Hybrid printing is a hot topic in the printing and printed packaging industries, but its definition tends to change slightly depending on who you are talking to. Some print shops profess to offer hybrid printing since they have both digital and analogue technologies under one roof. The technologies are not integrated but are leveraged independently or sequentially through the print workflow. Other print shops leverage hybrid presses which are designed as standalone solutions with no integration of existing analogue equipment.
However, there is a third option. And it is proving more and more popular with printers and converters adopting hybrid printing: integrating a digital solution that can match quality and printing speeds onto existing conventional equipment. This allows for a customised hybrid solution that is 100% tailored to the printing operation's needs and breathes new life into its equipment without having to make a major financial investment.
Integrating a hybrid digital solution onto conventional presses is especially beneficial for mail, security, gaming, newspaper, label and corrugated printers as well as folding and flexible carton converters. More than 1,500 Kodak Prosper S-series imprinting solutions have already been installed for a wide range of application around the world.
And while it has been widely adopted in the commercial print markets already mentioned, packaging convertors and brands are also quickly catching on to the value of integrating a digital solution onto their gravure, flexo and offset presses.
One of the key reasons for this has been the introduction of packaging inks and fluids that are safe for indirect food contact applications for folding carton, corrugated and flexible substrates. And, while packaging is increasing in volume printed, there are dramatic shifts to shorter runs and Sku proliferation, so a print run of 100,000 could really be ten runs of 10,000 each.
Brands are also significantly increasing their promotional programmes and e-commerce initiatives to better connect with the customer. However, these shorter and the need to add variable content cannot be produced cost effectively with conventional equipment and at times are difficult to produce with a digital press format. That is where hybrid printing offers the best of both worlds, enabling variable content and design freedom for brands, while allowing their converters the cost efficiency.
The opportunities that the integration of a digital system onto conventional presses brings are endless, although a good example of packaging takes us to Korea and China where emojis are the number one image used in promotions. It is easy to see the immediate flexibility and design freedom that a digital imprinting system, such as the Prosper-S-series imprinting system can bring.
Kodak is working closely with customers and prospects to determine the best hybrid set up that will maximise their productivity. Today, packaging printers and converters can invest in a digital imprinting system that keeps up with their conventional equipment, running at speeds of up to 300 metres per minutes while continuing to achieve exceptional quality.