UK based tradeshop Victory Graphics and corrugated printer Caps Cases have won Miraclon-sponsored Global Flexo Innovation Awards.
Produced for luxury fashion brand The Rake, the entry won UK-based Victory and Caps a Silver award for its creative use of graphic design in a successful conversion to flexo from offset. Victory used a single Kodak Flexcel NX Plate to create the black-and-white, photographic-quality image, with its mix of highlights and dark shadows.
The entry is an example of the ‘unboxing’ phenomenon that has taken on an increasingly important role in retailing and packaging since the first ‘unboxing’ video — subject, the Nokia E61 phone — hit YouTube in 2006.
Judge Ken McGuire, from Procter & Gamble, said: ‘The outside of the shipment box is very plain, but when you open it there’s this delightful, surprising artwork — a very striking black-and-white high-quality image. It shows the brand equity and gives the consumer a delightful surprise when they open the package. This is exciting for brand owners because it delivers an experience that you can’t get in bricks-and-mortar.’
Karl Pampus, Victory Graphics owner and managing director, said that this new opportunity for corrugated has not gone unnoticed by the company’s printer customers: ‘A number have invested in presses specifically designed for this type of work, to print — in a single pass — two or three colors on one side, and one or two on the other, saving press time and consumables.’
Reducing production costs was an important factor in The Rake packaging project, explained Victory Graphics operations director, Dean Darby. ‘We and Caps Cases were asked by Macfarlane Packaging to explore flexo post-print as an alternative to litho-lamination, which was proving too expensive. Digital had been ruled out on the same grounds. They knew the advantages flexo offered — lower cost, shorter lead times and more flexibility on smaller lots — so the only question was whether flexo could match the visual impact of the litho printed product.’
The result was obtained in combination of Victory’s digital capabilities, Flexcel NX Plates and Caps’ on-press expertise.
The job reportedly cost 30 percent less than the litho equivalent, and the lead time for re-orders was slashed by 50 percent from six days to just three. This encouraged The Rake to order short runs.
Caps printed the job using plant-based inks. Macfarlane has since entrusted other litho-to-flexo conversion jobs to Caps and Victory.
Originally a supplier of coating plates, Victory Graphics entered the corrugated flexo market in 2014 and in 2016 installed the Kodak Flexcel NX System, complete with large-format 50x80in imaging unit.
Pampus added that Flexcel NX Technology has enabled the company to target a distinct market segment — ‘independent corrugated sheet-fed operations that want to print more higher-margin, premium-quality work. In many cases, their presses are older models with lower specifications, but by running Flexcel NX Plates they produce excellent solid coverage, crisp reverses and fine tones — often reproducing both line and tone on one plate. We see our job as enabling them to compete for quality work they previously thought was beyond them, and delivering on-press benefits, too, such as getting to color faster, and longer intervals between plate cleaning stops.’
Pampus and Darby have embarked with a fresh focus on high-quality flexo labels using a new, automated workflow specifically designed for label customers. The system enables job submission and tracking and minimizes manual interventions and errors. Branded Print Pilot — it has said to be been well received in trials with label customers and is in the early stages of a controlled roll-out, initially to customers with internal studios.
Explained Darby: ‘Customers submit one-up artwork and job parameters via the portal, but that’s the extent of their input. From then on, they can chart its real-time progress through the departments and get live updates via smartphone. The jobs are stepped automatically, and customers can check files separation by separation before the plates are produced.’
Pampus said that Flexcel NX Technology enable the premium finishes for the drinks sector, plus the reliability and consistency on-press cements a coherent workflow.
Process automation along these lines is critical to Victory’s business plan. He sees huge opportunities for flexo to take work from litho and gravure, despite a slight slowdown in transitions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.