The UK’s Glossop Cartons made waves in the converting industry when it became the first to sign on the dotted line as a customer for Highcon’s Euclid digital carton cutting and creasing system for short-run packaging. David Pittman spoke to directors Brian and Jacky Sidebottom about the investment, and what it means for the future of the company.
Retail packaging manufacturer Glossop Cartons has adopted a conservative investment strategy in its three decades serving the UK market with printed packaging, from cartons and display units, to blister pack cards and hanging cards.
This has included recent investments in a Mitsubishi D3000LX B1 format litho press, complementing a Mitsubishi V3000 press already installed at its plant in Derbyshire, and a Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 UV LED inkjet printer.
However, this reserved investment protocol went by the wayside when, at the end of January, its directors visited Plantin in Brussels, Belgium, to see a Highcon Euclid demonstration unit.
The Euclid is one of a new breed of cutting-edge technologies from across the packaging supply chain that promise great benefits, particularly when it comes to managing and improving digital printing workflows.
Plantin is a member of the Staples group of companies, itself a European distribution partner of Highcon that sells, supports and services the Euclid in Italy, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Greece. A Euclid was installed in Brussels to showcase the system at the end of 2012.
This has already paid off with Belgium’s Antilope Group and Glossop Cartons signing up as the first two customers for Highcon, with Glossop’s decision to invest made on the day of its visit.
‘I still really can’t believe we were the first to sign up,’ says Glossop Cartons director Jacky Sidebottom.
‘We’ve always taken a conservative approach to investment, and made sure that any equipment we buy will work for us and our customers.’
Her husband Brian (pictured, top speaking with Highcon's Chris Baker), a fellow director at the company, says it and Highcon will have a collaborative relationship, as, ‘we will be able to provide it with commercial applications, and will be able to test what the unit can do and find new applications for it’.
The Highcon Euclid is a system designed to alleviate bottlenecks caused by delays in die supply, long setup times and error or design correction/editing, often associated with analog converting and finishing, and which are heightened when using digital printing due to faster make-ready capabilities earlier in the production cycle.
Glossop Cartons is not currently using digital printing, instead operating litho presses, although it is looking at introducing a more comprehensive digital solution, and attended last year’s Drupa to find out more about the latest digital printing processes.
With the Euclid, Glossop Cartons is looking to enhance various facets of its business, such as creativity, responsiveness and reducing the time it takes to bring packaging to market.
Highcon says this makes Glossop Cartons an ideal customer for it to work with to promote the flexibility and potential creativity offered by digital cutting and creasing.
Brian Sidebottom says: ‘The Euclid offers benefits to conventional print processes as well as digital. As an example, we’re able to offer savings by ganging short-run orders together without incurring the cost of producing specific dies each time.’
The Euclid was debuted at Drupa, and since then, Highcon has continued to develop the process, addressing technical issues, such as the level of scorching created along the laser-cut edges.
‘We knew about some of the initial issues that were being spoken about, but the progress made since Drupa has been huge,’ says Brian Sidebottom. ‘The initial problems with scorching of the substrate have gone from being visible to being negligible, and the improvements will only continue.’
The pair will also look at further processes, such as how to strip away waste; possibly digitally by burning away the excess material. Brian Sidebottom notes that this would require the work that has been put into creating a focused laser to produce intricate and detailed cutting being reversed to burn away larger areas.
‘As a partner, we will be one of the first to receive any advances and developments that can be retrofitted and enhance the Euclid’s potential.’
Despite not being installed until early spring, Glossop Cartons has already benefitted from the Euclid after making its expo debut at February’s Packaging Innovations (pictured, below), and reporting heavy footfall and interest from attendees. It was also able to book orders directly off the back of its presence at the show, which also included a pair of Packaging Superheroes walking the show floor.
Highcon’s vice-president of sales and business development Chris Baker says other converters, primarily across Europe but also extending into North America, will soon be able to capitalize on the interest generated by digital carton converting, including those in other print markets looking at packaging as a way to diversify their business.
‘More sales in Europe are to be announced soon, but we’re also seeing the commercial printing market take more of an interest in the system.
‘Commercial printers tend to be more au fait with digital processes than the existing packaging market, and with the pressure that market is under, they are looking to see if they can make it, and the economics of packaging, work for them.’