Kodak: Big in packaging, but not yet in digital printing for packaging

Bob Leahey
Dec 5, 2011

Kodak recently gave another reminder to the market that it is a big company in packaging world, albeit so far not as a supplier of digital printers for packaging. That said, the company has great potential to someday be a major supplier of inkjet printing for packaging.
At the PLMA Private Label Trade Show in Chicago in November, Kodak showed its prepress solutions for packaging, including two 2011 developments. One is the Kodak Design2Launch Brand Manager, a centralized digital workflow and brand-asset management solution. The other is the recent addition to the company’s “Traceless” security solution called the Kodak Traceless AD System, to combat product diversion to gray market channels. Kodak Traceless AD is a security solution for manufacturers that uses a clear ink–not visible under UV or visible light–and a detection system to defend against gray market distributors. At its stand, Kodak had multiple other products associated with analog packaging printing. Examples are Kodak Recipe Color Profiler software to allow package printers and brand owners to more accurately predict colors on press in less time and with less waste. Also there were other plate and workflow solutions such as Kodak Trillian SP plates and Kodak Flexcel NS System.

While this technology news seems far removed from the color digital label and packaging press market, it does point out that Kodak is a big prepress brand supporting analog package and label printing. Meanwhile Kodak, which also had a big booth at Label Expo in September, has great potential to become a digital print technology supplier for the label and packaging markets. Kodak today is an inkjet giant, but only in document printing and bindery uses. While there is no commercially available color digital label or packaging printer from Kodak, there has been at least one development from Kodak that is relevant. In 2010 Kodak used its aqueous, dye-based Versamark technology to partner with Sun Automation to create the CorrStream color printer for corrugated point of purchase signage and similar uses. Basic specs are 45” print width across a corrugated sheet up to 60” wide, and up to 500 fpm speed; the printer uses up to 20 Kodak Versamark DH90 printheads to produce process color images suitable for corrugated applications such as POP displays and primary or secondary graphic image packaging. In a contact this month with Sun Automation, sales staff there said that one CorrStream color printer is being installed now, but for proprietary reasons could not name the customer. There have been no similar color printer announcements since the CorrStream introduction last year. However, we note that Kodak has many other inkjet print engines to work from. In addition, Kodak’s NexPress can be leveraged for packaging applications, but even the extended format size of the SX platform is a limiting factor for many packaging applications. A final note is that, as seen at the 2011 Private Label and Label Expo tradeshows, Kodak invests in its marketing to packaging and label converters. These companies today know Kodak well from its pre-press products, and could someday know it as a digital press supplier.

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