Use of digital printers has significantly increased due to the advantages offered over conventional technologies such as digital printing reduces the number of steps in packaging workflow, simplifies print in-line variable data, reduces wastage of ink and is environmentally friendly as it uses mineral oil-based inks. Moreover, non-label printing technologies are also expected to grow significantly in future, due to the capability of digital printers to print on a substrate like glass, aluminum and wood. For instance, Xerox in 2016 launched a digital printer that can be used to print on blister packs, clamshells, lids before thermoforming.
According to the report by Future Market Insights (FMI), in terms of product type in digital printing for packaging market, labels segment is expected to hold the significant market share, exceeding 70% by 2027 end. The highest market share of labels segment is attributed to the increasing demand for consumer goods and labels in printing on large scale. While the labels and folding cartons segment are together are expected to exceed 80% of global market share by the end of 2027. Digital printing is also witnessing huge demand for usage in shrink sleeves, due to its ability to customize each label while printing and reduced operational costs.
Top trends transforming digital print for packaging
Number of key trends are expected to emerge shaping the future of digital printing for packaging
Rapid growth of inject process
Electrophotography presses printing using liquid or powder toner is being widely used in label production. However, soon it will be replaced by inject process. It is a non-contact process which uses liquid inks discharged from precision heads on the substrate that then is dried using a different mechanism. This process is considered more suited for printing larger formats on various substrates and can also be integrated easily into existing conversion lines.
Rise of 3D printing for packaging
Creating a solid image by laying down differently shaped layers of material on top of one another using several color combinations, 3D printing is becoming more popular for packaging. With the increase in availability of 3D printers, businesses are able to reduce the costs of printing. As 3D printing does not require several machines or processes. 3D printing technology also helps in creating a rapid prototype of a concept with color graphics and text.
Adoption of electronics in packaging
Printing in packaging is about to witness digital capability through the adoption of electronics. For example, development of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and printed electronics are being developed for packaging, with an idea of offering the ability to interact directly with a pack. Other types of tags are also being examined including Near Field Communication (NFC) and low energy Bluetooth tags.
Moving printing process closer to manufacturing
There has also been a rise in large companies shifting the printing process closer to their manufacturing units filling the gap between manufacturing and ensuring the final product is packaged properly. Packaging can be printed quickly on digital machines, allows the manufacturer to make required changes in design or written matter on a label. This eliminates the errors and saves the cost of the whole printing process.
However, there has been an increase in the in-house printing of labels by manufacturers using SKUs produced by barcode label printers.