MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australian packaging giant Pact Group has installed and commissioned a new digital printing platform it claims will revolutionize plastic packaging's decorations in Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne-based Pact Group Holdings Ltd. has exclusive access to the technology in Australia and New Zealand. It is licensed from Polytype Converting AG, in Fribourg, Switzerland.
Pact's General Manager of Technology, Mark Nothnagel, told Plastics News the direct-to-container process is more efficient and more flexible than traditional off-set and in-mold label (IML) methods, eliminating the need for printing plates and color separations and reducing color variations.
The $US1.2 million digital technology platform prints images and designs directly onto polypropylene, polystyrene and polyethylene packaging, providing a quicker turn-around time.
Quality trials are in progress for PET products.
Nothnagel said: “This decoration technology will allow our customers to quickly and repeatedly change the design of their packaging to take advantage of one-off promotional opportunities. Direct-to-container digital print is the latest generation in decoration technology.
“Not only will digital print provide customers with flexible and enhanced branding opportunities, it will reduce the supply chain length substantially and streamline our manufacturing process.”
Nothnagel said Pact is optimistic digital technology is the start of a significant shift in branding on plastic products. He said the benefits include high resolution or photorealistic print images; the ability to decorate entire containers without needing shrink sleeves; fast response times; and the ability to print small runs or individualized packs.
“Traditional printing methods require a lead time of one to three weeks to set up before printing can start, depending on the method you use,” Nothnagel said. “If you want to change the design for a different package, you have to go through the whole process again. With digital printing you can bring your design in and start production of final articles within the hour. It opens a whole range of possibilities for companies that use plastic containers.”
Pact has commercialized the technology on a small-scale basis and is trialling it with several companies in Australia and New Zealand.
Nothnagel said digital will not replace other techniques, like IML, offset print or DuoSmart – a plastic container with an outer paper layer.
He said digital technology will be an alternative, more flexible option for manufacturers needing small or targeted runs.
“We believe this technology will one day be a major part of our production arsenal. At the moment it is about getting our customers used to the technology. We are introducing them to the flexibility of the process and showing them what it can do, then it will be up-scaled to meet their demands.”
Nothnagel said the digital option allows personalization of packaging “at a moment's notice.”
“We expect the technology will give customers access to a very fast response to seasonal or location-based promotions, online marketing campaigns and sponsorship activities,” he said.
Pact is about to launch a second digital platform for closures. The printer is being commissioned and will be operational by mid-2015.