of a growing market. Our litho printing department is going strong and of course we continue to offer tubes to the premium sector. The difference is that litho printing is on formed tubes while digital print is applied to the laminate web prior to forming.’
The digital printing department is set apart from the rest of the factory in its own atmosphere-controlled room. The four-colour (CMYK) printer is capable of high production runs and, aside from the outstanding quality of the graphic reproduction, allows printing right up to the shoulder of the tube, providing improved tube aesthetics.
These digitally-printed tubes are currently available in three sizes – from 30 to 170ml – and these sizes are dictated by the diameter of the laminate, currently produced in three diameters – 25mm, 35mm and 40mm.
As Rob Hunt explains, speed is a major factor in the trial process for customers. ‘We’re now in a position to make tubes affordable, and we can now play the tube market – in fact, we can create a whole new market sector – offering convenience and affordability for smaller operations.’