HP and Packaging: First Placement of T-Series Inkjet for Corrugated

Bob Leahey
Sep 3, 2014

HP announced on August 27 that a Czech corrugated converter, Obaly Morava, has recently installed the first HP T400 Simplex Color Inkjet Web Press to print corrugated liner stock in process colors. The news has two important features: (1) Obaly Morava will be the first to use HP’s thermal inkjet T-Series presses for packaging; (2) the corrugated market gains a major new entrant in the business of single pass color digital printing of laminate for corrugated carton application.  (Color digital printing of corrugated is now part of InfoTrends’ annual forecast for the digital printing of packaging, http://store.infotrendsresearch.com/product_p/140581.htm.)

Obaly Morava, which installed the press in June, produces a broad range of corrugated products for use in the Czech Republic and other countries, including up to nine-layer corrugated board and

HP T400 Web Press

boxes. The company produces pre-printed corrugated top liners on the T400 in back-to-back runs on the same substrate rolls, and then transfers the pre-printed rolls to its corrugator to produce corrugated board for packaging applications.

Such lamination-type printing for corrugated so far has been the exclusive domain of offset and other analog printing, where a high quality color printed layer is produced, then later laminated with the remaining components to form corrugated board, then ultimately erected to form containers or displays.

Corrugated Primary Packaging

As is true everywhere else in the packaging market, brand owners are driving the transition from conventional technology to full color digital printing of laminate for corrugated applications. This is happening as branded SKUs are growing, the better to target markets with customized products; corrugated is going far beyond its traditional role of transporting products and is increasingly used to market them as well. Good options to print short runs of corrugated in full color are wanted, whether to print shelf packaging or free standing displays or even some primary packaging. Digital printing, in this case “digital lamination” printing, is a good option.

The HP T400 Simplex press brings to corrugated the basic specs that have helped it in commercial printing and book printing, namely CMYK colors, a 42” web width, and print speed  up to 800 feet per minute. It uses pigmented, water-based pigment inks to print coated and uncoated paper to print up to 12,000 square meters per hour. For uncoated paper, the system applies a bonding agent wherever ink will be jetted. For both uncoated and coated papers, the T400 applies a priming agent as a water-based flood coat, also prior to printing; various grades of paper are possible substrates, including recycled grades. Drying is by infrared drier and hot air convection.

Big Iron

Full color printing of corrugated, in the Czech Republic, at up to 4 million square meters per month; what’s the significance? First, there’s the geographic angle: even in Central Europe there’s a strong market for full color corrugated, printed in short runs, i.e., it’s not just for large retailers such as Costco in the U.S. and Aldi in Germany. Then there’s the HP angle: while most of the headlines about HP in packaging have concerned HP Indigo presses (first for labels, now for folding cartons and flexible packaging), as well as HP Scitex wide format printers, HP’s Graphics Solutions Business, the umbrella that covers all HP printing, is aiming products from the complete HP digital printing portfolio at packaging, wherever there’s a fit. Thus for corrugated there is not just the T400 but also the HP Scitex flatbeds with scanning heads (HP Scitex FB10000 and 15000). Meanwhile, in tabletop color label printing and in package and product  coding, HP has at least 15 OEMs marketing printers based on HP thermal inkjet.

The last important angle is one we mentioned early on, that the T400 is a big single-pass web. Almost all full color digital printing systems for corrugated today are multi-pass systems with scanning heads, such as HP Scitex 10000, Inca Onset S40, and Engico Aqua 250, ones that print color exquisitely but slowly. By contrast, single pass printing connotes speed and productivity and it’s just starting in corrugated, thanks to products such as the Barbaran 1260 press and the Memjet-based Xanté Excelagraphix 4200 printer, each a flatbed using fixed line heads one meter wide or wider.

HP has voted in favor of single pass full color digital print for corrugated by steering its T-Series to that application. Other manufacturers will follow, either with laminate printing as described above or direct printing of corrugated media, as planned by the Bobst-Kodak partnership. Resolve: Expect to hear of more single pass presses printing corrugated, by HP T Series systems and by others.




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