How to maximise results with direct corrugated printing

02 July 2018

With current technological advances, there’s been an increase in companies returning or making investment in direct, high graphics corrugated printing. There are ways of pushing the limits in direct printing, in some cases, direct corrugated print quality nearly matches that of preprint. With a disciplined approach, this type of printing may even result in new clients and increased profits.

There are two essential factors that will make or break the ability of the printing process. First is ink requirements and the second is anilox roll engraving. Good choices in these two areas can bring great capabilities and extend the limits of what direct print can do.

At the beginning of the printing process, the graphic detail and board type plays a significant role in decision making. A proof is required to start the process; a prototype will be printed digitally. The goal is to hit the color targets from the proof. However, finding out what works best isn’t always easy. Once the end goal of what to print has been decided, the next step is finding out what plates are being used. After that, it is time for anilox specifications.

Anilox roll is a hard cylinder, usually built of an aluminum or a steel core, which is then coated with industrial ceramic whose surface contains millions of very fine dimples, known as cells. The sole purpose of the anilox is to ensure that a consistent amount of ink is delivered onto the printing plate, time after time. By knowing the substrate, professionals can finely-tune the anilox based on the printing specific applications. They are able to target the proper engraving for the anilox roll, providing the BCM (Billion Cubic Microns) and LPI (lines per inch) necessary for the print job.

When the correct volume of what to print is established, professionals will deliver an accurate LPI to distribute the right amount of ink for the substrate. Which is the reason why ink is so important. Low quality ink with lots of fillers makes it hard to hit the right density when printing. It is difficult to keep consistency when the ink has to be overly adjusted to keep the job running. High quality ink is more reliable. While proper density is essential in all printing, it is absolutely critical in direct corrugated printing. The right density helps keep the colors the way that they should be.

Working with professionals and establishing a team of suppliers to work with will maximise print results. At a minimum, anilox and ink supplier should be on board and working together to deliver a proper ink lay for jobs at hand.

Materials and services plays a big role in the cost of an anilox. Therefore it is crucial that one chooses a supplier they have confidence in. Just like ink, there are a range of rolls to choose from. Some converters will choose the lowest price available without realising that they are changing their rolls twice as often. High quality rolls may be more expensive but they’ll last longer, with some still performing five years from their date of purchase.

In the future when ordering new rolls, an identical replacement built to the same specifications is to be expected. Lasting value is provided by attention to detail and consistency in engraving, remanufacturing rolls to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) specifications. It is critical since one-point difference in BCM is going to make a huge difference in the print. That is why working with dependable companies is important when working with direct corrugated printing.

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