Cut Print Production Cost & Improve Quality and Consistency


From the time Printing has been accepted as a means of communication, the effort has been to transfer ink from the tray to the substrate. There have been consistent developments and the target has been to improve the quality of fixed palette or expanded gamut print, for short or long run.


Different printing processes also developed to suit the printing of various substrates. All the printing processes have some common factors. These are:

  1. Transfer ink from a tray(container) to the substrate.
  2. Use the correct shade of ink to get the correct shade in print.
  3. Use the correct volume to get the correct depth.
  4. Distribute the ink uniformly to get even colour across the substrate and to get the correct tonal gradation.
  5. To use the best resolution possible on the press. This is not always true. As there are presses that can print higher resolution, but even than lower resolution is used:
    1. To suit the substrate being used
    2. To be safe with a lower resolution
  6. For multicolour printing to use CMYK + pantone inks of the correct hue and density for correct colour reproduction.

To achieve the above objective every effort has been directed towards improving the depth of the colour and range in print. In the process a higher volume of ink is being used that produces a thicker layer on the substrate and requires more energy to dry.

One look at the recent development that have taken place in the Flexo industry will show that all the photo polymer plate manufactures have tried to:

  • Target improved ink transfer in the solid areas to improve the ink transfer(increase the ink volume) to get a higher solid colour depth.
  • Trying hard to hold a finer dot(of 1% and below) of a finer screen ruling on plate, at a higher plate and equipment cost that add to the cost of processing the plates
  • This capability is limited to the use of special plates and software meant for use with these equipment.

All these require higher investments and add to the cost of production.

Almost all anilox roll manufacturers have tried to create a higher cell volume with finer screen rulings so as to provide the required depth of colour in the solids when using the finer screen on plate.

The time has come to look at the possibility of changing this by:

  1. Using standard lower density inks for most jobs, improving the printing of the highlights.
  2. Using a more uniform and thinner layer of ink, without losing the required print densities
  3. Improve press speed and production capacity
  4. Improve the colour gamut in print while eliminating the need to use pantone shade inks
  5. Black ink uses carbon as the main ingredient. The reduction or elimination of black ink in print makes printing more environment friendly and provides you with carbon credits. It makes packaging of food more healthy and less toxic.

That helps reduce the cost of printing, while producing a greater depth in colour, improving the print range and reducing the energy to dry the thinner layer of ink. When you do this change you:

  1. You eliminate the inventory of Pantone inks
  2. The make ready time required to match the colour in print, on the press. It also reduces the cost of wasted /unused Pantone shade inks in stock at the end of the year, every year.
  3. Reduce the anilox inventory and use the same anilox rolls for almost all jobs.
  4. Reduce the overhead costs, with reduced press down time, as you use the same anilox rolls for the same colour on the same station.

One notices that Gravure printing is able to achieve the highest print densities even though they use liquid inks, while in Offset printing the ink densities are the lowest. This is because the ink layer laid on the substrate, in offset, is the thinnest.

If we are to reduce the density of the inks we use in printing than the cost of the inks would come down. By reducing the ink density we are reducing the density of the highlight areas. This will reduce the effect of dot gain in the highlights, which is a major problem in flexo printing. This small change will enable us to print the fine highlight details easily and cleanly. It will also allow us to print the vignettes smoothly even when we use coarse screen with coarser screen anilox rolls. Even though the coarser screen anilox rolls use a higher cell volume and will provide a thicker layer of ink, the lower density in the highlights will reduce the effect of the dot gain to the eye and provide the required softness to the image.

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Making the Best of a Necessary Good: Marking, Identification & COOL


By Liz Churchill, Vice President for Sales & Marketing, and Lyndsey Farrow, Marketing Communications Specialist, Matthews Marking Systems

It’s easy to think of variable marking, coding and identification requirements as a necessary evil, but the truth is they’re a necessary good. Look at all the ways packaging codes and markings can benefit consumers, producers, retailers and the brand itself.

Documenting Origin and Freshness

Every smart shopper looks at the “best by” or “use by” code to make sure they’re getting a fresh product – and to judge whether items that have migrated to the back of the fridge need to be thrown out.

Country of origin labeling (COOL) for meats, fish, shellfish, nuts, fruits and vegetables can also benefit consumers by providing information to guide purchase decisions, and by helping packers, processors and retailers ensure the integrity and traceability of the food supply. COOL can be controversial, and the World Trade Organization recently ruled that mandatory COOL legislation in the U.S. for muscle-cut meats presents an unfair barrier to international trade.

However, companies and legislators who believe in the benefits are still pursuing options such as voluntary COOL – and mandatory COOL still applies to a wide range of consumable products. Most important, surveys have repeatedly shown that shoppers prefer to know where their foods come from, and the USDA has concluded that COOL benefits the consumer.

Shoppers usually get their way in the marketplace, and, whether mandatory or voluntary, labels identifying country of origin are likely to play a greater role in the decisions they make at the meat case and produce aisle.

Ensuring Authenticity and Safety

Far less controversial than COOL, but even more important to product safety, are the bar codes and other serialized markings used to identify individual lots, shipments and packages of drugs, cosmetics and other products for purposes of authentication and traceability.

Serialization codes are essential for supply-chain management and assurance. They provide the ability to track products from source to consumer, and to recall products quickly in the event of a problem. They support compliance with local regulations, such as varying tax codes or disclosure requirements in different jurisdictions. They can help ensure the supply chain is efficient and accountable. And they can help give consumers confidence that the products they consume are genuine and safe.

Delivering a Better Experience

Increasingly, variable marking is also being used to understand and respond to the preferences of individual shoppers. Serialized codes can be printed on loyalty cards, on promotional flyers and coupons, inside bottle caps, on product packages and more.

Variable codes and personalized graphics can engage shoppers and encourage them to take action – by participating in a contest, claiming a discount, earning a perk. And the data behind the markings can be used to help manage promotional programs and gain insight into each shopper’s behavior.

Serialization can also provide the data you need to determine whether goods are being purchased in-store or online, at which particular retailers, and even whether specific types of promotions are meeting their targets. Codes can even be used to help prevent a program from going viral and blowing through your promotional budget.

Strengthening and Protecting Brands

In the final analysis, all types of identification codes are about brand trust. The information printed on the package isn’t just data. It’s a story about where the item has been and how fresh it is. Reassurance that it’s safe to consume. Motivation to make the brand a part of the consumer’s everyday life.

That’s why most manufacturers will include codes such as “best by” dates even though there’s no regulatory requirement to do so. If the code isn’t present and trustworthy, shoppers won’t just abandon the purchase. They may abandon the brand.

Conversely, markings that are legible, helpful and reliable benefit everyone who touches the brand – from supply chain managers, to marketers, to retailers, to the shoppers who ultimately determine brand success.

Better Processes and Technologies for Better Marking, Coding and Identification

With all the good that variable marking and coding can do, why do brand owners, packaging engineers and production line managers regard it as a necessary evil? There are many reasons package and label markings can be costly, difficult to manage and error-prone. Here are the top three issues, and what you can do to address them.

  1. Print Quality. Poorly printed markings bring consequences. A juice bottle may be left on the shelf because the freshness date is illegible. A shopper may lose confidence in brand quality or authenticity if the label doesn’t “look right.” A recall may balloon to disastrous proportions if a defective bar code makes a bad lot of product untraceable.

A smudged “best by” date used to be regarded as acceptable, but that’s old thinking. There’s no reason today to accept anything less than the best possible print quality appropriate to the application. Labels and packages should be designed from the beginning to optimize marking requirements – from leaving a discrete space where state tax codes can be printed on a wine bottle label, all the way to printing logos and promotional information directly on the package in the same step as the variable code.

Brands that care about quality should also invest in the best available print technology. Big advancements in inkjet, thermal and laser printing have been made in just the past five years. In fact, the print quality, speed and control offered by today’s most advanced systems can rival the capabilities of traditional printing technologies – so variable markings can be designed as a seamless part of the preprinted package or label.

  1. Data Management. Regulations change. Different jurisdictions have different information and format requirements, even though the product in the package may be the same. Consider, for example, the sweeping changes to food labeling regulations that have come to the EU – or the new FDA regulations that will soon be changing the look and content of labels in the U.S.

To all that, add the complexity of managing multiple printing systems on multiple production lines – not only for primary packaging, but secondary and tertiary packaging as well. Brands need to centralize packaging design and printing control in order to respond quickly to content and format changes across all packaging types and minimize the risk of incorrectly coded packages.

An advanced, centralized print controller can be configured to draw product and supply chain information from official sources – such as product information databases, ERP systems and brand asset repositories. Based on this data, markings can be designed to meet the requirements of each regulation, label design and package type, with any changes propagated automatically to all printers of every type, anywhere.

3.Cost Control. Printing codes can affect production costs in several ways, especially when applying adhesive labels. For example, there’s the capital and maintenance costs for labeling equipment. There’s the cost of buying consumables such as print ribbons and adhesive labels, and of managing the waste they leave behind. There’s the cost of lost production and scrap when consumables need to be changed or when labeling creates a bottleneck on the production line. And there’s the cost of separately managing and storing preprinted boxes and labels.

While traditional preprinting and labeling methods will remain the preferred choice for many brands and marking applications, the speed, simplicity and quality of today’s direct-print systems can offer a cost-effective alternative in the right circumstances. Direct printing can help brands gain market flexibility while saving preprinting, warehousing and labeling costs. Depending on the package design, secondary and even primary packaging can be printed in a single step right on the production line – not just variable markings but also the brand logo, messaging, nutrition facts, promotions and more.

Turn a Necessary Good into an Opportunity

There are many other potential issues and strategies for addressing them. But the core takeaway is that variable marking and coding isn’t a necessary evil – it’s a positive good that benefits the consumer and the brand. More than that, it can be an opportunity to improve production processes while helping your brand stand apart in the marketplace.

With over 160 years of experience – leading up to today’s most advanced technologies – Matthews Marking Systems understands your marking and coding challenges, and how these challenges can be re-envisioned as opportunities for your brand. Visit our website for guidance on specific applications and a complete library of coding and marking resources.

Matthews Marking Systems is part of Matthews International Corporation, the parent company of SGK.

Liz Churchill_Matthews_headshotLiz Churchill, VP Sales and Marketing, Matthews Marking Systems has 30 years’ experience in the product identification area, identifying products through bar codes, text and graphics in industrial, CPG, pharmaceutical and medical device markets. With an Industrial and Systems Engineering degree from The Ohio State University, Liz has been issued two application patents for a track and trace system in the global wine market. Presently, Liz focuses on global sales and marketing, working with sister companies to provide winning solutions from primary packaging through distribution of products.

Lyndsey Farrow_Matthews_headshotLyndsey Farrow, Marketing Communications Specialist, is an expert in marking and coding requirements for a variety of industries with Matthews Marking Systems, a Division of Matthews International Corporation.

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Back Doctoring – Causes and Solutions


If you’ve ever experienced the hard deposits left by dripping inks and back doctoring, you know it can impact print quality, damage equipment, and cause cleaning and maintenance headaches… but wouldn’t you also like to know why it keeps happening?


It starts seemingly simple enough – with visible ink leakage dripping in the catch pan under the doctor blade chamber. Yet, when seals and calibration settings are checked there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. But the proof is right there in the pan and on your equipment.

Your problem could be due to back doctoring.

When excess ink remains on the anilox roller, it can cause drips and icicle-like build up that impacts the overall performance of your press. This is particularly common on Central Impression Presses where back-side decks rotate against the containment blade and leave residue.

Is it back doctoring? Here is how to check:

  • Are there any tell-tale icicles forming on the backside of equipment and bottom of the blade holder?
  • Does the problem persist even after adjusting pressure settings?
  • Are your end seals in proper working order?
  • Does the problem persist even after ensuring all chambers and anilox rolls are parallel with one another?

If you answered yes to one or more of these items, you can reduce and prevent back doctoring with the right kind of doctor blades installed on your equipment.

Download the full Back Doctoring White Paper for more information. 

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Enhancing the Colour Gamut in Fixed-Palette Printing


by Doug Jones & R S Bakshi

Multicolour or fixed palette printing is generally associated with printing with 4 process colour inks namely CMYK. Sometimes it also uses additional Pantone shades, to produce a colour shade that is not reproducible using the CMYK process colours. This system has been in use for many years and is still in vogue. In many cases, higher density inks have been used to improve the printing of process colours by using higher density inks to produce the richer/darker colours. Though this helps to improve the richness of the colours, it makes the highlights darker in print which can at sometimes be drawback.


There have been attempts to improve the printing of process colours by printing 6 colours namely CMYKOG which came in very powerfully, but somehow never gathered momentum.

Thereafter another system came in with improved capabilities. Over the years that team has worked very hard to improve its performance, in more ways than one. The present system if fully equipped to help the printer get full benefits, by using this system.

Of late, there has been a lot of interest in creating awareness in following the 7 colour system of printing, with a consortium of companies coming together to focus on this system, now known as the REVO project. I think this is a good move as it will benefit the printers, substantially, to follow this system of 7 colour printing, as a standard practice. This principle of 7 colour printing, can be practiced independently of the companies of the consortium and a printer is free to choose the partners it he wants.

The best part of the system is that it gives the pre-press department, the ability to convert the RBG/CMYK image into separations for CMYRGBK, within no time, that enhances the Colour Gamut reproduction which is very easily seen on the monitor itself. This is the only software, I have seen, that can do this without batting an eyelid. Earlier we used to spend hours in trying to prepare a separation for printing a Pantone* shade to combine with the CMYK image, by manipulating the CMYK image separations. The system also allows you to edit the separations, to an extreme, that I have not seen before. Also the editing functions are simple and easy to manage.

The improved Colour Gamut that one sees on the monitor can be easily reproduced using the defined set of inks. It also improves the appearance of the metallic colours like gold and silver which is really amazing. The use of the ink suggested can also be used as standard for printing of all jobs, irrespective of the printing process or substrate used. The essence is to use a good white substrate with the standard set of inks.

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The names used in this article with an * are the registered Trade Marks of the individual companies.

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Filed under Color Management, Printing

Flexo’s Future – Expanded Color Gamut


by Richard Black, All Printing Resources, Inc.

The Flexographic print process has long been thought of as a simple print process, not capable of the same quality as the lithographic print process. In the last five years there have been many advances in plate technology, digital platemaking process, and screening that have dramatically improved the quality of Flexo. It is very common today for converters to run 150 lpi, and many have made the jump to 175 or 200 lpi along with the ability to fade screen vignettes to zero. These specifications would have been virtually impossible a few short years ago.

Is ECG Just the Latest Trend?

The ability to print fine screen rulings and fade screen vignettes to zero have made a resurrected technology possible, printing with an Expanded Color Gamut (ECG). ECG printing has been around for quite some time. The Lithographic industry has been using it, in limited areas, since the early 1990’s. Matter of fact, in an article written by Don Hutcheson for the 1999 GATF Technology Forecast ( the following Extended Gamut systems (then called HiFi Color) were commercially available in 1998:

  • Hexachrome (CMYK+OG) – Pantone
  • MaxCYM (CMYK+CMYK) – Royal Zenith and then the basis for DuPont’s HyperColor
  • Opaltone (CMYK+RGB)

Why Are We Talking About it Now?

FLEXO Magazine Cover - Oct 2014 Expanded Color Gamut - CMYK+OGV

FLEXO Magazine Cover – Oct 2014 Expanded Color Gamut – CMYK+OGV

So, if the technology has been around for so long, why is everyone in Flexo just now talking about it?  The main reason is the ability to reproduce a majority of spot or Pantone colors using only 7 inks, CMYK+OGV. This has recently been demonstrated with the 2014 & 2105 fall covers of FLEXO Magazine.

Last October the front cover was printed Flexo using 7/color ECG and the back cover was also printed Flexo using standard 4/color process. The color difference and Pantone color match was amazing using the 7/color ECG process.

The 2015 November cover of FLEXO Magazine was again printed using the 7/color ECG process but this time it was compared to a 4/color cover printed using litho.

Award-winning connections

Gidue Wins 2015 FTA Innovation Award

Gidue Wins 2015 FTA Innovation Award

We (APR) were lucky enough to be involved in both projects. Earlier this year Gidue (now Bobst) was notified that they had won the 2015 FTA Technical Innovation Award. The award was presented to Gidue at the FTA Forum/InfoFlex in May.

The FTA asked Gidue if they would like to participate in printing the November cover of FLEXO Magazine using theGidue M5 Digital Flexo Excellence Press located at the APR Technology Center (located in Glendale Heights, IL), along with the 2014 FTA Technical Innovation Award Winners,Esko Equinox and SpotOn! Flexo. Gidue agreed and project planning began. The goal of this project was to demonstrate the quality of 7/color ECG printing versus normal 4/color process printed litho.

Putting it all together

In August, APR hosted 12 industry-invited personnel, plus a few of us at APR, to print from scratch, the November cover of theFLEXO Magazine. This meant we needed to Optimize, Fingerprint and Characterize the Gidue press prior to actually printing the cover. This process required 4 press runs and 16 plates before we had the proper information to create the profile and the final 7 plates required for the cover. The process is intense but the results are amazing.

Below is an example of the 4/color Litho cover versus the 7/color ECG Flexo cover printed at APR.

FLEXO Magazine Cover - Nov 2015 Standard Process Color - CMYK

FLEXO Magazine Cover – Nov 2015
Standard Process Color – CMYK

FLEXO Magazine Cover Nov 2015 Expanded Color Gamut - CMYK+OGV

FLEXO Magazine Cover Nov 2015
Expanded Color Gamut – CMYK+OGV











You can see how vibrant and colorful the 7/color ECG cover is compared to the normal 4/color cover. Also note the Purple in theFLEXO masthead, as well as, the green and yellow side bars. These areas are spot colors that would normally have to be run in their own print station but with 7/color ECG process you can reproduce these and virtually any other color.

The November FLEXO Magazine debuted November 3, 2015 at the FTA Fall Conference in Columbus, OH. The following link will direct you to the electronic version of the 12-page article that appears in the magazine.

These two magazine covers demonstrate that the 7/color ECG process is viable and the products/technologies required for this process are commercially available.

Industry-wide acceptance of Expanded Color Gamut

Pantone Extended Gamut Guide

Pantone Extended Gamut Guide

Another major step forward in the acceptance of the 7/color ECG process happened in September when Pantone announced a newPantone® Plus Series Extended Gamut Coated Guide printed using the 7/color ECG process.

For years we (the printing industry) have shown content creators and designers the Pantone Plus Series Formula Guide®, and said you can pick any 2 or 3 of these colors, that we would run as a special or spot color. With the new Extended Gamut Color guide, content creators and designers can pick as many of these color as they want!


Hands-on experience with Expanded Color Gamut Printing

APR & Esko ECG Seminar Sample Job

APR & Esko ECG Seminar Sample Job

Earlier this year, Esko and APR held an Expanded Gamut class where we produced a series of labels printed on the Gidue M5 press using 200 lpi and Esko’s Full HD Flexo & Equinox technologies both in 4/color process and 7/color ECG.

The results were amazing. The 7/color ECG labels faithfully reproduced all 15,  yes 15 Pantone colors. So imagine if this was a commercial job and the customer asked you for a label with 15 Pantone colors, what would you do?  It’s not IF ECG will become the standard for Flexo printing it’s WHEN, and the when is quickly becoming now!

Kind of makes you scratch you head doesn’t it

To read the original article, visit

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5 Things to Know About – Handheld Color Measurement Instruments


A Series By All Printing Resources


1.) A handheld color measurement instrument is only as good as its last calibration/certification.

  • These instruments need to be calibrated regularly. A Spectrophotometer should be calibrated at least once a day to its White reference tile.
  • Most manufacturers recommend having your unit re-certified to factory settings once a year or every other year.

2.) Densitometers and Spectrophotometers read color differently.

  • Actually, Densitometers do not read color at all! They read the absence of reflected light back to the densitometer unit. That’s why you can read a Magenta and get a density of 1.25 and also read a Cyan and get a density of 1.25
  • Spectrophotometers read the actual wavelengths of light in nanometers. These measurements are known as Spectral Information or Spectral Data. From Spectral Data you can calculate every metric commonly used, such as CEILAB, Density, Dot Area, Delta E, etc…

3.) Set up your instruments to industry recommended settings such as FIRST 5.0:

  • Density – Status T
  • Density Absolute (including substrate)
  • Dot Area
  • Illuminate/Observer D50-2
  • Delta E (∆E) formula – dE 2000

4.) Take all measurements using a common backing material.

  • Usually White L* > 92, C* < 3

5.) Keep your instrument clean.

  • Handheld color measurement instruments are expensive and have many areas where dust and dirt can compromise the measurements
  • Find a clean common place to store the instrument and its calibration plaque

To read the original article, visit All Printing Resources

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Artwork Excellence as a Growth Strategy


By Phil Mueller, Vice President, Global Client Services, BLUE Software

What if your company could do what it does, only better? Do it faster. Do it right the first time, requiring less rework. Get more efficient. Improve quality. Help people make better decisions for your business.

The future of every consumer packaged goods company is dependent on its efforts to find new ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and reduce the risk of catastrophic product recalls due to inaccurate labeling or outdated artwork. Labeling, artwork management, and packaging are not usually considered pathways to company growth. It’s easy to get distracted by short-term plans such as hiring more sales consultants and cutting budgets and neglect developing operational capabilities, even if the latter could produce a sustainable competitive advantage. Maybe you’re overseeing packaging and looking for a way to streamline the process of getting your product to market on schedule, or perhaps you’re in marketing, looking to increase product sales. Whatever your specific role, working with a software as a service platform has a myriad of advantages to improve your business and avoid potential catastrophes.

Companies turn to us because one of their biggest revenue issues is getting product to market on schedule. When they miss the launch schedule, the window of opportunity to make the biggest profits narrows, decreasing potential revenue. Making things even more difficult, leaders typically have no easy visibility into the status of all the critical tasks and approvals that lead up to printing labels and shipping product. They know they are late, but they don’t know how late or how to speed things up.

So, removing the obstacles to make more money is a major concern, but lowering the risk of recall and associated cost is paramount for companies. Packaging and labeling errors account for more than half of product recalls, even with quality departments, systems, and protocols already in place. People know the stakes are high, but errors are still made. What else can be done?

Let’s get back to doing what your company does, only better. We put together the Maturity Model for Artwork Excellence to help you assess where you are now, where you’d like to be, and give you an idea of the specific capabilities you can focus on developing in order to get there.


Courtesy of BLUE Software

Most companies are at an Artwork Management capability level we call “Repeatable” because they are continually executing labeling approvals that follow a GxP-compliant process. They document approvals in hard copy form with wet signatures at key points along their quality control path. They are using technology to document approvals and signatures or to store historical documents, but these tools are first-generation and are not integrated or coordinated. Usually no coherent strategy for global governance of these tools or the artwork change process is in place.

Improvement to a “Defined” capability level can be pursued by bringing the company’s executives to recognize the key benefits of artwork excellence so they are willing to invest in a solution. The company codifies their process and automates it using a digital workflow to control. At this point, companies have improved the quality of their output to significantly reduce re-work, improve cycle times, and meet schedule. This is when the focus on reducing costs and risks abates (it never goes away) and focus turns to gaining a more competitive position in the marketplace.

As Artwork Excellence more fully penetrates the organization it moves to the “Managed” maturity level. Here, leadership can articulate the value and ROI to the broader organization, which has now developed, implemented, and is leveraging its own best practices. Artwork approvers from many departments and even third parties can complete their reviews and approvals using mobile devices. Human error and required effort are reduced with automatic compare tools. Key performance indicators help to constantly improve processes and actively manage to schedule.

The vision is to achieve an “Optimized” maturity level, with a high level of adoption, live dashboard KPI displays, automated copy management and integration with other global software platforms. The historical durations and effort documented in the system is used to influence business decisions to increase value or further speed up processes. The company now has the ability to control distribution of 100% accurate labeling data to customers, partners, suppliers, and other key stakeholders.

The future of every company is dependent on its efforts to find new ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and reduce the risk of catastrophic product recalls. Indeed, the same is true of every ambitious professional. You have the ability to make your company better by leading transformation, moving people to change for the better. It starts with the right partner.

To take advantage of planning and mindshare efficiencies, make sure the software partner you choose can help you move not only into a Defined state, but can help you all along the pathway to Managed and Optimized positions. Having to change partners mid-journey can delay your progress and significantly increase your artwork management costs.

Because packaging is increasingly a legal document, it’s not something a company can afford to get wrong. Where does your company stand on the Artwork Excellence Maturity Model? Where would you like to be? How will you advance?

About the Author:
Headshot Mueller, Phil
Phil Mueller is Vice President, Global Client Services at BLUE Software, where he oversees all enterprise level implementations of BLUETM brand lifecycle management software.

In his twelfth year with the company, Phil is a strategic leader in developing software that meets real market needs and can be successfully implemented following a quality-driven process for Fortune 500 Consumer Goods, Pharmaceutical and Retail companies. Visit for more information. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn.

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Filed under Artwork/Graphics Management, Prepress

Corrugated for Retail-Ready Packaging & the Technical Problems that may Arise when Flexo Printing



By Tom Kerchiss, RK Print Coat Instruments Ltd


The Retail-Ready packaging (RRP) concept has boosted the demand for corrugated/micro flute systems; a situation that is set to continue as major retail chains and superstores not only in North America, Europe and Australasia but also in the Far East adopt RRP with enthusiasm.

Retail Ready Packaging makes economic sense for high volume retailers, especially at a time when many of the major superstore groups have seen forecasted profits fail to materialise and shareholders and city investors become more insistent that economies are put in place and operational efficiencies are made. RRP aims to reduce product handling, increase speed of replenishment, reduce packaging material and costs and improve shelf display. RRP and high quality printing should go hand in hand as the concept is designed to reinforce product branding throughout the supply chain. Over 80 per cent of the product should be visible on the shelf and primary consumer information, which normally goes un-noticed unless the product is picked up and handled, is made highly visible on the retail ready tray.

Corrugated material and folding carton are in many respects ideal display and packaging mediums for RRP. If we just consider corrugated for the moment it combines both strength and rigidity with the flexibility to absorb shocks, corrugated board also makes good use of minimal material. There is hardly any other material that this author is aware of that gives such rigidity using so little material. These interesting properties are obtained by gluing various layers (at its basic), an undulating middle layer (flute) with plain layers on either side: the result of which is a light and rigid framework, the principle of which has been adopted by the aero industry in wing construction and in civil engineering in bridge construction.

In many instances today – Retail Ready Packaging arguably being one of them, the consumer will not always even be aware they are encountering a corrugated medium. The reason being that the characteristics of the material and its presentation have changed so much in order to meet not only the self- service requirements of the modern retail environment, but also the requirements of brand owners. In this case the brand owner and marketing organisation may be seeking to either promote established premium products that need a high volume of packaging featuring ultra high quality printing to support the brand and attract attention, or perhaps newer or promotional products that will be shipped in low volumes, packed in high quality printed boxes with the shelf appeal to generate demand. Even low cost commodity style products that need high volume cost effective boxes with fewer colours and less elaborate branding benefit from the RRP approach, bottled sparkling/natural and flavored waters serve as an example.

In corrugated applications the substrate plays a major role in dictating how the ink is going to appear on the finished job. Much of corrugated board is printed flexo, either directly onto finished board or as is most often the case when presentation is important via pre-printing on the outer layer or liner or by laminating. Defects that can occur during the corrugating process may impact on print quality and on production rates. These defects are associated with flute integrity, caliper, wash-boarding and warped board. Ink formulation, photopolymer plate selection, anilox and inking systems must be chosen or formulated with care if print quality and workflow consistency is to be maintained.

The technique of pre-printed liner has revolutionized decorative possibilities. It is however expensive, to make it economical pre-print tends to be considered for longer runs and where a prestigious impact needs to be considered. Another option is to laminate a pre-printed liner, giving the best results since printing can be undertaken on the highest-grade paper. Again an expensive option but recommended where high value consumer goods are being sold. In a RRP situation pre-printed liner and laminated would tend to be confined perhaps to big-ticket gift items, electrical and home/garden furniture goods.

Although the introduction of pre-printed liner and laminated materials as well as an increasing number of engineered flutes have undoubtedly changed printing board, a degree of watchfulness and care may be necessary when for instance flexo printing some jobs as the medium can be challenging.

The substrate can play a major role in dictating how the ink is going to appear on the finished job. Absorption and surface tension are the main factors that influence print density as well as drying, trapping and dot gain. It is also important when providing a customer with s colour match that the exact same substrate is the one that is finally to be used.

Printing one colour on Kraft, mottled or even clay-coated sheets that seem to have the same surface appearance will yield a wide range of shades even from the same colour. The reason for this is that the sheets with a high level of absorption produce a weaker colour due to the ink being absorbed into the substrate. Conversely those sheets with lower absorption properties will display stronger colours; if clay coated sheets are used the ink may not even penetrate the substrate surface. Surface tension plays a role in determining colour strength.

If the situation arises whereby it is necessary to print on clay-coated board, insufficient coverage or poor trapping may well occur together with poor adhesion due to the components of the ink having a combined surface tension that is higher than that of the substrate. This produces a cohesive effect, causing inks to shy away from some areas of the substrate surface and produce an uneven appearance to the final print. Inks with a higher level of polymeric additives and incorporating a measured amount of water can be used to good effect. In this instance the water is added at the press side to reduce viscosity so that faster drying and faster press speeds can be obtained. Care must be taken as too much water causes an imbalance in the ink, reducing rub resistance and gloss. A diluting vehicle will maintain ink balance.

The rub resistance that printed ink exhibits in some instances may well have to be modified. For example: Kraft, mottled and bleach board tends to show more rub resistance than a clay -coated board. Rub resistance is adjusted with waxes and specific polymers and a sample preparation or colour communication device such as the FlexiProof is ideal for monitoring results as well as for product development including inks and substrate. The FkexiProof 100 or variants FlexiProof UV and FlexiProof UV LED are also suitable for conducting tests associated with rub, wear resistance, scratch resistance, gloss and other desired properties.

On a clay coated board the ink supplier needs to be aware if the board is going to be overprinted with a varnish. Normally if complex graphic printing is undertaken on a clay-coated medium the varnish is added for protective barrier purposes and for gloss. It would be counter-productive to add a wax additive as this would not only reduce the gloss but cause problems with a solid over solid trapping.

The pH of inks used for graphic printing on clay-coated board is generally higher than for Kraft board. The reason for this is that the inks tend to incorporate more in the way of polymer and the inks contain a balanced level of water. The higher pH helps stabilise the ink and helps make it stay open longer, slowing the drying of the ink on the printing die. A lower pH range is advisable for Kraft type boards because these are generally printed at faster speeds and quick drying is necessary.

Adjustment of pH is usually done with amines or ammonia with the former being the most stable and the latter not being recommended because of potential health risks. The one constant is that the ink pH must be checked from time to time to prevent changes that may arise due to evaporation. A pH stable ink is the best option requiring much less in the way of attention.

For more information, visit  RK Print at

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Keeping It Real: The Package is Your Front-Line Defense Against Counterfeiting

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by Ludger Böing & Volker Hildering, Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG


How much money and prestige does your brand lose to counterfeiting? Do you even know?

Here’s the thing: No one really knows. That’s the nature of counterfeiting. It’s a black market, and we can only know for certain the value of counterfeit products that are actually intercepted. What fraction of the total counterfeit market do those known examples represent? All we can do is make educated guesses.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to understand the scope of the problem. In fact, you should be doing everything you can to discover as much as you can about how your products are being counterfeited, where the fakes are coming from, where they’re going, and how much it’s costing you in money and brand equity – all with a view to stopping it.


Many boxes on a store shelf, one with the word Success symbolizing a quick solution to a problem and instant victory over the competition

Many boxes on a store shelf, one with the word Success symbolizing a quick solution to a problem and instant victory over the competition

The problem is much bigger than most people imagine.

Among counterfeit products, pharmaceutical and personal care products have been the most widely studied, because they have such high profit margins and can be so damaging to the wellbeing of consumers and to the reputation of legitimate manufacturers. According to one estimate, “Counterfeit drugs provide approximately $75 billion in revenue annually to illegal operators and have caused more than 100,000 deaths worldwide.”1

Other commonly counterfeited products that can pose a serious hazard include baby formula, toys, car and airplane parts, and electronics. And, of course, any counterfeited product can do substantial economic damage. Whether it’s cigarettes, packaged foods and beverages, clothing, jewelry, purses or media, all counterfeits detract from the profitability of legitimate manufacturers, undermine consumer confidence, harm governments through reduced tax and duty collections, and support a criminal underground.

Counterfeit products originate in all countries, from developing countries to ultra-modern industrialized countries with modern manufacturing capabilities. Distribution is worldwide, and legitimate retailers are often victims. Online retailing, in particular, is susceptible as distance selling and third-party fulfillment make it easy to represent the genuine product on a website, collect payment electronically and deliver a fake.

Of course, legitimate retailers want to do everything they
can to keep counterfeit products off their physical and digital shelves, but the anti-counterfeiting tools at their disposal are limited. Brands, in their own self-interest, need to do everything they can to help prevent fake products from reaching the retailer in the first place, and provide tools
to help retailers recognize counterfeits that do show up 
at the loading dock.

Several packaging-based methods have been used for authenticating products, with varying degrees of cost, availability and success.

For example, identifying barcodes are inexpensive to print on packages, but also very easy for a counterfeiter to reproduce. Holograms and watermarks are more difficult, but, with the incentive of millions of dollars in fraudulent sales, criminals have made the investments necessary to successfully fake these methods. Color-shifting inks are extremely difficult to reproduce – which is why they’re increasingly being used in currency – but they’re also virtually unavailable to manufacturers of packaged goods.

The challenge for brands is to adopt anti-counterfeiting measures that are extremely difficult to detect or reproduce, easy for supply-chain and retail partners to validate, and also affordable to implement either alone or in combination.

Because secure packaging is an important part of our business, we have a portfolio of security technologies and customer- specific techniques that we cannot talk about publicly. In fact, our security operations are isolated from the rest of our printing and converting business, with physical and informational access only possible by our security specialists with the right credentials and a need to know. Nothing is more crucial to the anti-counterfeiting project than scrupulous security hygiene.

However, there are two innovative techniques we can talk about that illustrate the characteristics brands should be looking for in a packaging security system. These techniques are available to any brand, relatively easy and affordable to implement, and highly secure.

One technique involves micro-text printing. An extremely fine- resolution lasing method is used to create text on a gravure cylinder that’s too small for the unaided eye to detect and can easily be hidden within the overall package design.

For example, a single character of fine print on the package that’s already difficult to read at 1mm high might reveal, under microscopic examination, that it’s actually composed of dozens of smaller letters on the order of tens of microns high. Microscopic line images are also possible, and can be hidden within larger text or another image.

These features can be placed anywhere on the package, and the micro-text can be changed and/or moved to a different location in subsequent printings. To copy the micro-text, counterfeiters would have to know that it exists and where
to look for it. Plus, they would need access to extremely sophisticated, proprietary pico-laser engraving equipment that’s simply not available on the market and impossible for a counterfeiter to engineer independently.

However, the specialized gravure cylinder can be incorporated cost-effectively into a normal printing line, and the micro-text can easily be verified by anyone who knows where to look with suitable magnifying equipment.

Another approach is to include a hidden image within a design element. An image that is completely invisible to the naked eye can be included within the package design, and people who need to verify the authenticity of the product can be supplied with a special decoder. Typically about the size of a credit card, this semi-transparent decoder is embossed with a special line structure designed to reveal the hidden image. The user simply places the decoder over the package to reveal the image.

The hidden image can be created as part of the normal printing process, and the decoder is simple and affordable for a security provider to produce. But the combination provides very strong security.

The image is not visible to the naked eye, and, similar to two-factor authentication, a counterfeiter would need to know the image exists in the first place and also have access to the correct decoder in order to discover what it is. Even with that knowledge, the hidden image is nearly impossible to scan at the required resolution and essentially impossible to reproduce with the line structures and detail that would be required to “fool” the decoder.

As difficult as the system is to copy, however, product authentication couldn’t be easier: Just place the decoder over the package and check for the hidden image. Simple validation is essential for any package security system to be fully effective.

Micro-text and hidden images are two examples of effective and affordable security, but your anti-counterfeiting efforts shouldn’t begin and end with package authentication. As the International Trademark Association recommends:

Brand owners can take legal, technological, and business steps to prevent or at least minimize counterfeiting. This includes not only registering your trademarks in jurisdictions where you sell product, but also in jurisdictions where your products are manufactured; recording your trademarks with customs offices; maintaining watching services; creating anti-counterfeiting positions within your company; and monitoring online websites closely …

And if you should discover a counterfeiting problem:

Consult with counsel regarding strategies to confront
the issue. Depending upon the territory involved, you
may be able to conduct raids in collaboration with local authorities, seize fake products or domain names (that direct consumers to offending websites), work with customs agents to prevent import or export of the counterfeit goods, or file civil and/or criminal actions against the perpetrator.2

It’s all good advice, and it all ultimately depends on the ability to identify counterfeits in the marketplace. Though the search for fakes may range far and wide, it begins with securing the product package. ⬢

Ludger Böing (above) and Volker Hildering (below)

Ludger Böing (above) and Volker Hildering (below)

About the Authors

Ludger Böing, Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, and Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, are security and microprint technologies as anti-counterfeiting measures experts with the Security department at Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation.



  1. “The Health and Economic Effects of Counterfeit Drugs,” American Health & Drug Benefits, June 2014.
  2. “Protecting a Trademark: Counterfeiting,” International Trademark Association, 2015,

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Using the Brand Packaging Restage to Fend Off the M&A Beast


by Bruce Levinson, VP Client Engagement, SGK

CPG companies have it tough these days. While they have been wrestling with brand shifting, changing demographics, new media and technology, mining terabytes of big data, and navigating an emerging retail scene, a new challenge has formed. That is the specter of being acquired by a competitor or by private equity. The near-zero Federal Funds Rate not only enables companies to invest in their own growth, it also makes it much easier for companies to buy scale through acquisition. Surely this is a huge boon for some. But many CPGs prefer to go it alone rather than see their brands taken over and possibly sold off for parts. To remain independent enterprises, CPGs must perform in the short term, getting the most value possible out of their brands, but in a way that is sustainable and fits with the equity.

This dynamic is bringing new relevance and urgency to the brand packaging restage. As the majority of the largest CPG brands have lost market share in the past year, there is a critical need for a fresh approach. Sometimes considered a “half measure”, the brand restage hasn’t always been thought of with the same degree of seriousness or appeal as, say, launching an all-new brand or product. But change is in the air because breakthrough brand packaging design offers CPGs an attractive mix of benefits today if done in a thoughtful way.

Refreshed packaging doesn’t rely on inventing a magic molecule or investing in any other product formulation change. The packaging itself brings “news” to the shelf without necessarily incurring slotting fees or negotiating incremental space at retail. Brand packaging is an “always on” communication channel to reinforce positioning or launch a new claim; consumer permission is not needed to show it. Perhaps the single most critical opportunity with packaging, however, is to bring a meaningful new reason to select your brand and to select it over and over again.

Functional or structural packaging innovation can drive ease of use, facilitate new usage occasions, support sustainability, and bring efficiencies to the supply chain (including yours and that of your retail customers.) Taking the time to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive creative brief is key. Work with your agencies to consider the role of packaging in your consumers’ life, from quickly identifying the brand to selecting it on the physical or virtual shelf, to how they use and ultimately discard the packaging. Work across categories to find inspiration in, say, specialty food while working on personal care products. Taking this example further, you must also consider if the transparency trend in food packaging should translate to other categories or is even relevant to your brand’s equity.

In doing so, brands may find new routes to brand relevance that aren’t long-shot new product innovations (most of which fail, remember), but are thoughtful, tangible packaging and design solutions that can be achieved in much less time. Restaging the brand portfolio can also serve as a signal to the outside world, demonstrating that even the stodgiest of brands is being cared for, managed actively not passively, no matter if you are trying to attract or repel potential M&A suitors.

Bruce_Levinson_2011About the Author:
Bruce Levinson is Vice President, Client Engagement at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment provider that drives brand performance.
Bruce is a passionate architect of brand strategy and is highly experienced in translating consumer insights and client needs. His experience helps clients meet market and regulatory demands while driving brand initiatives domestically and internationally. His previous positions include director-level marketing roles at Unilever in the US and UK, and as an advertising account executive.

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