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HP PageWide – converting convertors to digital

Friday, 23 February 2018
By Patrick Howard

David Tomer with an “offset quality” corrugated package in front of the C500 at the HP Scitex manufacturing plant in Caesarea, Israel.

A watershed moment has arrived for the packaging industry, especially the corrugated carton board sector, with the launch in Israel of the HP PageWide C500 press.

The digital revolution that has transformed the commercial printing sector over the past two decades is now about to do the same to the packaging industry. Led by the label sector, digital printing is not only changing how the industry works but also how brands and consumers interact. Even as narrow web digital presses, such as the HP Indigo Series 4, make inroads into analogue volumes, while accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of actual jobs, the elephant in the room is the corrugated packaging sector.

The packaging industry is worth $870 billion globally. The corrugated sector is a major sector and one of the last holdouts against digital. Largely a flexo printed, plain brown box affair in the midst of a colourful and increasingly customised world, it also represents a ubiquitous, but unexploited marketing channel for marketers struggling with the fragmentation of traditional media.

Digital inkjet, both pre-print and post-print, not only allows brands to utilise the packaging real estate with bright colourful graphics, it also solves a number of production and logistical problems in a fast moving world. As companies move more towards just-in-time (JIT) production there is less opportunity or appetite to retain inventory. With marketers looking to leverage events and seasons to customise their products, packaging convertors are faced with shorter runs and little lead-time. Both challenges can be met by the unique qualities of digital printing.

This is the opportunity being seized upon by Scitex, the HP company based in Israel. Best known for its sign and display presses, it has leveraged the huge HP technology infrastructure and experience in ink and thermal inkjet heads, to address the corrugated packaging market.

According to David Tomer, GM HP Scitex, convertors now need to be agile and flexible in order to meet their customers’ requirements. For this they need to move towards digital production. “It has become a necessity for convertors. There is no question that digital printing is the future of corrugated; the only question is how fast it will happen,” he said, at the launch of the HP PageWide C500 press this week in Netanya, Israel.

The first ‘alpha’ site for the inkjet behemoth is at Carmel Frenkel, a nearby convertor, with a second scheduled to go into Europe in March. All up, Tomer claims five signed orders will be delivered this year, with “dozens more in the pipeline. Convertors tell me they’ve been waiting for this technology for many years. In this case the market’s been ahead of the technology,” he said.

The revolutionary C500 is a single-pass, post-print, water-based press with just one speed, 75 linear metres per minute. (Post-print means it prints on the already created corrugated board, as opposed to pre-print whereby the printed sheet is attached in the construction of the fluted board.) It utilizes one million inkjet nozzles (1200 per inch) delivering six picoliter drops to produce high-quality graphics with clear distinct type. Robust in construction and designed to work a

David Tomer (center) with editors, John Kalkowski, US-based Packaging Strategies and Patrick Howard, Print21.

longside flexo presses in the some times harsh industrial packaging environments, it’s built as a mainstream corrugated press.

Tomer is keen to make the point that because the C500 is using water-based ink while delivering “offset quality,” it’s unquestionably suitable for the huge food packaging market. This represents more than 50% of the corrugated sector bringing the addressable market for the press to $3.5 billion in 2017 rising to $5.5 billion in 2023.

“We’re now the only one with both pre-print and post-print technology,” said Tomer, referring to the company’s existing 15500 and 17000 HDR-based pre-print machines, which it’s been delivering for a number of years. There are a good number of them in the local Australian converting sector, which will have to wait at least a year before it can access the new press. The C500 is designed to bring more efficiency to the production process and show all the signs of being the first shot in a revolution that will change corrugated packaging forever.





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