Launching a new product into a new market is an exciting process, especially when it is a natural transition that benefits from a collaborative approach to innovation.
A transition from corrugated handling to corrugate cardboard printing is a logical move. And Italian corrugated handling specialist, Engico, based in Milan, has launched a new packaging print technology that creates innovative performance in corrugated print production.
The conventional process for printing onto corrugated packaging is flexography and the conventional digital process is flatbed digital UV. With so many established companies servicing both processes, any new product launched into this market just has to be different.
Aware that digital inkjet technology has already transformed the graphic sector, Engico has set about creating a new technology that provided unique digital performance and value for the corrugated printing sector.
The result is the Engico Aqua 250.
Through a collaborative approach to innovation with ink manufacturer INX Digital and print technology manufacturer, Neolt, this machine is set to generate new business inroads into the corrugated print market.
The Engico technology is positioned by the company as different as they have custom designed the technology specifically for the role of corrugated printing. The Engico Aqua is designed to handle corrugated materials first and foremost which makes it different. The materials handling comes from 23 years of running a business dedicated to this specialist task.
Daniele Mazzola, Product Development Manager, Engico, explains, ‘One of the main problems for printing corrugated board is managing a substrate that is by its very nature uneven. But because of Engico’s specialism in the field of materials handling, we have created a digital, corrugated flatbed machine that is able to deal effectively with the challenges of printing onto uneven surfaces.’
As well as being specifically designed for corrugated, the Engico technology deploys aqueous ink, which is very appealing for the packaging sector.
For Engico, water based ink is the future, Mazzola continues ‘As Flexography is aqueous, it made sense for us to develop a solution that matched Flexography in terms of ink use, but that provided the unique characteristics of digital. Why would we use any other ink? This has to be the future in line in with environmental regulations, customer and consumer demands, and not only that, the fact we use water based ink, means we are unique as the UV market is already full.’
The fact that Engico Aqua is an aqueous machine means there is no problem of odour, and the recycling of cardboard is easily achievable.
‘Ink was one of the delicate items as you need to have an ink that is water based and ok for food which is positive for corrugated. The ink has to stay on the substrate and not be removed by moisture from food. The ink has to also dry very quickly which of course INX were able to successfully develop.’ Says Mazzola.
According to Mazzola, the Aqua is the first ever machine expressly designed for corrugated. It manages the sheets of corrugated card efficiently and effectively, at high speed, managing the somewhat uneven delivery of corrugated substrate
Flexibility is key
The key to Engico’s success with the Aqua, despite the unique benefits of digital of aqueous, according to Mazzola, its flexibility.
The management team believes the water based ink is an important, but secondary USP to the flexible performance the Engico machine is capable of. The customised, short run and just in time manufacturing demands of today’s packaging sector result in a gap in the market that Engico is eager to fill.
Speed is of the essence
In addition, the Aqua is a high speed machine capable of printing up to 200 sqm an hour for the Aqua 250 –the series 400 is capable of even greater speed of up to 400 sq metre per hour.
Mazzola enthuses, ‘The machines print 5 picolitres drop for colour and 18 picolitres in greyscale. The resolution at both speeds is no different. They both easily achieve 600 DPI. And they can reach high quality 4800 DPI. For this, you have to print 8 passes, but the finish is perfect for single application specials.’
‘In the packaging business today speed is of the essence. Set up time is lightning fast, and it is now ready. The next step will be the move towards continuous run under the printing heads, the next step for digital for sure.’ Concludes Mazzola.
So Corrugated is going digital, water based and through a collaborative approach to innovation is causing a significant ‘splash’ in the market.