Developer/New Product Packaging
The new product packaging material will be a folding carton with a three color print. This packaging product will be produced in a small town in China before the finished product is shipped and sold in the US. For the first smaller runs, the carton packaging material will consider direct printing methods and when the packaging product is successful, pre-printing methods should be considered.
- Direct printing
This is done by printing directly on the packaging material and in this case, the folding carton. Being the most common method of printing on packaging material, direct printing is the best for the first smaller runs and the printing can be done through flexography, screen printing or digital printing.
This is a form of direct printing whereby the desired image, pictures or wording are applied directly to the surface of the carton. Flexography works like a large rubber stamp whereby flexible plates are developed to illustrate the desired artwork, plates are mounted on cylinders, ink applied to raised areas and then the ink is transferred to the surface of the packaging in the form of the desired art work. Flexography can be used on a range of packaging materials including corrugated boxes, flexible cartons, and labels, among others. Flexography works best with simple graphics and a few colors, usually between one and six colors (Mostafa, 2015). This type of direct printing is economical and cost effective especially for the first small runs. Further, choosing a higher grade and finer fluting corrugated paper or carton will help achieve better print quality. However, flexography printing has a few limitations including poor photo quality of images, lesser print quality and cannot take more colors.
- Screen printing
This is another form of direct printing whereby ink is forced through a screen mesh and the ink is then transferred to the desired areas of the substrate while shielding other areas. Compared to flexography, screen printing achieves a more colorful and glossier outcome for all the colors involved. Screen printing could also be used on a range of packaging materials including corrugated boxes, labels, among others. However, compared to flexography, the per unit cost of screen printing is higher and so it is best for shorter press runs (Mostafa, 2015).
- Digital printing
In digital printing, ink is applied directly to the surface of the packaging material the same way a desktop printer would do. Digital printing does not involve any print plates and so it is easier to achieve full color on the desired surface. This is a leading direct printing method used in paper packaging materials mainly because the final print is of high quality and high resolution image (Seidl, 2016). Digital printing could be done on both rigid and flexible surfaces and is cost effective for artworks that need full color. Further, digital printing has a short turnaround time and offers an option for modifying the image used for each impression. Digital printing is however costly for large volumes and the per unit costs are high.
Out of the three options for direct printing, flexography is best suited for high volume jobs that use very few colors. In this case, since the package will be a folding carton using three colors and needed in small volumes at first, flexography would be the best option. Further, it would be cost effective and fast of the packaging products need to be produced and shipped fast to the US as need arises. However, packaging companies will often require a high volume minimum order for them to be profitable and since the American company will not need huge volumes at first, flexography will not be as cost effective as expected.
The second best option will be digital printing mainly because it has no minimum orders and so it is ideal for a production-ready prototype. The first smaller runs can therefore be printed through digital printing and for high volume orders, flexography printing could be considered. Other advantages of digital printing over flexography are the full color graphics options and the short run advantages (Greasley, 2016).
If the product does well and goes into larger production runs, then pre-printing would be the best option. Pre-printing is different from direct printing in that it involves printing the artwork on a piece of paper first and then gluing the paper on the packaging box. Pre-printing is ideal when one wants to achieve high quality printing that cannot be achieved through direct printing. Pre-printing can be achieved through various methods including:
- Printing on the linerboard
The desired artwork is first printed on the linerboard, which is then glued on the packaging material for best quality. The linerboard used for this purpose could be white in color, coated, kraft, or solid bleached. However, the use of linerboard requires a high volume order for the printing to be economical mainly because the linerboard is a large roll that could weigh almost a ton and the client has to purchase the entire roll (Dehanker, Langde, Siddiqui & Tidke, 2014).
- Laminating paper board on the packaging material
This involves laminating the entire packaging material with a paper board that contains a printout of the desired artwork. The advantage of laminating on paperboard over using the linerboard is that it is more durable and offers more strength to the folding carton (Levenson, 2016).
In this method of pre-printing, the label is printed using lithographic printing press after which the label is glued on the packaging box. The main advantage of this printing method is that the print is of excellent quality, allows full color and achieves photo quality graphics. However, it is more expensive per unit than other pre-printing methods. High volumes are also required for this printing method.
Considering the three pre-printing methods and the printing needs of the American company, the best printing method would be litho-labeling. This is because this option offers a high print quality, could use more than four colors and is most ideal for folding cartons. Further, it allows the client to opt for specialty coatings to achieve a higher perceived value. If the product does well and goes into larger production runs, it would be important to improve the quality of the printed artwork by increasing the number of colors and achieving photo quality graphic. This will help the packaging cartons to appeal more to customers.